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

Terrencia Johnson, Miranda Colbert, and Megan Hofmann’s Major Project – Disabled vs. Able-Bodied Gameboard

(Word Count: 525)

For our major project we constructed an image that showcases the unfair advantages abled-bodied people have over a person with disabilities. There are two players in the board game. One being an able-bodied person and the other with disabilities. Although both players are starting the game off at the same place, the path to “win” is not the same. The curvy path a person with disabilities has been much different from the straight path an able-bodied person has. At first glance you can see that it is unfair and not equal. This is the reality for people with disabilities all over the world. On each game square there are different elements that describe issues the player must go through in life. For the disabled person, their squares are more difficult. For example, one square says, “Not every place is accessible.” This connects to Good Kings Bad Kings when Yessenia “Yessie” Lopez had to get help from Pedro for her to use the bathroom. To Pedro, his apartment was accessible to him, but for someone in a wheelchair it was not accessible.  Another square says, “People obsess over the disability rather than the heart.” This connects to the Weise poem when the speaker was going to have intercourse with someone else, but the other person was more interested in the prosthetic leg. This ruined the speaker’s mood and made her rather be anywhere else than in this room with this person who is obsessing over her leg. In addition, another square has the single word, “inferior” displayed in it. This label can be interpreted in multiple ways, however, in this specific case the board game relates the label back to the concept that people with disabilities are often viewed as inferior, resulting in non-disabled individuals praising small, everyday tasks completed by the individual who has the disability. This exact concept is clearly portrayed in John Lee Clark’s poem, Deaf Blind: Three Squared Cinquain. In Lee’s poem, the poetic speaker exhibits frustration at the fact that because he/she is Deaf and blind, non-disabled individuals become astonished when they see the disabled person accomplishing every day, mundane tasks such as walking from one destination to the next. Finally, the last example is the labeled box that says, “forgotten about.” Like inferior, this label can be explained in a variety of ways concerning people with disabilities, but for the purpose of this project the label is related to the capitalist workforce and how disabled persons are oftentimes cast aside. The concept of disabled individuals being forgotten about in relation to the workforce is clearly depicted in Marta Russell and Ravi Malholtra’s theory article, Capitalism and the Disability Rights Movement. A quote from the text states, “Without job accommodations to meet their [disabled] impairments, [disabled individuals] were—less “fit” to do the tasks required of factory workers and were increasingly excluded from paid employment” (3). As a result of being disabled, some individuals face discrimination regarding the workforce and employment opportunities. In conclusion, this board game highlights only a few examples of how disabled individuals face more discrimination and challenges than their able-bodied peers on the “path of life.” 

Work Cited

Clark, John Lee. “Deaf Blind: Three Squared Cinquain by John Lee Clark.” A Cup of Poetry, 15 Apr. 2013,

Nussbaum, Susan. Good Kings Bad Kings : A Novel, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central

Ravi Malholtra, Marta Russell. “Introduction’ to Capitalism and Disability .”, 2019,

Weise, Jillian. “Nondisabled Demands.” PDF on dis/lit course website. Fall 2021.

“We Pledge” – Terrencia Johnson, Miranda Colbert, and Megan Hofmann

Hannah Harris’ Major Project- Shadrack in Sula

Unintentional Leader: An Examination of Shadrack in Toni Morrison’s Sula

In disability studies, it seems there is no way to just leave people be. Disabled individuals are either ignored entirely or idolized for living with their condition, not that they really have much of a choice. By evaluating Shadrack in Toni Morrison’s Sula, I found evidence of both. Through most of the novel, Shadrack is isolated in his cottage and, while the residents of the Bottom know of him, they are perfectly content to misunderstand him and exclude him from their lives 364 days of the year: “Once the people understood the boundaries and nature of his madness, they could fit him, so to speak, into the scheme of things” (Morrison 15). However, in the final pages, Shadrack is made to be an unintentional leader and the object of “inspiration porn” to his fellow community members. I view this as Morrison’s critique of the way society is inept in its handling of disability either by under or overcompensating. 

The first thing I noticed was Morrison’s choice of name for this disabled figure, and it gave me inspiration for the metaphor of my dance. His name alludes to the biblical narrative of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo in the book of Daniel. Here, these three men refuse to worship the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar and are punished to die in a fiery furnace (New International Version). Like Shadrack, they refuse to conform to society and would rather face death, just like the celerartion of National Suicide Day, than bow down. This also begs the question of what represents the king in Morrison’s novel. Perhaps, as in Good Kings Bad Kings (Nussbaum), it is the system itself and the evil it perpetuates. In Sula, not only is Shadrack scrutinized under the weight of his disability, but the entire community is held down by racism. Through this biblical reading, the minute appearance of Sula at Shadrack’s cottage after she drowns Chicken Little, while traumatizing for her, is Shadrack’s equivalent of the angel appearing in the fire. This is a glimpse of the eternal where one need “not be afraid of the change —the falling away of skin, the drip and slide of blood, and the exposure of bone underneath” (Morrison 157).  It lasts just long enough, and her purple ribbon is left behind, giving Shadrack some hope that he might one day be liberated from the furnace and the rule of the bad king. 

