Lauren Lemon’s Class Summary for October 28th, 2021

Class started with Dr. Foss reminding us that our Major Paper/Project Proposal is due November 4th. From here, we heard about Dr. Foss and other professors’ endeavors to start a disability studies minor. Next semester there will be an Introduction to Disability Studies (IDIS 300N) course on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 0900. Interestingly enough, 8-12 different professors will donate their time to teach this course, focusing on the state of disability studies and disabilities in the states. After this exciting information was shared with the class, we discussed Good Kings Bad Kings

In small groups, while discussing Good Kings Bad Kings, we focused on the bond between Jimmie and Yessi. How Jimmie risked his career to take Yessi out and their connection since both of their mothers died from cancer. At this concert that Jimmie took her to, Yessi felt like an actual human being since Jimmie treated her well and did not view her as an object. ILLC treated the kids inhumanely, grouping them together as disabled, forcing dependence onto disabled people. Tristan also pointed out the isolation and exclusiveness that these kids face as they stand out because of their disability. These kids need help, and we need to help, but perhaps they do not need this type of assistance that ILLC is providing. We moved on to discuss privatization and the lack of consent that was taken from the kids. ILLC manufactures their consent and acts as a predator, goes after these kids, and creates an idealized view of the system. There was also a discussion of the violations of their bodies. Acting as more of a prison than a place for betterment, ILLC’s number of assaults and lack of rules to protect the kids creates a feeling of being forced, and Jimmie represents a safe space for assault in this reading. 

Further discussing Good Kings Bad Kings in large group, Dr. Foss started off by bringing up the connection of ILLC and profiting off of the lives of disabled people since they will be pushed out of the workforce. To bring out the grander scheme of ILLC, Lisa mentioned how ILLC is profiting off the kids and sharing this profit with the hospital, and this is how the cycle continues. Transitioning into a different aspect of money schemes at ILLC, Dr. Foss brought up how the facility is a money pit. There is a lack of funding, resulting in difficult living situations for the residents. However, Dr. Foss also talked about how this lack of funding gives power to the staff. For instance, Mia will never get a powered wheelchair, but this allows the staff to keep track of the residents and prevent them from being mobile. Melissa connected this control to how the staff forces a self-fulfilling prophecy on the residents of ILLC through its restrictive environment. Moving to Michelle’s role and how the audience unconsciously views her as perpetrating evil, Dr. Foss talked about Michelle’s interest in Joanne’s statistics about the hospitalizations and tests. Simply put, Michelle is profiting off of the dire conditions of the residents; Brie shared input that despite not knowing about the environment, Michelle is still sending people to ILLC. However, Tabitha posed the question that while Michelle is good at her job, is she really doing good with her job? 

Continuing in large group, the class began discussing Sylvia Plath’s “Tulips.” Kelly started us off by pondering on the symbolism of the tulips. This was a concept that the class as a whole could not come to an agreement on. However, that did not stop discussion. As the speaker is drugged, in and out of consciousness, do tulips represent other people or things existing in the same room? Rebecca followed this by explaining that the tulips are described as attacking the speaker’s senses, creating a contrast to wanting to be numb and how the tulips are causing the pain to be more vivid. The flowers represent vitality and life, and the speaker does not want to be reminded of her health. Dr. Foss then asked the class if this is an avoidance mechanism, and the speaker does not want to be reminded of all her experiences? Katie Rose then responded by detailing how the speaker idealizes death and how utterly empty and peaceful death is. The tulips symbolize the pain of staying alive, and the speaker wants the peace of death. To further illuminate this concept and end large group, Dr. Foss explained Plath’s struggles with living with depression and an abusive husband.

The last part of the class was spent going over Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” in small groups then in large group. In small group, we discussed how the male medical lens leads to the belief that women are hypochondriacs. Tristan went over how physicians used the speaker’s gender to ignore her potential disability, and ignoring it would make it go away, based on the assumption that men know what’s best. That a disability can only be visible and mental health disabilities are not real. In large group, Brie brought on the question of if it was the paint, as they used to use lead paint in buildings, which can cause mental illness. However, the symbolism of wallpaper is that of deceit, hiding what is there. However, as our class discussion of “Tulips” was so long, we had to end this discussion promptly. Leaving Dr. Foss’s comment that the speaker wanted to be active, but she resides in a room that serves to confine people, to be the last comment on this.

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work”

-Lauren Lemon

Miranda Colbert’s Class Summary for 10/26/21

We began the class with a reward quiz, its questions based on the readings assigned for the week. There were protests and theories on what would happen if the entire class just refused to take the test but overall, the class was compliant. During this class period we mainly discussed the differences in relationships between persons with disabilities and vice versa, bringing up the question if it was even possible for a person with a disability and an ablebodied person to even have a healthy relationship. 

The first poem we analyzed was Jillian Weise’s “The Old Questions” which was assigned the class prior, but never discussed.Throughout the poem the speaker is trying to have an intimate moment with the potential partner but is interrupted by the partner’s intrusive questions. After reading, Dr. Foss explained that the purpose of this poem was to explore the idea of curiosity vs intimacy. When asking what the class thought of the poem it was mentioned that the partner seemed to have more interest in the prosthetic leg rather than the speaker as a person. They also mentioned that the potential partner felt as though they had the right to know everything about it, as if it was an expectation. Their points were connected to real life examples when persons with disabilities are only connected to their disabilities rather than their personalities. For example, a female who is blind only referred to as “that blind girl.” Another point that was brought up was that the wall in the poem could represent a barrier for an experience the speaker could never have, a “love without prerequisites.” Dr. Foss interjected and mentioned that the reader could have that kind of love but just not with the partner the speaker is currently with. He also mentioned that there had to be some sort of connection prior to the start of the poem because they are in an intimate situation at the start. The discussion on this poem then ended with the point that the questions being asked to the speaker were nothing new, hence the title “The Old Questions”, as well as able bodied people feel as though they have the right to have their questions answered in exchange for something else such as an intimate moment.

