Ren’s Class Summary for Tuesday October 26th

Class began with an excited “Happy Birthday” to no one in particular and a five-question quiz on the readings for today. We went back and forth between large and small groups about the Weise poem we didn’t get to the day before, the Hershey poem, the theory piece on the intersection of capitalism and disability, The Wedding of Tom to Tom, and Good Kings Bad Kings.

Our large group discussion started with a recap about the major paper/project proposal and then about the poem from last time The Old Questions by Weise. It was read aloud and the poetic speaker seems to be in another place with someone and they were potentially going to be intimate before there are many questions. Leading into our discussion today about sex and disability. How is this poem asking us to think about sex and what’s healthy? The comparison of peep shows with a sign saying “hands off our girls” and how the speaker wants to not be touched. The constant questions feel like prerequisites and barriers to making love that the speaker has gone through many times before. One student is actually having their birthday in class. “Can I touch it coming right off of hands off our girls” as the last thought on the poem.

Onto Working Together by Hershey and the two ways that people read the poem as an apathetic caretaker or two people working together and being used to their roles. Is the title indicative of the dynamic or a little bit ironic? Questions of who the caretaker is and how the two are related. The ending not being clear cut and the last stanza is ambiguous and unanswered by the poem. “Emotional support” for the caretaker from the one they’re taking care of. Loaded relationship when it comes to ‘what no one thinks of doing/except for self or child’ the speaker is saying it as something grateful. “We take ableism and autonomy for granted…so much that we don’t even consider those with mobility impairments and how much of a struggle that everyday tasks would be.” Use of the word heft rather than something gentler making it feel a little more impersonal. “Tell her that she can” and giving her permission to take care of the speaker who is vulnerable to read that line as a more intimate connection. “Across the spectrum of these relationships they can be abusive or neutral…there are people in institutions who genuinely care.” This is connected to the Banner short story and Good Kings Bad Kings.

We were sent to small groups to talk about the theory piece. Look at the anecdotes as a jumping off point and go over the intersection of sex and disability with the headings of access, histories, and spaces. “Compulsory able-bodiedness and compulsory heterosexuality” are what most people are operating. Questions of intellectual disabilities and consent on a tangent about The Wedding of Tom to Tom. In specific queer or women studies disability isn’t considered and it isn’t acknowledged and how disabled people are thought of as an enigma where they don’t think about gender or sexuality when it’s not true.

He called our attention back to large group to talk about The Wedding of Tom to Tom and the conflicting receptions of it. Is the wedding some sort of acknowledgement of their personhood or is it seen as a joke or in pitying infantilization? The potential contrast of healthy versus unhealthy relationships with Tom A and Tom B compared to Anita and Archie. The use of the R word in the story and how unprogressive that is and if the presence of that word is to view a character negatively. The conflicting view on the word and if it is important in a conversation about caretaker attitudes, but it is upsetting and potentially triggering. Surprise over the narrator being a woman with the way that she responded to things. The disturbing implications are with the wedding. Is it progressive to think about Tom A and Tom B as sexual beings are? It is also coming from Anita’s perspective and if it really is happening all the time. Is them holding hands really that big of a deal or will it really lead to something more? Raquel and Anita treating Tom and Tom as a side show and if we are invited to critique them for thinking that. “The big thing that makes her realize she loves Archie is that he just acknowledges Tom and Tom and didn’t think it was weird” space for humor in the piece. “General feeling of a lack of consent” because Tom A isn’t verbal and the parallels of relationships with one person in more power of the other. “There was just something wrong with it…not the disability or their kind of relationship” was the final remark.

Back into small groups to finish out on Good Kings Bad Kings. Quite liked the book a little worried about the Teddy and Mia. Teddy wanting his own agency and fear over what’ll happen. We dislike Michelle because she is only in it for the money while pretending she isn’t. She also chooses people who have a disability of some sort and she is presumably able-bodied who prays on young disabled people in a rough environment and judges them the entire time. Not having powered wheelchairs could be not having the funding or they don’t want them to have autonomy and independence.

