Academic journal article Honors in Practice

Disability: Past and Present: Honors 232-Interdisciplinary Seminar 4 Hours Credit

Academic journal article Honors in Practice

Disability: Past and Present: Honors 232-Interdisciplinary Seminar 4 Hours Credit

Article excerpt


What does it mean to be "disabled"? How has this meaning changed over time in the U.S.? What factors affect a person's experience of disability? Why should people--either disabled or not--learn about these matters?

This course explores the complexity of people's experiences with disability in the past and present. Disability can be viewed from a number of lenses, including various academic disciplines, medical or social constructions, and minority-group perspectives. In this course, students analyze actions, ideas, and portrayals by cultural authorities and by the disabled themselves. Students complete a significant research project reflecting their major and interests. The instructors hope to engage students' brains and hearts by deepening their thinking about disability, improving their academic skills, and stimulating their thinking about the art of being human.

Seminar for 20 students.


We will read all or substantial portions of the following:

Paul Longmore, Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability (Temple University Press, 2003)

Joseph Shapiro, No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement (Three Rivers Press, 1994)

Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Knopf, 2004)

Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind (Knopf, 1995)

Reynolds Price, A Whole New Life (Scribner, 2003)

Additional readings, including scholarly articles and chapters from books and occasional websites, are assigned.



Topic & Readings

Class Preparation

Aug 30

Introduction--what do we know, think, and why?

Sept 4

Deafness and Deaf Culture; Social Construction of Disability; Identity Issues

Dolnick, E. (1993) Deafness as culture. Atlantic Monthly, Sept., 37-51; Wolkomir, R., Johnson, L. (1992). American Sign Language: "It's not mouth's brain stuff." Smithsonian, 23 (4),30-41;

Sept 6

Deaf Culture: Gallaudet Uprising; the "Medical Model" and alternative models

The Deaf Celebration of Separate Culture, Ch. 3 in No Pity by Joseph Shapiro

Sept 11

Deafness and the Cochlear Implant Debate

Position Statement, National Association of the Deaf (NAD):; Levy, N. (2002). Reconsidering cochlear implants: The lessons of Martha's Vineyard. Bioethics, 16 (2), 134-153; Sound and Fury (video). Cochlear Implant Paper Due; In-Class debate

Sept 13

Disability and War: Disability in History; Experiences and Changing Treatment of Veterans

Rosenburg, R.B, " 'Empty Sleeves and Wooden Pegs': Disabled Confederate Veterans in image and Reality," in David A. Gerber, Disabled Veterans in History, pp. 204-223; Gerber, G., "Blind and Enlightened," in P. Longmore and L. Umansky, The New Disability History, Ch. 12; Kovic, R. Born on the Fourth of July, pp.14-44.

Sept 18

Physical Disabilities: Early Activism and the "Poster Child" Phenomenon

Longmore, Ch. 4, "The League of the Physically Handicapped and the Great Depression," pp. 53-87+ in Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability; Shapiro, Ch. 1, "Tiny Tims, Supercrips, and the End of Pity," pp. 12-40, in No Pity.

Sept 20

Cultural Portrayal of People with Physical Disabilities: Freak Shows, Films, Stereotypes and the purposes they serve

Longmore, Ch. 6, "Film Reviews," pp. 119-130, and Ch. 7, "Screening Stereotypes: Images of Disabled People in Television and Motion Pictures," pp. 102-115; Rosemarie Garland Thomson, "The Cultural Work of American Freak Shows, 1835-1940," pp. 55-66 and 78-80, in Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Disability in American Culture and Literature; …

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