Disability in Literature
Fall 2008

Dr. Bridget M. Marshall:  bridget_marshall@uml.edu
Web site: http://faculty.uml.edu/bmarshall/

Our course will explore how texts portray people with disabilities of all kinds – physical, emotional, social, and mental.  We will read short stories, poems, memoirs, essays, and plays.  The majority of texts will be roughly contemporary, but some will also help us to historicize images of disability in literature.  We will also watch films, both documentary and otherwise. We’ll read texts written by disabled and non-disabled writers.  We will explore the ways that many stereotypical portrayals of the disabled undermine, invalidate, and infantilize the disabled community, and seek out literary voices that empower the disabled and question our definition of “normal.”  Studying disability in literature helps us to explore what our culture decides is “normal,” and asks us to consider what makes us human.  Literature both reflects and creates cultural messages about ability and disability, “normal” and “abnormal.”  Literature can help us understand the experience of the disabled, as well as understand our own responses to disability in our own lives and in our culture.

Learning Objectives:

Class Meetings: Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:00 to 12:15
Office Hours & Location: by appointment most days in O’Leary Library 415
Office Phone: 978-934-4179

Required Texts: Available at the South campus bookstore

Instructional Resources and Disability Accommodations: The Centers for Learning and Academic Support Services provide many resources, including tutoring in writing: http://class.uml.edu/.  In accordance with University policy and the ADA, I will provide accommodation for students with documented disabilities.  If you have a disability, please contact the Office of Disability Services: McGauvran 363, phone: (978) 934-4338 as soon as possible. This documentation is confidential.

Course Requirements:

Attendance is required.  You must be here to join class discussion, make presentations, and participate in group work.  You have two “freebies,” no questions asked.  For every class beyond those two that you miss, your final grade for the class will be lowered one level (A to A-, A- to B+, and so on).
Good classroom citizenship is required. Good classroom citizenship begins with being prepared for class.  Good classroom citizenship goes beyond just “participation” in the sense of raising your hand a lot. It includes sharing your thoughts and ACTIVELY LISTENING to the thoughts and comments of your peers.  Please be considerate of your classmates and make the classroom a space where everyone can speak their mind. As a courtesy to everyone in the room, please turn off your cell phone before class begins.
You are responsible for all the readings and assignments listed on this syllabus. I reserve the right to give reading quizzes as necessary to prod your reading, though I would rather not resort to such ploys. 
You must view the three films.  I will provide one screening of each; you can also watch these films on your own at the media center or at home.  Like a reading assignment, you should watch the film BEFORE coming to class and be prepared with notes to facilitate discussion.  Film titles are currently TBA; I’ll let you know what they are in a few weeks.

Main Graded Assignments:

At three assigned times during the semester, students are required to prepare a one page informal response to the reading on the day it is due. 
One mid-term paper is due roughly half of the way through the course. 
There will be one in-class essay exam, roughly 2/3 of the way through the course.
In place of a final exam, students will write a final essay of roughly 8 to 12 pages.  There will also be short presentations associated with the final papers. 

Evaluation and Grading:

Grading is my least favorite aspect of the course; however, grades are necessary, not only to the University, but also in many cases in order to motivate students.  I note each day’s attendance with a “check” in my grade book.  You will get credit for all quizzes and short writing that you complete and turn in to me.  Particularly active class participation or strong short writing assignments will earn a “check plus.”  The final grade will include the following elements:
Classroom Citizenship: 20%
Three “one-pagers”: 15%
Mid-term paper:  20%
In-class exam: 20%
Final Paper:  25%

If you have a concern about a grade or a question about your standing in the class, I am happy to talk with you.  This type of conversation is best suited to an individual conference.  You can see me during my office hours, or schedule an appointment at another time.

A final note on grades: If you are determined to do only the minimal amount of work and get the minimum passing grade, you might want to know what the bottom line is.  This much is nonnegotiable: you are not eligible for a passing grade of D unless you have attended at least 11 of 14 weeks worth of classes, and completed 90% of the assignments. 

About Academic Honesty:

All University policies on academic dishonesty apply to all assignments in this course. As explained in the University’s official policy, academic dishonesty includes:

Cheating - use, or attempted use, of trickery, artifice, deception, breach of confidence, fraud, or misrepresentation of one's academic work.
Fabrication - falsification or invention of any information or citation in any academic exercise.
Plagiarism - representing the words or ideas of another as one's own work in any academic exercise.
Facilitating dishonesty - helping or attempting to help another commit an act of academic dishonesty, including substituting for another in an examination, misrepresenting oneself, or allowing others to represent as their own one's papers, reports, or academic works.