We then moved on to focus on this week’s poem, Laura Hershey’s, “Working Together.” After reading, we concluded that the poem focused on the idea of relationships either intimate or not and the feeling behind them. Dr. Foss stated that the poem could’ve been read two ways, with a negative or positive feeling towards it and both versions had different messages to them. The negative view on the poem came from the phrases and words “sneer”, “heft”, and the job “no one thinks of doing.” Half of the class took that as the caregiver seeing the speaker as a burden and inferring that people with disabilities are nothing more than that. Just the job “no one thinks of doing.” It also implies that the speaker doesn’t like the way they are getting taken care of. The word “heft” feels as though the speaker is a burden that needs to be hauled or that the caregiver has to be reminded where certain limbs are, and they have to help the caregiver “forget”. The positive side saw the two sharing a bond and they each had their own jobs to do. The class saw the two in the same way as a parent helping their child; with lots of care and concentration. The interaction between the two inferred that there was no problem between able bodied persons and people with disabilities, that it wasn’t a burden or strange at all.

Anna Mollow and Robert McRuler’s, “Introduction” from Sex and Disability was our next topic. We broke into our first small group of the day where my group decided to focus on Anna’s experiences. We discussed how society has certain views on what disability is and how it should look like. For example Anna getting cat-called where the male told her she was too pretty to be disabled. Society feels as though disabilities are more physical than mental and there has to be something wrong with you for you to fit that standard. We also discussed how having a physical disability takes away the right for the person with the disability to tell anyone. Dr. Foss compared it to coming out and never having the chance to come out to whoever you want. He explained it as frustrating as well as extremely disrespectful. When getting back into large group discussion, the topic shifted on how people with disabilities were not seen as desirable in both intimate or work related situations. A classmate’s example was assigning parking spots based on socioeconomic class but then calling someone out when they dont look like the class they park in. Another classmate brought up the point that when it comes to the workplace, employers turn away people with disabilities because of image and the idea that an able bodied person would be more efficient. The action enforced the stereotype that people with disabilities are helpless and cannot be able to work and do better than an able bodied person. 

Finally, we talked about the two fiction pieces that were assigned, Keith Banner’s, “The Wedding of Tom to Tom ” and Susan Nussbaum’s, Good Kings Bad Kings. When discussing Banner’s work the group focused more on the ending. With the main character, Anita, taking Tom and Tom to the motel after their “wedding” Dr. Foss asked the group if the action inferred that love between people with disabilities was seen as a joke. As if they were throwing the couple a bone. The class was split between answers, half of the class seeing Dr. Foss’ point after the statement while the other half still seemed to believe it was a kind gesture. The negative half of the class thought that the story was trying to focus on the obsessive behaviors of Tom and Tom and infer that people with disabilities cannot desire one another without the obsession. The other half of the class pointed out the relationship between Anita and Archie was the obsessive one, not Tom and Tom. Dr. Foss then asked that side if that meant that it was able bodied relationships that are seen as obsessive and unhealthy rather than the other? The class could not come up with an answer and could only ask another question: was the story actually progressive or just disappointing? When Nussbaum’s novel came up in discussion, my group focused on what we enjoyed about the story and what caught our attention rather than the deep topics. A classmate brought up how in the story Joanne just wanting human interaction was the reason she got her job, but at work she was put on display as a “role model.” We found it interesting how she was fine with that even though to us it seemed as if she was being used. Class ended before we could come to a conclusion.

Duck Joke Count: 4

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” -Miranda Colbert

Brian Cruz-Lovo’s Class Summary for 10/19/2021

On October 19th, 2021, we started class with Dr. Foss’ short five questions quiz about the readings that day. The questions were about “The Secret Garden”, “Comrade Luxemberg and Comrade Gramsci Pass Each Other in the Congress of the Second International on the 10th of March 1912”, and finally Kenny Fries “Beauty and Variations”. After the quiz, Dr. Foss announced an extra opportunity that involves an author we have been reading about for some time now. Kenny Fries was going to speak at Mary Washington and Dr. Foss encouraged us to attend and was going to make sure if a recording of the zoom call was going to be posted or not. After clearing through that, we began class where the main topic was how society and the environment can impact people with disabilities. We began this topic with small groups talking about the first 10 chapters of “The Secret Garden”.

In my small group, we discussed a lot about Mary, Colin, and the Garden itself. With Mary, there was lots of talk about how she was described when she was born. She was described as ill, sickly, yellow, and even malnutrition. With her attitude in India, we agreed that Mary traveling to India can be seen as a place to “cleanse” her and problematic that is. We also discussed how Mary’s attitude towards the servants. In India, she was rude and seemed unbearable to the servants but once she arrives in England, it shifts, and we watch her develop a friendship with Martha. Overall, Mary was having a better life in England since she was being “cleansed”. We moved into Colin and noticed that was a parallel between him and Mary when she was in India. We also mentioned their disabilities and how they are both physical ones. Finally, we noticed that The Garden can be depicted as this heal-all magical place and as a comfort zone for those whose mental health needs help. First, the heal-all aspect, we saw this as very problematic since having a place to heal everything isn’t progressive and one just can’t cure everything with magic.

After small group discussions, we came back as a class and Dr. Foss started by asking what we thought about Mary. As a class we talked about how Mary is physically ill, spoiled, self-absorbed in addition, she can be described as ugly both on the inside and outside, but it is problematic, to say the least. Dr. Foss then raised the question about how class can play into Mary or even Colin. A fellow peer mentioned Mary’s attitude but also how she isn’t independent enough which ties with the class she’s since can’t fully be independent with servants at her aide. We moved on to Colin and how The society around them has made them believe they are less than what they are, claiming that Colin needs “fresh air”. In Colin’s case, we talked about how he may have a psychological disability that makes him believe that he is physically disabled and how Society makes him worried making him disabled by his environment. We then mentioned Chapter 15 about the gawking and staring at Colin and how the people pitied him. The people from the outside respond to him as if he was physically disabled which another student made the comparison of Colin to Boo Radley both have this “ghostly” figure in their communities. We ended the conversation of “The Secret Garden” talking about the garden itself. As mentioned, the garden is seen as a place of comfort especially for those whose mental health isn’t at its best, it is a place of warmth and freeing.