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

Jacob Lertora’s Class Summary for 11/1/2021

Dr. Foss began our class by having us wish a happy birthday to someone in the other section of Disability and Literature, which must have been some sort of strange joke, because no such section exists. He then had us take out paper for a quiz, but we promptly put it away as there was no quiz scheduled for that day. We proceeded to talk about two other course offerings: Global Issues in Literature and Intro to Disability Studies, both of which are being offered in the spring, while going off on a slight tangent regarding penguin literature.

Our first activity was a small group discussion on Susan Nussbaum’s “Good Kings Bad Kings”. We talked about the realistic depiction of Mia’s abuse in the section of the reading, as well as the unique perspective of Ricky as he is growing up. However, our discussion focused largely on Joanne, whose experiences and actions mirrored what we had read in the vast majority of the theory pieces for this class. For example, Joanne muses on the term “crip” as a way to empower people with disabilities by assigning it new meaning, which is reflective of a discussion we had towards the beginning of the semester on similar terms. We also connected one passage where Joanne “cringe[s]” at the dentist to the “sneer” of the narrator in last class’s “The Old Questions”.

Joanne’s observations were further expanded upon in the class discussion that followed. One student found that the waiter ignored Joanne while she was eating with Ricky, showing the lack of presence that people with disabilities have. Dr. Foss was quick to point out how Ricky and Joanne’s relationship is connected to many of our poems and short stories which depict such inter-disabled relationships, such as “The Wedding of Tom to Tom”. Lastly, we explored Joanne’s perspective of corruption in her organization, with the board meeting exposing a shelter-to-hospital pipeline that involved millions of dollars.

Next, we moved to discussing the poem “Tulips” by Sylvia Plath. The class did not have much to say on this poem, but we did explore the connection between the tulips, how they made the author feel (bad), and the author’s surgery.

We returned to small groups to discuss “The Yellow Wallpaper”. We agreed this was a very intense and disturbing story, while also containing insight into how a person experiencing a psychotic episode feels. My group noted that the main character does not have a name, despite the other characters being named, though it was pointed out that the narrative was written by the narrator. We connected the bars on the window and the nailed-down bed to a feeling of captivity. One group member questioned the timing of the story, thinking that perhaps she was here for longer than just one month.

Lastly, we joined in a whole class discussion about the short story. The notions of forced prescription and doubt of the disabled condition were reinforced through analysis of the text and the character of John. We found that despite the story being written, the main character lacked a voice: her dialogue did not seem to change the opinion of a single side character. Unfortunately, due to the length of our previous discussions, we were unable to look at Russell and Malholtra’s Capitalism and Disability, and thus class was ended.

Word Count: 556

I pledge.

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

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

Rachel Grace’s Class Summary for 10/14/2021

To begin class, Dr. Foss started with his favorite surprise for his students: a quiz. Our professor then announced the exciting news that the person who wrote the poem present on each computer screen in our small room in Combs was going to deliver an address specifically to Mary Washington students. We then moved into the content. This class period focused on the dangers of our unrecognized standard biases and how unrecognizable normalized ableism can be, whether in how we read out loud, how we designate sexualized bodies, how we tokenize blindness, or how we interact with our physical college campus.

Following the miniature quiz, the discussion progressed to poetry, specifically Petra Kuppers’ “Lilacs” (pronounced “Lie-lacks”). The class observed the text in two different contexts. First, a student read it out loud, and then Dr. Foss showed an artistic video interpretation of the text that featured a disabled body reading the poem and audio descriptions of pictures of naked disabled/inter-abled couples that appear on the screen during the video. The two formats created a discussion around how the format of a poem can change the meaning of the content. The conclusion is that the artistic interpretation of the poem revealed standard biases present in our expectations of standard speech and how our implicant expectations affect the way we consume art and poetry. Dr. Foss noted that the poem while exposing our standard biases, is ultimately deconstructing the natural and unnatural binary that exists in disability and the human experience, which then leads to textual examples such as “aching gears”.

