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HPR 107: Narratives of Ability and Disability

Professor Naomi Mandel

Course Description

This course will look at stories people tell about bodies: about what the body can do, what it can't, how it enlightens, when it betrays. We will focus on fiction because in fiction, the body's abilities and disabilities are not only a source of insight into diverse experiences and social constructions of marginality and normalcy, but a vehicle for exploring the nature of humanity and its limits. The novels, stories, and films we will encounter in this course will explore what it means to live with a deformed arm, with bulemia, with PTSD, with mental impairment. We will ask questions like these: What is an ability? How are our abilities different from our disabilities? How are our abilities and disabilities the source of knowledge about others and about ourselves? Can we count on our abilities or on our disabilities to lead us to knowledge, to love, to truth?

Required Texts

Darrieussecq, Marie. Pig Tales: A Novel of Lust and Transformation. [1996]. Trans. Linda Coverdale. New York: The New York P, 2003.
Additional readings in .pdf form on course webct page


Freaks. Tod Browning, dir. MGM, 1932.
Safe. Todd Haynes, dir. Columbia, 1995.

Course Requirements

3 one-to-two-page response papers @ 5% each: 15%
timely submission of rough drafts for Paper #1 and #2 (5% each): 10%
Paper #1 (3-5 pages): 20%
Paper #2 (3-5 pages): 20%
Paper #3 (3-5 pages): 20%
In-class active oral participation: 15%

If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contact me within the first two weeks of class. For further assistance, please contact the staff at:
Disabilities Services for Students (in the Office of Student Life) 330 Memorial Union
 874-2098; Web:


Sept. 4    Introductions. Homework: Print out course readings from WebCT!

Sept. 9     Definitions: Ability, Disability, Impairment, Handicap, Narrative
Sept. 11 Johnson, "Art Object"; Ellison, from Invisible Man

Sept. 16 Churchwell, "Introduction"; Holmes, "Phenomenon," "Afterlife"
Sept. 18 Kafka, "The Hunger Artist"; Hornbacher, from Wasted; Heffernan, "Narrow Minded"

Sept. 23 Class meets in Multicultural Center, Hardge Forum (Rm 101)   
Sept. 25  Prompt Paper #1 distributed   

Sept. 30 ROSH HASHANA. NO CLASS.                
Oct. 2      Davis, "Nude Venuses"   

Oct. 7    Garland-Thomson, "The Cultural Work of American Freak Shows"    
rough draft due
Oct. 9   YOM KIPPUR. NO CLASS. Read Garland-Thomson "Staring at the Other" and Larsen & Haller, "The Public Perception of Real Disability."

Oct. 14  screening of Freaks                   
Oct. 16  discuss Freaks                               
Oct. 21 Bender, "Eternal Love"; Mairs, "Carnal Acts"
Oct. 23 Wallace, "B.I. #40"; Golfus, "Sex and the Single Gimp"                                   

Oct. 28 Darrieussecq, Pig Tales
Oct. 30 Guest Speaker: Prof. Alain-Philippe Durand

Nov. 6  In-class development of prompt Paper #2 

Nov. 12 Hemingway, "Another Country"; "Soldier's Home".            
Nov. 13 Brueggeman, "An Enabling Pedagogy;"                   

Nov. 18 Kaufman, "Just a Normal Girl"; Kleege, "Disabled Students Come Out"   
Nov. 20 Trilling, "In This Time, in That Place"

Nov. 25  Guest Speaker: Prof. Kat Ellis, "The Art and Science of Deafology"   

Dec. 2     screening Safe
Dec. 4     Safe, Continued    .                       

Dec. 9   Discussion of Safe



This page last updated:12/25/2008 by: Naomi Mandel

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