Shadrack breaks free from the furnace, but it does not lead to his happiness. Those who had ignored him finally praise him for “overcoming”, and they are inspired to overcome their oppression as well. Like the questioners in “Nondisabled Demands”, they “get to say/ [he is] an inspiration” (Weise), but Shadrack never asks to be one. Interestingly, when searching for Weise’s poem on my own, every publication of it I found online omitted the last stanza, “If you refuse to answer then we call/ your doctor. Then we get to say/ You’re an inspiration” (Weise). I was unable to find answers about whether this change was truly an omission from an earlier PDF version of the poem we read for class or if the stanza was added later, although the former seems more likely. It makes me wonder why that portion was removed given it relates to one of the central discussions we often come to during class about “inspiration porn”. I am left to question whether Weise no longer stands by her assertion that society does this even as I have explored instances of this very behavior in Morrison’s fictional society with this project. 

This idea of “inspiration porn”, coined by Stella Young, has recently been examined at the crossroads of disability and race. Sami Schalk adds to this discourse in her discussion of the viral “Black Panther prosthetic” video from 2018 where a tattoo artist presents a young black amputee boy with a new prosthetic leg airbrushed with images from the new Black Panther movie (Scalk 100). In examining the media coverage of this video, Schalk sees the first wave of media coverage not as inherent “inspiration porn”, but she critiques the news outlets’ hyperfixation on the boy’s race rather than his status as an amputee, making them ableist in a sense just as bad as “inspiration porn” (Scalk 108-109).  However, the second wave of coverage did just the opposite, downplaying race and drawing heavily upon the idea of “inspiration porn” (Scalk 111). I propose a reading of Shadrack as the subject of “inspiration porn”, especially at the end of the novel. Ironically, this fetization of Shadrack does the most immediate harm, not to him, but to the townspeople who sacrifice themselves in the tunnel: “Old and young, women and children, lame and hearty, they killed, as best they could, the tunnel they were forbidden to build” (Morrison 161). Here, the dynamic between Shadrack and his dying neighbors is not complicated by racial difference, but the inspiration received from Shadrack’s yearly event is finally enough to motivate a rebellion of the people against racial inequality. However, I do not believe this was ever Shadrack’s intention, and it links his name and his disabled status to deaths he never could have prevented. This emphasizes the inability to exist in that middle ground for disabled people; either their existence is minimized, or it is larger than the elephant in the room. No one gets free from oppression without being unhappy or dead. An unintentional leader cannot help. 

These are the ideas I aimed to capture in my spoken word poetry and dance: the ways in which Shadrack’s character connects to his namesake, and the questions this raises about fighting the system, blind ignorance, and what happens when recognition of disabled inspiration goes too far. 

I began by writing the poem which is included below. I selected the background music, “The Way” by Zack Hemsey, edited it to fit with the voiceover of the poem, and added it to the recording of my choreography. 

Word Count: 993

Unintentional Leader

No one listened to me, until they did. 

At first, I couldn’t even listen to myself. 

Didn’t know who or where I was. Didn’t know why

Death hung in the air and crept at every corner. 

Decided I wouldn’t bow down to that King

That bad King. 

Like those three Isrealites 

Opposed to King Nebuchadnessar. 

Except they got caught. 

I got liberated. 

My answer: National Suicide Day. 

And “the rest of the year would be safe and free”1 


That yearly celebration barely made up for 

That cottage I kept within 

The other 364 days.

Lonelier than all I’d even known.

No better than Meshach and Abednigo.

That was my furnace. Stifling. 


One day, 

A child.

Running, frightened, straight to my door. 

Lord’s angel appeared in that furnace. 

How long did I wish her to stay?

How long would I fight to defy the dead

And the living with their judgements?

“Always. Always”2 

 “Assurance of permanency”3 

1941: they followed.

I suppose I led. 

Didn’t really mean to. 

Down they went 

Into that tunnel. 

Bowed down to the wrong King. 

Now why 

Should they have done that?4

Made a leader 

Of a man like me.

I never wanted

Them to say I was an inspiration.5


  1. Morrison p. 14
  2. Morrison p. 63
  3. Morrison p. 157
  4. Mimics style of the final lines of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  5. “Nondisabled Demands” by Jillian Weise


Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. 26 Oct. 2008,

Hemsey, Zack. “The Way” The Way, Self-released, 2011. 

Morrison, Toni. Sula. 1st Vintage International ed, Vintage International, 2004.

New International Version. Biblica, Accessed 12 Nov. 2021. 

Nussbaum, Susan. Good Kings Bad Kings. First Edition, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013.

Schalk, Sami. “Black Disability Gone Viral: A Critical Race Approach to Inspiration Porn.” CLA 

Journal, vol. 64, no. 1, College Language Association, Mar. 2021, pp. 100–120. EBSCOhost,

Weise, Jillian. “Nondisaled Demands.” PDF on dis/lit course website. Fall 2021. 

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

Hannah Harris

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