Disability, Culture, and Society (Fall, 2018)

Joseph Straus (The Graduate Center, Music)
Julia Miele Rodas (Bronx Community College, English)

Wednesdays, 2-5pm
Course Number: 63321
Listed in: Interdisciplinary Studies; Music; Women’s and Gender Studies

Syllabus (pdf); public events series

Like the fictions of gender and race, disability is a cultural and social formation that sorts bodies and minds into desirable (normal) and undesirable (abnormal, sick) categories. Regimes of representation in literature, art, music, theater, film, and popular culture—the ways that bodies and minds constructed as disabled are depicted—both reflect and shape cultural understandings of nonconforming identities and extraordinary bodies, affecting the lived experience of people understood as disabled, often in negative ways. Drawing on examples from the arts and popular culture, this course will interrogate the many ways disability identity has been confined to rigid and unproductive social, political, and aesthetic categories. It will also explore a significant counter-tradition in which disability is seen as a significant artistic resource and a desirable way of being in the world. Topics will include: the medical and social models of disability; narratives of disability; disability and performance; disability writing (memoir and fiction); narratives of overcoming; the histories and cultures of autism, deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, and madness. We will pay particular attention to the intersection of disability with other more familiar tropes of human disqualification, including race, gender, and sexuality.


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309