The discussion shifts into Kenny Fries’ “Excavation”, which we concluded serves less as real and more as a utopic version of the imagination. With images suggesting illusionary escapism, our discussion focuses more so on what it is the speaker wants to excavate about himself and how the violent images suggest their desire to uncover what they are looking for. We end the discussion on a question from Dr. Foss, who wonders if this poem comes at the feet of an ableist world or if it is reassigning meaning. We come to no unanimous conclusion but instead are left to ponder the ideas.

Carver’s “Cathedral” sparks a conversation in a small group about whether Carver is asking us to critique the piece or if they are simply rehabilitating the narrator. In the end, we see the piece as a way to critique how society treats disability because it is only once the husband gets to know Robert that he can change his perspective on disability, specifically blindness. The husband thinks of Robert’s wife as leading “a pitiful life” because she could never “see herself in the eyes of her loved one” (213), which is unbearable for the husband to imagine. Our group also spoke greatly about the ending serving as a sort of tokenization of the disabled character. It is up to the man who is blind to show people a new perspective and he has to have a great and exciting attitude when doing it. The overall consensus draws upon the story serving as a critique.

The conclusion the small group comes to concerning Dolmage’s theory piece is that Mary Washington is no exception to ableism plaguing campuses of higher education in the United States. Jacob uses the examples of eugenics and the histories of profiting off the testing of disabled subjects, as written in the text, to illustrate our conclusion. We discuss exclusion based on accommodations, which serve to offload the responsibility of the institution. In the end, we agree that the piece describes perfectly well how we put able bodies ahead of disabled bodies every day and in every context. 

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.

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

Irene Andrade’s Class Summary for 9/21/21

The class started off with its regular segment of announcements, which consisted of upcoming disability awareness month events in October, an extra credit lecture by Rachel Wonderlin on Dementia care, and one last note about intersectionality from the previous class theory piece, Chris Bell’s “Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal.” Large-group discussions revolved around which characters are read as disabled in Toni Morrison’s “Sula,” and small-group discussions explored the effects of being read as disabled among other topics through our assigned poetry pieces.

Professor Foss prompted the class discussion with a question, whether there are “Particular things about Eva that should not just be read in the lens of disability, but disability, race, and poverty,” echoing his last note about intersectionality from the Chris Bell piece. The class was initially quiet, processing the themes of disability in addition to race and poverty enveloped in the experiences of Sula’s characters. After getting no direct responses to the question, Professor Foss quoted an older book from today’s theory piece author, Rosemarie Garland Thompson, “physical disability neither diminishes nor corrupts Eva’s character, rather confirms Eva’s power. [Eva is a] rewritten Black eve striding the realms ordinary and unordinary, her legs signal presence and empowerment.” From there, Megan pointed the class to today’s theory piece by Rosemarie Garland Thompson, “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory”, she quoted “Female, disabled, and dark bodies are supposed to be dependent, incomplete, vulnerable, and incompetent bodies.” (3). Megan’s and Professor Foss’s evidence persuaded many in the class to acknowledge their points, and as a result several agreed that Eva truly went against the grain of the stereotypes set onto Black disabled women. Professor Foss added that other people have read Eva as a deity or goddess figure despite her disability and asked the class whether they agreed. The class, however, did not directly answer this question even with the proposed evidence of Eva having the “power” in the book to name others, be worshipped by others, and having the decision to kill others such as her own son, Plum, without consequence. Multiple students expressed that they believed Eva was powerful in the sense that her physical disability did not stop her from doing things (e.g., jumping out a window to save her daughter, or taking care of her loved ones for so long), but no one voiced whether she could be directly considered a deity the way Professor Foss described. With no direct responses to the question, Professor Foss made one last remark, postulating that Eva could also be seen as both a deity figure and a disturbingly powerful figure.