As we wrapped up that discussion, we continued over to Kenny Fries’ “Beauty and Variations”. Since the poem is in 5 parts, Dr. Foss decided to break each part down and ask what we thought. In the first part, we see how the speaker is questioning himself where the partner is beautiful and abled in contrast to him in their relationship. We dug more into the line “Can only one of us be beautiful?” (Fries 107) and how this creates a complexity of love. There was a mention about how inner and outer beauty is always together but when disability comes in, it creates a complexity of beauty. We were able to start tying back to society and how the speaker may feel that society has raised him to think of himself to be not beautiful in contrast to his partner. As we continue, we saw that in Part 2 they seem to feel different, part 3 speaks on smooth skin and secrets, Part 4 talks about self-love and/or the partner understands that he’s beautiful while ending on Part 5 where he starts to see himself as beautiful.

To wrap up class, we decided to end in small groups talking about Anne Finger’s Comrade Luxemberg and Comrade Gramsci Pass Each Other in the Congress of the Second International on the 10th of March 1912”. With the little time we had, we were able to mention how society is always quick to judge on appearances and make assumptions without interaction with those with a disability. We all agreed that it is such an issue that in our society we have plenty of people who judge those just by appearance and how that can negatively affect those with a disability.

Word count: 896

“I pledge”- Brian Cruz-Lovo

Tabitha Robinson’s Class Summary for October 21, 2021

We started class today with the welcome announcement that there was no reading quiz. This excitement was quickly overshadowed by our first conversation about our final paper/project, which is worth 30% of our course grade. Professor Foss read through the assignment sheet with us and explained that we can either write a thesis driven paper or come up with a creative project for our final grade. In addition to this major paper/project, which is due November 16, we will have a take-home exam on our final unit about autism. Although November 16 seems far away, Professor Foss encouraged us to be thinking about our topic, since our topic proposals are due in two weeks.

To get our creative juices flowing (and to “make [him] a little misty”), Professor Foss guided us around past dis/lit websites going back to 2012, where we looked at previous major paper/projects. Some of these were very creative, ranging from literary analysis to photography to music to Tumblr versions of To Kill a Mockingbird. We also looked at various other websites linked on our dis/lit site, which might prove helpful for our research.

Once questions were exhausted, we moved into small group discussion of Flannery O’Conner’s “Good Country People.” My small group was somewhat disgusted by the story as a whole. We expected a sexual assault scene and were almost relieved when Manley merely stole Hulga’s wooden leg—still a terrible violation of her body. We toyed with the idea of Manley being a kleptomaniac. At the very least, we said, his obsession with stealing things from disabled people is an attempt to gain power over his own life by making others feel helpless. We also noted that just because Hulga has two disabilities, an artificial leg and a heart condition, she is treated as if she has a mental disability too. She is treated like a child, when in reality she is a very intelligent woman. Back in large group, we asked the big question: Is this text progressive or not? We appreciated that Hulga has a strong sense of self. She isn’t “edgy and broody,” according to Melissa, because of her disabilities, but because those around her do not accept her. In this sense, the representation is progressive. Besides, at least she doesn’t end up dead or cured—or does she? Zeb pointed out that Hulga said the leg is her soul and it was stolen from her. From there, we considered that the text may not be as progressive as we thought. We could see some victim blaming at the end where Hulga is written as sheltered and naïve. (Note: Melissa also invented a new word, edgy-cated. Definition: when you get too educated and it makes you edgy.)

While in large group, we discussed The Secret Garden, which had the exact conclusion we expected. Healthy equals lovable for Colin and his father; disagreeable equals disabled for Colin and Mary. The garden cured all disability in the story, from Mary’s “contrariness” to Mr. Craven’s trauma to Colin’s illness and anxiety. Although we were inclined to write off the story as NOT progressive in the least bit, one idea came up that gave us pause. Is this story an early form of showing the importance of mental health? We know that mental illness does often translate to physical symptoms. Mr. Craven’s grief and Colin’s conviction that he will die could certainly be causes of physical illness. Perhaps their physical issues were in part brought on by their mental states. And while fresh air and exercise are not a cure, they can be helpful for people with physical or mental illness.

Back to small group, we discussed Baynton’s “Defectives in the Land.” We saw strains of white supremacy here as disability and race mingled and almost became one. Foreign race equals defect in this logic. Brie told us about her field trip to Ellis Island and seeing the cards of people turned away due to “defect.” Back in large group, we elaborated further on that idea by realizing that we tend to only teach those things through a historical lens. After taking this class, Brie said, she had a whole new perspective on the discrimination in our nation’s past. The old discrimination was justified with new scientific data from the theory of evolution and genetics (eugenics).

Word count: 720

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. –Tabitha Robinson

Kelly Brown’s Class Summary for October 14th, 2021

Even before the class period began, many students were anticipating a quiz while sitting outside Room 322. Their prediction proved true, because in the words of Dr. Foss, “What better way [is there] to welcome us back from Fall Break?” He followed up the quiz with some announcements: the first was to remind us of the upcoming events for Disability Awareness Month, including a presentation from Kenny Fries, one of the authors we read for the day. The other announcement was that Dr. Foss had updated our grades for both class participation and reading quizzes, and we could now view them on Canvas. Since we had reached the midpoint of the semester, it was helpful to know where we stood academically, in case we wanted to step up our game.

