Faculty Development Seminars
Spring 2017: Disability Studies in the Humanities

Spring 2017: Disability Studies in the Humanities

Led by Elizabeth B. Bearden (Department of English) and Ellen Samuels (Department of Gender and Women’s Studies)

Apply to participate.

In the wake of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, disability as a site of social justice and scholarly inquiry has become increasingly prominent in both local and global cultural realms. This interdisciplinary Faculty Development Seminar will build on the momentum of UW-Madison’s Disability Studies Initiative, and bring together faculty who already use Disability Studies and faculty new to the field to provide a common and grounding vocabulary from which to build toward future intellectual interchange.

Team-taught by Elizabeth Bearden, a scholar of the global Renaissance, the reception of antiquity, visual culture studies, and Disability Studies and Ellen Samuels, scholar of American studies and Disability Studies in intersection with gender and race, the seminar will provide rich historical and theoretical perspectives on discourses of disability.

Seminar readings and discussions will enable the group to think critically about how disability is significant to our past, present, and future, both on the local level of our own institution and in how we think of ourselves as Americans and global citizens in the 21st century. To achieve these goals, the seminar has three main areas of focus: 1. genealogies of disability; 2. disability representations; and 3. disability identities. Faculty participants will take away new scholarly insights and pedagogical tools to enrich their own research and the curricular offerings of their home departments. 

Reading Schedule

The seminar will be ten sessions long, with approximately fifty pages of reading per session (please see “Readings” below). Weekly reading assignments will pair short primary texts with a scholarly article or chapter drawn from literary criticism, history, social theory, and cultural studies. The coordinators (Bearden and Samuels) will bring additional excerpts, images, and short film excerpts to prompt various engagements with the readings and the issues posed by the seminar.

Tentative Readings

Week 1 (2/1). Genealogies: Introducing Disability: How Disability Is Defined in Past and Present

  • Lennard J. Davis, ed. The Disability Studies Reader, 4th ed. (selections)
  • Handout on “monstrosity” and disability 

Week 2 (2/8). Genealogies: Exposure/Eugenics: Past and Present

  • Homer, Iliad, Book 18

  • Harriet McBride Johnson, NY Times Editorial.
  • Rosemarie Garland-Thomson “Welcoming the Unbidden.”

Week 3 (2/15). Genealogies: Visualizing Disability: Medicalization to the Telethon

  • Ambroise Paré, On Monsters and Marvels (selections)

  • Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, “Visual Rhetorics of Disability”

Week 4 (2/22). Representations: Unearthing a Moral Model of Disability

  • Shakespeare, Richard III, Act 1

  • Allison Hobgood, “Teeth Before Eyes”
  • In session: film clips from performances of RIII and media feed about the discovery of King Richard’s body

Week 5 (3/1). Representations: Biodiversity or Compensatory Rhetorics

  • John Milton, Sonnets XIX and XXII

  • David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snider, “Representation and Its Discontents”
  • In session: film clip from Daredevil

Week 6 (3/8). Representations: Disability Aesthetics, or Disability as Art

  • Tobin Siebers, Disability Aesthetics (selection)
  • Riva Lehrer, selected paintings

Week 7 (3/15). Identity: American Intersectionality and Identity Politics

  • Cynthia Wu, Chang and Eng Reconnected, “Introduction”

  • Douglas Baynton, “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History”

**Spring Recess**

Week 8 (3/29). Identity: Postcoloniality and Neocoloniality

  • Ato Quayson, Aesthetic Nervousness. “Introduction”

  • Jina Kim, “’People of the Apokalis’: Spatial Disability and the Bhopal Disaster”

Week 9 (4/5). Identity: Neurodiversity

  • Mark Osteen, ed. Autism and Representation (selections)
  • Neuroqueer Collective, “What is Neuroqueer?”

Week 10 (4/12). Disability in the University

  • American Association of University Professors, 2012. “Accommodating Faculty Members Who Have Disabilities.”
  • Kerschbaum et al. “Faculty Members, Accommodation, and Access in Higher Education.” MLA/Profession, 2013
  • Brenda Breuggeman, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, and Georgina Kleege, “What Her Body Taught.” 

Program Description
With major support from the Office of the Dean of the College of Letters & Science, the Center for the Humanities and the Institute for Research in the Humanities jointly sponsor and administer the Faculty Development Seminars in the Humanities, which enable an individual tenured faculty member or a team of two tenured faculty members to lead a seminar on a topic of broad interest across the humanities. Seminar leaders receive a one-course release for directing a seminar of other faculty members who meet ten times during a semester in two-hour sessions, and their departments receive funds for a replacement lecturer. The Faculty Development Seminar program provides research funds of $500 to ten faculty members to participate in the seminar.


Applications submitted by Thursday, December 15, 2016 will receive full consideration for a $500 stipend for allowable research expenses. Additional inquiries may be submitted up to the beginning of the Spring 2017 semester.

Please send the following materials as a single PDF to fds@humanities.wisc.edu with the subject line “Disability Studies Application”:

1) a 1-2 page letter outlining your interest in the seminar
2) curriculum vitae

Questions should be directed to Megan Massino (massino@wisc.edu).