While the group could decide whether Eva’s disability weakened or empowered her, they soon realized that this was not the same case for Shadrack’s character. The class seemed to unanimously agree that Eva’s character was much more easily integrated into the community of the Bottom because her prominent disability for much of her life was a physical one. Her missing leg allowed for her to be read as physically disabled even though we concluded that it still did not hinder her from being a strong character. This opened a short discussion on invisible versus visible disabilities, and how they are regarded comparatively. Rachel suggested that with Eva, it was easy to read how it was not her physical disability that made her disagreeable to the readers and other characters, but rather her personality and attitude. In contrast, Shadrack’s disability cannot be so easily demarcated from his personality to the reader. Rachel commented that only Eva’s attitude can be drawn up to comparison to Shadrack’s “madness”, not her disability. Professor Foss describes Shadrack as a “pied piper”, offering strong, but delusive enticement to the community members of the Bottom. Students discussed how the scene where Shadrack calls everyone to the construction site does not help his trustworthiness to readers, and could potentially perpetuate the “warning of messing with people like him”. The discussion of Shadrack’s behavior that added to his inability to be trusted by both readers and the community lead us into the topic of the way he was regarded by Sula in particular. Professor Foss noted that Sula was the only character that seemed to acknowledge Shadrack as a person compared to other community members. However, the class noted how Sula’s death in coincidence of her final discussion with Shadrack, also did not help his character distinction between his personality and disability by potentially sealing her fate.

At this point, Professor Foss posed the question of whether Sula’s birthmark (and fingertip) could be read as a disability, and quotes back to Thomson’s piece on freakery and how some may be read as disabled due to “physical markers or indications”. Much of the class voiced that they could understand how this perspective could be validated given the history of birthmarks being viewed as negative things such as a “witches mark” or cosmetic imperfections when visible. Professor Foss brought back the idea of intersectionality and inquired whether Sula’s personality can be distinguished from her potentially disabling birthmark. He followed this with another point from an older piece by Thomson which suggested that Sula’s birthmark and fingertip are “hyperlegible text from which her community reads her hopes and point of reference for social boundaries, pariah and mark of social order,” and that this seems to be just a few of the many “evils” that are attributed to her character. In this way, Sula’s experiences seem similar to both Eva and Shadrack. Sula’s personality may be easier to distinguish from her personality due to her read physical disability, yet her lack of integration to the community may have been due to her other social identities, like Shadrack. The students concluded that her birthmark has heavy implications of ostracization and closely relates to how neoliberalism persuades consumers to get rid of this imperfection according to current monetary beauty standards.

Finally, we were called into small groups to discuss 4 previously assigned readings: “Until” by Ayisha Knight, “Hypoesthesia” by Laurie Clements Lambeth, “Deaf Blind: Three Squared Cinquian” by Jonh Lee Clark, and “The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window” by Joy Harjo. One of the most prominent themes of “Until” for all groups was the overcoming of social norms into self-love. The author was read as disabled because she is Deaf, but many groups noted her feelings of “not disabled enough,” and noticed how powerful and confident her signing was now that she was able to express herself past the social norms of disability. With “Hypoesthesia”, one of the most prominent features my group and I noticed was how well the author was able to depict the experience of disassociation through the format of the poem. Many other groups also noticed the disassociation of the narrator and, naturally, attributed it to the assault. They also referred to how some may read the narrator as deviant from the “sexual norm” and pathologize their behavior. That deviancy can be read as a disability and is treated pathologically in today’s American society. All groups noted how people make spectacles out of disabled people that can do “mundane” things, such as cook for oneself, for John Lee Clark’s “Deaf Blind” poem. All groups also noted the juxtaposition of being a spectacle to being a “nobody” because the narrator was just doing what everyone else can do, but under the light of a Deaf-blind person. Professor Foss later in large group noted a scholar who called this phenomenon “inspo-porn”. For “The Woman Hanging From the Thirteenth Floor Window”, some groups seemed confused as to what exactly was happening within the poem, but most seemed to understand that there was a incongruence to the way the narrator identified themselves and what was happening in their life.

Ultimately, the class came to conclusions about how characters’ disabilities from Toni Morrison’s “Sula” are read, and other major themes through previously assigned poems which were discussed through small group in this class period. Our discussions showed how students were able to read different characters’ and narrators’ disabilities and their social implications according to our view of social norms. However, the group was also able to explore these implications along the lines of intersectionality, considering not only each characters’ disability, but also class, gender, race, etc. Following how these people may be read as disabled, along with how this may affect or be affected by their other social identities, lead many to wonder how exactly this affected each person’s personal identities, and how we could distinguish the social from the personal.