Our first large group discussion was on “Disabled Lilacs,” a poem by Petra Kuppers, as well as the experimental video that accompanied it. Dr. Foss, who had never been corrected until his previous section, pronounced lilac as “lIE-lAHk”, while the rest of us pronounced it as “lIE-lAK”. Although the meaning of the poem was not initially obvious, it is arguably looking at disability from a broader and more general perspective. The speaker leaves their disability ambiguous so that the text is more inclusive and can relate to anyone, regardless of if you know someone disabled or are disabled yourself. The descriptive imagery suggests that this poem takes place within a dream world, perhaps one where ableism does not exist. If that were the case, though, the main symbolic motif would have been lavenders instead of lilacs. After all, some parents use lavender to calm down their kids. What is the significance of lilacs, if any? Could it possibly have more to do with their juxtaposition to simplicity, nature, and beauty? We were left with even more questions after watching the experimental video, and I joked that “experimental” was a fitting word to describe it. Whereas I was expecting to hear the poem articulately read out loud, the video instead alternated between Neil Marcus seemingly reciting the words as they appeared on screen, and Lakshmi Fjord describing black and white photos of a nude couple. Another one of my classmates argued that due to its presentation, someone who is unable to see would entirely miss the text. Additionally, the meaning behind the photographs shown is unclear. How do they relate to the poem? It was tougher to draw substantial conclusions from the video, so we decided not to dwell on it further.

We transitioned to the second poem of the day: “Excavation” by Kenny Fries. Seeing as Fries would be our keynote speaker for Disability Awareness Month, it felt reasonable to analyze some of his writing. The title alone is very impressionistic, and on its own, it could be interpreted in a number of ways. For the speaker, the excavation represents a foot surgery, which resulted in “the bones at birth [they weren’t] given” that they now appear to be stuck with. By examining their new foot shape, the speaker also peels back all of the hurtful nicknames they internalized, such as ‘freak’ and ‘midget’. The poem’s lament, therefore, is a struggle to find a proper home in a body that has been greatly altered, similar to Shelia Black’s “What You Mourn.”

We moved into small groups to talk about “Cathedral,” a short story by Raymond Carver. My group in particular talked about the hostility, and perhaps jealousy, of the narrator throughout the text. None of us were sympathetic towards the narrator, and one of my group mates even said he felt insecure. He has no interest in connecting with anyone, including his wife, and never calls Robert by his name, instead referring to him as “the blind man”. Another one of my group mates compared the tension between the two men to male turkeys puffing up their feathers to intimidate one another. In the end, when the narrator finally attempts to both figuratively and literally see things from Robert’s perspective, it does not feel like a gesture of good will. In fact, it feels more like a form of saviorism, since drawing with your eyes closed is nowhere near equivalent to actually being blind. Still, is it a step in the right direction for the narrator? Maybe from that point, he can continue growing and improving as a person.

We ended the class discussing Jay Dolmage’s “Academic Ableism” in small groups. Dr. Foss prompted us to also consider UMW’s campus, and whether or not it is accessible. My group pointed out the image of a stairway on page 3 of the online text, and how it relates to the ongoing conflict of accessibility versus aesthetics in colleges across the country. Is there a way to achieve balance between the two? Many schools, UMW included, seem to care more about improving their image than accommodating for people with disabilities. My small group agreed that how a campus looks does not matter if it is not accessible. Another instance of academic ableism that the piece hints at, but does not cover in great detail, is academic papers. Students are often taught to prioritize formatting and big words, in order to sound smart and get better grades from teachers. Consequently, the process of writing essays becomes less fun and more time consuming, as we are forced to overlook any real substance. To make academic papers more accessible and easier to finish, teachers would need to be less critical of simplistic language and contractions in favor of getting the point across.

Word Count: 927

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” – Kelly Brown

Zeb’s Class Summary for October 7th, 2021

On October 7th, our discussions focused on chapters 28-31 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Rosemary Garland-Thomson’s “The Case for Conserving Disability,” and “The Treatment of Bibi Haldar.” The overall theme this class period seemed to be how other people view and understand, or have a lack of understanding for, disabled people.

Professor Foss began the class period by mentioning that he gave the section before ours the chance to leave early, so he would give us the same opportunity. I’m not sure if he had ever mention having another section before, but the chance to leave was appreciated. Directly after, we began discussing To Kill a Mockingbird. A student brought up the possibility that Arthur might have PTSD due to how he reacted to things around him, as though he was terrified of things, or he possibly just doesn’t like people: the audience can’t really draw a conclusion from what little we see of him in the book. That led to the point of how a person can make an argument that there are suggestions that he is disabled, or an analogue to disability. He may just be a recluse. Arthur is also a bogeyman in the beginning, which dehumanizes him a bit, but he is also a guardian angel of sorts. He isn’t malicious in his intentions as far as the reader is aware, and he watches over the Finch children from the shadows. He’s a moral character despite being presented in a darker setting. Foss brought up the point that that Bob Ewell attacked the kids to do more than scare them, possibly trying to kill them, and Arthur kills Ewell accidentally. If it went to trial, he probably wouldn’t have gotten in much trouble due to the fact that he was clearly protecting the kids and himself. People were worried that he would kill someone in the beginning of the book, and he ended up doing it. Their worst feelings of what he would do materialized. Burying up the fact that Arthur killed Ewell is seen as the right thing to do by Atticus and Heck Tate, which implies that people believe that Arthur needs to be protected.

