Major project write-up
Revealing the Son: Disability as Narrative Prosthesis in the Gospel of John
For my major project, I chose to research disability in the Bible. After reading a great chapter by Anna Rebecca Solevag in her book Negotiating the Disabled Body, called “John and the Symbolic Significance of Disability,” I narrowed my focus down to the gospel of John. I chose John because there were only three instances of disability found in the book, but they all demonstrated the same point—that the purpose of disability is to be healed, showing Jesus’ power as God’s son. I did some research into the ancient world for context, which actually tied into another class I’m taking, Greek and Roman Religion. I applied the things I learned in that class about ancient views on disability and healing. I found that the ancient view of disability was rather complex. On one hand, babies born with some kind of disability might be seen as a bad omen; on the other hand, soldiers who were disabled in battle might be treated with glory. As I researched, I realized that the stories in John don’t strictly reflect either of those views, although there are aspects of the first. Instead, disability is something to be used by Jesus to prove his divinity.
I was originally going to write a research paper, but as I started to compile information, I thought visual aids would be helpful. I decided to create a PowerPoint and write a script for my presentation. I’ve made presentations this way in online classes and found it to be a flexible format—it feels like a traditional in-class presentation, but it’s a recording. (There’s less pressure on me as the presenter, and the audience can watch it anytime or however they want.) The PowerPoint turned out to be a good idea. When talking about the ancient world, it’s hard to visualize sometimes what is happening. I found examples of ancient art, statues, pictures of archaeological sites, and artistic renderings in my presentation. I also like using PowerPoint to emphasize important points and allow the audience to read important quotes for themselves.
I tied my project into our class material in a few different ways. First, I reached beyond the material of the class and used other works by authors we’ve read. Using Mitchell and Snyder’s Narrative Prosthesis, I defined the concept of “narrative prosthesis” and connected it to what’s happening in John. I used examples from our readings to help define narrative prosthesis, connecting it to “Cathedral” by Carver, Garland-Thompson’s writings on Freakery, and Weise’s “Nondisabled Demands.” I used Braddock and Parish’s “An Institutional History of Disability” to explain views of disability in the ancient world. That piece proved extremely helpful in my research, and I used it in my project quite a bit, expanding on their ideas to fit my topic. The topic I chose also fits into several of the larger themes we’ve explored in this class, such as the history of disability, how religious views affect disability, the representation of disabled characters in literature, and how to know if representation in a text is progressive or not.
I hereby pledge upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. Tabitha Robinson
Word count: 511