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Picturing Disability

374 Picturing Disability


What does it mean to consider the visual representation of disability as a kind of text? Why does it matter? This course will consider the ways in which picturing disability helps us do several things: expose and challenge stereotype, understand how disabled or ill bodies have been used to create cultural meanings, better understand the social experience of disability, reconsider disability in the medical context, and appreciate the amazing human variation of all bodies that disability underscores.  Representation also presents us with some of the thorny issues with which we will grapple: what are the ethics of picturing disability, and how can we avoid spectacle or voyeurism even as we take advantage of the "visual activism" staring allows? How do we make typically invisible impairments like anxiety or depression visible? How do we show the reality of pain without reinforcing the sense that disability is only a tragic or isolating existence? How do we create visual representations that retort against tropes so familiar that we may not even realize we are using them to shape our personal definitions of disability? How can we create representations that suggest "disability gain"-that disability begets creativity and innovation in the arts and sciences? In this course, we'll look at a wide-ranging assortment of ways disability has been pictured in society. We'll explore everything from public health posters to medical textbook photographs; painting and sculpture to zines and graphic novels; charity campaigns to material objects (including medical or adaptive devices). You will create your own representation of disability, do some disability hacking of material objects, and work together to curate an online exhibition of disability representations.

This course presumes no prior coursework in English and welcomes those from all majors interested in studying the representation of disability as a way to inform their own work in the arts and sciences.

Satisfies the Literary, Creative Writing, and Rhetoric requirement.
Satisfies the Diversity requirement in the English major.
Satisfies the Justice, Equality, and Community requirement.