This led to how Arthur is viewed by people in the book. A student noted that most of the adults don’t talk to Arthur directly very often, if at all. He’s in the room when Atticus and Heck ask about what happened to Ewell, but they don’t involve him in the conversation. Foss said that it should remind us of how people will talk about disabled people in front of them, as though they cannot hear, or they use their pet voice to them. Scout treats him as though he is littler than her. The way he’s treated is analogous to how people treat people with disabilities. Someone else said that they found it interesting that Scout is treated as an adult despite being 8 or 9 throughout the entire book. She acts as the adult when talking to Arthur. The student posed the question of whether or not it’s a developmental disorder and he is treating the kids as a secret friend. Foss said that some students were worried that his gifts were predatory at first. There are some adults who understand how children’s minds work and how to make them happy. Scout asking Arthur if he wants to pet Jem’s head is not something you’d ask an adult. It implies that he is somehow less than her. Another student noted that it’s interesting how Scout can relate to Arthur, whereas adults can’t. There was a bit where she says that she was beginning to understand his body English (page 319). He is brought to her level, and she is understanding that she is guiding him and the appearance of that. That is more of an implication that she is understanding of how others might see him as less than her. Later on, someone related Arthur to Lenny from Of Mice and Men in how they like to touch things. Foss said that Arthur’s childlike speaking could be further indication that he is disabled or disability-aligned, and with that comes infantilization from Lee herself. She sees the character she has created as a child afraid of the dark. Someone else said that it’s interesting that Scout and the others are protecting Arthur by not having him go to court. People had preconceived notions of Arthur already, and there might be a similar occurrence to what happened in the Tom Robinson trial. Foss said that part of what Heck was worried about was that people would recognize that Arthur was the hero in the story. They would bring him food and stuff, which would disturb Arthur’s lifestyle. Atticus, Heck, and Alexandria understand Arthur and accept him on his own terms, though people in town may not do the same. Heck said that it would be a sin to put him through that, which is similar to what another character said about Tom Robinson’s shooting. It also ties back to what Atticus said about shooting a mockingbird being a sin: we’re meant to see Tom Robinson and Boo Radley as mockingbirds. There’s an intersection of race and disability there, as well.

The discussion continued to talk about how the whole town was at the pageant aside from Atticus, women who were decorating, and the usual outcasts. Scout sees Atticus as above it all, she doesn’t relate to the women, and Arthur would be one of the others. Foss noted that Atticus and the Finch family are the ones bridging Maycomb’s favorable parts and undesirable parts. Foss also noted that Arthur’s hands are sickly pale, but it might not mean he is actually ill. The description goes on to describe shallow teeth, thin hair, and so on. He’s described as a ghost who looks different and ill. It’s mentioned that Arthur has a bad cough as well, but that could just be from exertion or from the Fall cold. A connection was also made between Arthur being ghostly and the Gray Ghost book Atticus and Scout read at the end. They say that a person is nice when you finally see them. Earlier, Foss said that what Lee wants the reader to get from the story is to stand in other people’s shoes. In the end, Scout has finally seen enough to understand what it might be like to be in Arthur’s shoes (page 321). Even standing on Arthur’s porch was enough to give Scout the opportunity to understand him. After she understood him, she left him alone and never saw him again. Foss posed the question of whether or not it’s a good ending or not. Scout didn’t go into his house, she didn’t learn more about the way he lives his life, and she never leaves him again. If people who acknowledge Arthur don’t see him as being able to join society, is that really progress? Someone hesitated in the jury during Tom Robinson’s trial, but it was progress. Is it enough progress, though? However sympathetic Lee wants to make Arthur’s character, is it really right for him to be so fragile and for Scout to consider herself as having walked in his shoes despite knowing very little about his life? At the end of the discussion, Foss asked if this is a progressive representation. By the end of the story, we like Arthur, but we may infantilize him and will never know what it’s like to live his life. A student replied said that it’s a step in the right direction to at least be able to see a disability-aligned character as a person who could be a hero. Now that we’ve taken that step, we need to go further.

The class moved on from To Kill a Mockingbird to “The Case for Conserving Disability.” Foss said that it’s important to look at the stories of disabled children who can’t tell their own stories, and that people want to acknowledge that there was suffering but it was entangled with joy. Their lives were still worth living. The question is how disability can be seen as something other than a negative: if it’s a gift, a resource, or productive. Not just in terms of society but in our views of ourselves and our others. We entered small group discussion and he said that we could tackle any or all of the various sections in the piece. My group primarily focused on the role of disability in society. There were similarities to the poems we read about conforming to beauty standards, like the woman who missed her old body before being treated, as well as the idea that people shouldn’t conform to what society views as normal. One person in the piece said something along the lines of disabled people contributing to teaching nondisabled people how to be more human (page 344). We thought that it was messed up that he believed that it worth to keep them around to inspire fear and loathing in nondisabled people. We also got off on a tangent about the difficulty of reading on a screen and how stories are easier to remember than theory pieces.

After our small group discussions, we had a class discussion about “The Treatment of Bibi Haldar.” Foss said that it’s a piece that is encouraging the reader to think of the intersection between disability and gender/sexuality. It’s also a story that seems to have progressive aspects that push readers to critique the response of Bibi’s family/community members, but there’s also the cure narrative at the ending that seems to pull the rug out from under that sentiment. A student mentioned that they thought it was another theory piece at first. Foss said that we’re supposed to think that the efforts to cure her are- if not misguided and misplaced- fruitless, which may undermine the medical model. Another student was hesitant towards seeing Bibi’s seizures as a medical thing, and that they could be more akin to temper tantrums because the treatments didn’t seem medical. She didn’t seem to be able to control the fits, however. Foss noted that, for many readers, we are being asked to see that there is an actual sort of condition. In the second paragraph, there’s traditional Hindu medicine and unconventional medicine. All of those were attempts to cure her before marriage, but marriage seems to have been closer to the actual cure. Some readers drew attention to “to the best of our knowledge cured” which may mean that they just haven’t seen any seizures since; she may be having them in private or they may not notice them due to seeing her in a different light. Bibi has internalized the ideas of a woman’s role in the society she lives in. They start to see her as a woman other than a disabled person. Is she actually cured? Some said that they think that the speaker using the words “treatment” or “cure” imply that there is something more physical that couldn’t be cured or didn’t go away with marriage. She didn’t even get married; she only had a child. Her disability wasn’t cured, her status in society was. She was able to have a child, her own home, and run the shop. She was a burden before, but she became a productive member of society in the role of a working mother. Another student asked about whose perspective we’re reading, and Foss said that it was likely someone who lived in the building, or possibly multiple people who took turns as the protagonist. Lastly, Foss said that the cousin and his wife were more humane to Bibi. When we’re reading the story, the author wants us to have a critical view of the story. There are a lot of things preventing Bibi from having the life she wants, and that critique is dropped by the end of the book. There’s the possibility that the cousin could have impregnated Bibi before he left, possibly non-consensually. If we go back to Arthur in To Kill a Mockingbird, have we seen enough about her to understand her? Maybe there was a crime, but it might not matter to society because she was cured. Bibi’s father left things to help her, but those things were used as scrap paper or turned into boats; they lost track of or used the directions on how to help her as scrap paper. In all three of the texts we read, there seemed to be a heavy emphasis on how nondisabled people view disabled people and whether or not they can understand them. There’s also the question of whether or not they really try.

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” – Zeb Armstrong

Melissa Madsen’s Class Summary for Sept. 30, 2021

On September 30, students walked into Room 322 to find a lively pre-class discussion already underway about our first impressions of the texts we had read for that day. The class collectively agreed that the scenes in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) that detail Tom Robinson’s trial sucked; that the theory piece of the day, Nirmala Erevelles’ “Crippin’ Jim Crow,” matched well with the trial scene’s themes; and that there was some general confusion surrounding Jim Ferris’ poem “Normal.” These conclusions foreshadowed our upcoming class discussions. We first analyzed two poems – Ferris’ “Normal” and Sheila Black’s “What You Mourn” – and debated how the two poets gave different representations of disability. We then moved to discuss “Crippin’ Jim Crow” and the various problems surrounding the intersection of race, class, and disability in educational settings, specifically focusing on the school-to-prison pipeline and special education classrooms, before finally connecting our findings to TKAM for a few final thoughts and speculations.

We first analyzed two poems as a large group and discussed how they represent disability, starting off with “What You Mourn” by Sheila Black. Many students agreed that this poem represents disability as a natural part of life, and that any changes made to ‘fix’ that disability are unnatural, life-altering invasions. One student pointed out how Black uses natural imagery like “nesting” in one’s body, “unkempt trees,” and “the familiar lay of the land” to connect the narrator’s disability with positive, warm, and comforting images. Another student pointed out how the phrase “before I was changed” implies that not only did some outside force change her, but that it was against her will. While the doctors believe they’re freeing the narrator by fixing her legs, as evidenced in the first line when the doctor says “Now you will walk straight/on your wedding day,” she instead feels trapped in a body that’s not hers. In giving the narrator ‘greater mobility,’ the surgery took away the body she knew how to handle (possibly since birth) and forced her to relearn basic motor skills, turning the thing meant to free the narrator from her disability into a disabling force itself.

We then moved on to “Normal” by Jim Ferris and debated whether the poem was highlighting the positives of life with disability or critiquing certain aspects of it. On one hand, the poem highlights the separation between the outside world and the narrator and his car-watching buddies. A few students pointed out that the narrators feel like they’re ‘on the outside always looking in,’ watching a fast-paced world go by without them. Ferris emphasizes their separation in the last line of the poem when the narrator describes “a world going on, going by, going home,” but he never goes home himself. None of the cars that he and his buddies identify as they drive past the window stop to take any of them home, as if these men are living in a different world than the folks who drive past. On the other hand, a few other students – including myself – saw this poem as portraying a positive message about enjoying life no matter who you are. When I first read the poem, I noticed that Ferris set up a contrast between the folks playing softball in the field and the narrator car-watching with each of his buddies through establishing the softball players first, then the narrators. This specific placement highlights that the narrator has hobbies like other folks do, just that they’re different than the activities we normally consider. He seems to enjoy car-watching and connecting with other people in the facility. Not only does he casually mention details like how his dad used to have a ’57 Chevy when he spots one drive by, but another student pointed out that he also uses words like ‘soft’ and ‘lush’ to describe ‘the streets as far as I can see,’ implying that the narrator also finds joy in the general aesthetic of the environment around him.

After our lengthy discussion about the car-watching poem, we switched gears to small groups to discuss Everelles’ “Crippin’ Jim Crow.” My small group chose to focus at first on the school-to-prison pipeline, a model that details how if kids (especially those from minority groups) are labeled as troublemakers early on, those labels often become a self-fulfilling prophecy that turns those kids into actual criminals that will get arrested after they graduate. One of my groupmates proposed a solution: if these kids are threatened like this in school and/or they really are acting out, why not just homeschool the kids instead? This question turned our discussion into a debate about the pros and cons of homeschool vs. public school in this scenario. On one hand, it’s the parents’ responsibility to raise their kids and make them behave, so if the parents can’t fix any systemic issues that are causing this problem, they should take the initiative and educate the kids themselves. Besides, homeschool is a cheaper option than public school and it will reduce the chance of going to jail. However, on the other hand, many families can’t afford to homeschool their kids. You need at least one parent to stay home and teach the kids, but if your family is poor and both parents need to work, there’s not enough time, energy, or resources that the family can dedicate towards making homeschool work. Homeschool does not guarantee that a minority kid won’t get arrested and many parents can’t speak up because of the systemic issues, just like we saw with Tom Robinson’s trial in TKAM. Public school also gives kids a chance to not only get away from failing and/or abusive parents, but also helps them develop their social skills and increase their knowledge through interacting with people other than their family. As we went back and forth dissecting each of the pros and cons, we realized that the school-to-prison pipeline is a multi-faceted problem that has no easy solution. One of my group members even theorized that the pipeline may be ‘a midpoint in the solution train’ in that it may have been created to solve another underlying problem. It isn’t a good solution, but it’s also not the worst-case scenario, so it can definitely be improved for the future.

Our small group discussion was cut short when Dr. Foss called everyone to reconvene for our final large group discussion of the day. The conversation shifted to focus on how special education functions as ‘a postcolonial ghetto’ that segregates all the ‘deviant’ bodies from the mainstream population. These classrooms may have been designed with good intentions – to help kids with disabilities actually learn something in school in a supportive environment tailored to their needs – but they may not be as good in practice as they are on paper. Many students shared their own experiences with special education programs, critiquing certain elements like placing the special ed classrooms away from the rest of the student body or focusing more attention on elementary school students versus high school students. We concluded that even designated communities can be forms of segregation, and used this idea as a transition to talk about TKAM for the last few minutes of class. Boo Radley and Tom Robinson are both segregated from the greater Maycomb community, but in different ways for different reasons. Boo Radley is segregated by his family and the community to keep him away from the community at large. Meanwhile, Tom Robinson is segregated from the community because he’s black and he’s a ‘dangerous predator’ because Mayella accused him of raping her. One student pointed out that a lot of what’s going on in the novel follows the statues of ‘the ugly law’ – basically, if something is not pleasing to look at or will disturb any passerby, you must get rid of the thing that doesn’t fit The AestheticTM, including disabled people like Boo Radley and ‘dangerous predators’ and minorities like Tom Robinson.

If this is the case in the novel, one student asked, then is Mrs. Maudie immune to getting worked up over racism, what Atticus calls ‘Maycomb’s usual disease?’ Is Atticus immune? It may be more complicated than that. As a final thought, Dr. Foss reminded us that since multiple factors are at play in the novel, we can’t just focus on race. We need to consider the ways in which race, class, and disability intersect and work together in order to understand and ultimately solve these complex problems.

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. -Melissa Madsen

Word Count: 1411

Alex Huber’s Class Summary for September 28

Class on September 28 started with a quiz, in which we answered questions relating to the readings, particularly To Kill a Mockingbird. After the quiz, we transitioned into a large group discussion regarding the novel. Specifically, we talked about the characters of Arthur Radley, who is referred to as “Boo” throughout the novel; Tom Robinson; and Mrs. Debose, focusing on the various ways these characters can be interpreted as disability-aligned. A theme throughout this class period was how different models of disability give us different perceptions on disability and disability-aligned characters, as well as how these different models affect how disabled people are viewed and treated.

When discussing disability-aligned characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, the most obvious one to come to mind is Arthur “Boo” Radley himself. As we discussed in class, throughout the novel, he is built up as a boogeyman figure, practically mythologized in the minds of Scout, Jem, and Dill. A comparison was drawn to the Creation from Frankenstein, though it was also noted that Arthur is given far less physical description than the Creation. The exact reason why Arthur is isolated from the rest of Maycomb is never revealed, but he is treated as a disability-aligned character nonetheless. One symbol repeated throughout the novel is that of the mockingbird, a creature that, according to Atticus, it’s wrong to hurt, because it never did anything wrong. However, another symbol brought up in the large group discussion is Old Tim Johnson, the mad dog that has to be shot and killed for the good of the community. Is Arthur “Boo” Radley the mockingbird or is he the mad dog? This is the question we discussed in large groups, and when we transitioned into small groups afterward, this is one question that question my group tackled.

Another disability-aligned character that comes to mind in To Kill a Mockingbird is Tom Robinson, a disabled black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. His story is central to the plot of the novel, and the mockingbird symbol refers to him as well. While in small group discussion, my group discussed Tom Robinson’s unjust and unfair death, once again harkening back to Old Tim Johnson. Though Tom is not portrayed as “mad” like Arthur or the dog, he is ultimately “put down” like the dog for the “good of the community” once he is falsely convicted of rape. The tragedy of Tom’s death echoes throughout the story, and it brings to light the intersectionality of race, class, and disability, which was also discussed in large and small group discussions.

Finally, the third character that may come to mind in To Kill a Mockingbird as being disability-aligned is Mrs. Dubose, an old woman suffering from morphine addiction. Whereas Arthur Radley and Tom Robinson are made to be likable characters the readers can feel sympathy for, Mrs. Dubose is a bitter, cruel old woman. However, Atticus refers to her as a figure of courage at one point, even comparing her to Tom, saying she was possibly the bravest person he ever knew. In both large and small group discussion, we discussed this line from Atticus, and it was pointed out that this line reads like inspiration porn, in which a disabled person is viewed as inspirational solely because of their disability. Atticus claims that Mrs. Dubose is an inspiration because she never gave up. In large group discussion, Dr. Foss pointed out how, as the character in the novel who most acts as the voice of Harper Lee and delivers the story’s moral lessons, this moment can easily be read as Lee suggesting that a disabled person like Mrs. Dubose may have no future, but they are still brave for continuing to exist despite that.

After our discussions of To Kill a Mockingbird, we moved back into large group discussion to discuss the other major reading for the day, the introduction to Alison Kafer’s Feminist, Queer, Crip, then back to small group discussion to discuss them further. In the final small group discussions of the day, my group discussed Kafer’s introduction and her criticisms of the medical and social models of disability. Ultimately, while Kafer acknowledges that the models are important to some, her criticisms point out that these models are not effective for everyone, and that room must be made for other perspectives. This ties back to the discussion of To Kill a Mockingbird by bringing to light the fact that disabled people are often seen as having unhappy lives purely by virtue of their disability. A person who is not disabled cannot know what it is like to be disabled, and yet able-bodied people continue to make judgments on what kind of lives disabled people can lead.

Class concluded on that note, that disabled people each have their own desires and cannot be boiled down to one model or perspective. Every person is unique, and every experience with disability is as well.

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” Alex Huber.

Emily Malone’s Class Summary for 9/28/21

The class started with a quick, and surprising, reward quiz before we jumped into the topics of class discussions. Our discussions for this class period focused on the ways we can, and should, see disability in “To Kill a Mockingbird”,  and Kafer’s political/relational model for disability studies. 

We started our discussions about “To Kill A Mockingbird” in large group. Dr. Foss started the discussion by asking the class if we should view Arthur Radley, or as the kids call him “Boo Radley”, through a disabled lense. The class felt it may not be right to think of Arthur as a disabled character because we have never seen his character. Some felt that because the book doesn’t say he is disabled, we shouldn’t assume he is because we have no evidence to support this. All we know about him are the rumors that people say about him. Because he is not there to disprove the rumors about him, he is almost forced into a disabled lense. We also briefly discussed whether Arthur could be compared to The Creation in “Frankenstein”. Both characters can be seen as kind or benevolent until they are judged by other people, but Frankenstien is judged by his appearance and Arthur is judged because no one sees him.  

We then moved our discussion into small groups where we mainly talked about Tim Johnson and the idea of racism as a disease. My group thought the question of whether we should see Tim Johnson in a disabled lens was interesting, especially because his name is a human one, but ultimately felt the disabled lens didn’t work because he had a contagious disease. The town wasn’t afraid of him because of a disability, but they were afraid of his sickness spreading and killing others. We also talked about the pros and cons of talking about racism as a disease. In chapter 9, Atticus refers to racism as a disease when he says “I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through it without bitterness, and most of all, without catching Maycomb’s usual disease”(100). We felt that it could be a good comparison, but pointed out that sometimes people lump offensive thoughts and language with mental illness, which can feed negative stereotypes about people with mental illness. Also the idea that racism is something you can catch in an unavoidable way isn’t the best representation.

Before returning to the large group, Hollis had to leave to save his books from the sudden rain. The class suggested we should all leave to help, but our attempts were quickly squashed. We briefly reconvened to share what we talked about in our groups including the parallel between the shooting of Tim Johnson and the shooting of Lenny in “Of Mice and Men”, and an interesting point about addiction and disability. It was pointed out that Mrs. Dubose was shut in her home in the same way Arthur was, and that addiction can be a disability. We also noticed that the respect Atticus has for her comes from the ways she overcomes her addiction, which we believed to be problematic. 

Dr. Foss then introduced Kafer’s introduction to “Imagined Futures” which led into our small group discussion. We discussed Kafer’s response to the medical and social models before talking about her political model. The medical model is problematic because it treats disability as something that needs to be fixed medically, but Kafer states that exclusively using the social model excludes those who seek medical assistance or relief for pain or other difficulties due to their disability. If we attach disability to a solely medical model, it becomes apolitical. She discusses how people see only negative outcomes when they look at her disability, but disabled people can still live a complete, happy, and fulfilling life. 

We had a small controversy between the small groups about the disability awareness activities. We discussed the ways that these activities try to put people in the shoes of a person with a disability, but these activities are always very surface level. This idea led to our final thought about Atticus from “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the ways in which his activism is surface level and won’t lead to real change in the system. We questioned if the book sends the message that surface level activism is enough.

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” Emily Malone

Bailey Merriman’s Class Summary for 9/23/21

The class began, as it does somewhat frequently, with a reward quiz. Once we had finished with that, Dr Foss went over the readings we would be discussing during the class, which consisted of Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s piece “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory”, Snyder and Mitchell’s introduction, and Jillian Weise’s “Nondisabled Demands”. Although the class talked about a multitude of different things, a majority of the class discussion was about the intersectionality between disabled communities and other oppressed groups, as well as the tokenization of those with disabilities.

The first reading we discussed was Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory”. Dr. Foss had the class split into four small groups, with each group being assigned a section of the article, these being Activism, Representation, the Body, and Identity. While discussing the piece, each group wrote down their thoughts and questions they had before passing their sheet to allow for another group to discuss that section. Many of the conversations were about how many of the things feminism is fighting against are also affecting disabled people in similar ways. For example, throughout history women’s bodies and minds have been “culturally disabled”, and have been seen as incompetent and weak, which was compared to the ways disabled people are often seen by society in similar ways. The ways both women and people with disabilities are often forced by societal expectations to put their appearance over their health was also discussed, with the example of women wearing corsets or binding their feet and disabled people being expected to undergo painful surgeries or therapy, was also a topic that was brought up.

After reforming as a full class, we started our discussion with Snyder and Mitchell’s introduction “Cultural Locations of Disability”. Dr Foss began this dialogue by bringing up their controversial take that the Holocaust was not very shocking, and was instead the logical outcome of a society that needs perfection and hygenics. He brought up their idea that a society’s need for perfection and normalization puts all bodies at risk, but especially disabled ones. The class then began discussing the problems with the medical model and the social model of disability. The class agreed that one of the main problems with the medical model was that it pathologized disabled people, while the biggest problem with the social model was that it identified disability with only it’s negative encounters, and victimized those who are disabled. We then compared these two models with the cultural model that Snyder and Mitchell present. The cultural model seemed to be the best model presented, as it sees disabled people as entire people, instead of just victims of oppression, as well as acknowledging disability as both “human variation encountering environmental obstacles and socially mediated difference that lends group identity and phenomenological perspective” (10).

The final reading the class discussed was Jillian Weise’s poem “Nondisabled Demands”. After the poem was read to the class, the first point raised was about the last stanza “If you refuse to answer then we call/your doctor. Then we get to say/You’re an inspiration”. We discussed how often disabled people are pulled into the public eye and then labeled as inspiring or brave solely because they are living with a disability, and how doing this allows society to ignore the oppression the people they are calling inspirations have to face. The idea that many people view all disabled people as the same, and that if one person is comfortable talking about their disability then everyone else is as well was also discussed. This led into a conversation about tokenization, and how people from oppressed communities are forced to become representatives for everyone else in that group, regardless of whether or not they consented to doing so.

“I pledge”- Bailey Merriman