If you plagiarize or cheat on an assignment in this course, you will receive an “F” for this course, and you are subject to other discipline (including expulsion from the University) at the discretion of the instructor and the University. Please keep in mind that even if you write some part or even “most” of the paper, if some portion of the paper is copied from another source without proper attribution, (i.e., if you “only plagiarize a little”) you will still get an “F” for the course.  Don’t plagiarize at all.

Unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism.  You must cite all sources that you use, including online sources.  Also, remember that “using” a source includes DIRECTLY QUOTING, PARAPHRASING, AND USING IDEAS from any source.  There is nothing wrong with “getting help” from other writers, just be sure to acknowledge it by using quotation marks or author/page citation appropriately.  Please take the time to give proper credit to the work of other authors.  It is a matter of respect – for yourself, for other authors, for your classmates, and for me.

I know that it is easy to find information and indeed whole papers on the internet.  You should know that it is also easy for me to find these sources.  If I suspect you’ve done this, I will take the time to find the source, and there is every likelihood you will be caught.  Please don’t waste your time or mine by plagiarizing a paper.  If you’re having difficulty with a writing assignment, please talk to me before the day it is due.

Semester Schedule:



Thursday 4 September First day Introductions; hand-outs
Tuesday 9 September Nancy Mairs: “On Being a Cripple” (handout) Write comments & questions on the handout to prepare for class discussion
Thursday 11 September Cheryl Marie Wade & others: poems (handout) Written response to Accessibility Scavenger Hunt and discussion


Tuesday 16 September Mark Haddon: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (1 - 83) RESPONSE GROUP 1
Thursday 18 September Mark Haddon: The Curious Incident of the Dog…(83 - 136) RESPONSE GROUP 2
Tuesday 23 September Mark Haddon: The Curious Incident of the Dog…(137 - 221) RESPONSE GROUP 3
Thursday 25 September Excerpts from Temple Grandin: Thinking in Pictures (handout) RESPONSE GROUP 4
Tuesday 30 September Discussion of film TBA; You need to watch the film (at my screening or on your own) BEFORE today’s class meeting!
Thursday 2 October Jean-Dominique Bauby: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly pages 3 - 68 RESPONSE GROUP 1
Tuesday 7 October Jean-Dominique Bauby: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly pages 69 - 132 RESPONSE GROUP 2
Thursday 9 October Lynn Manning: Shoot! (handout) RESPONSE GROUP 3
Tuesday 14 October Lucy Grealy: Autobiography of a Face pages 1 - 68 RESPONSE GROUP 4
Thursday 16 October Lucy Grealy: Autobiography of a Face pages 69 – 139 RESPONSE GROUP 1
Tuesday 21 October Lucy Grealy: Autobiography of a Face pages 140 - 236 RESPONSE GROUP 2
Thursday 23 October Mid-term paper due today
Tuesday 28 October Discussion of film TBA; You need to watch the film (at my screening or on your own) BEFORE today’s class meeting!
Thursday 30 October

David B.: Epileptic pages 1 - 120


Tuesday 4 November

David B.: Epileptic pages 121 - 240 RESPONSE GROUP 4

Thursday 6 November David B.: Epileptic 241 - 361
Tuesday 11 November No Class – University closed for Veteran’s Day
Thursday 13 November Nathaniel Hawthorne: “The Birth Mark”
Tuesday 18 November Discussion of film TBA; You need to watch the film (at my screening or on your own) BEFORE today’s class meeting!
Thursday 20 November In-class essay exam
Tuesday 2 December Poetry handouts from class


Thursday 4 December Charlotte Perkins Gilman: “The Yellow Wallpaper” 
Date TBA during finals Final paper project due


General Advice to Students:

Come to class prepared to work.  This means several things:

1) You should have completed the assigned readings or viewings, and any associated writing.  You might even have notes in your book, underlining of passages, or page markers for interesting spots in the reading.

2) You should be prepared to listen and talk in discussion.  This means you shouldn’t come to our class and take a nap, or sit sullenly, or complete your calculus homework.

3) You should avoid distractions during class.  Distractions include things like small pets, cell phones and text messaging devices, notes to classmates, i-pods, or any other gadget that will engage your brain in something other than the academic discussion in the classroom.  While you may think I don’t notice, I do, and so do your classmates.  It’s distracting for you, but also for those around you.

When you don’t come to class (for whatever reason) it is your responsibility to find out the work that was missed, including any handouts, in-class activities, or changes to the syllabus.  If you can do this via e-mail before the next class meeting, that’s great.  If you can’t, you should definitely come speak with me before class, after class, or in my office hours.    In any case, don’t try to avoid me, hoping that I didn’t notice you were absent. 

If you need extra time for an assignment, for whatever reason, it is better to ask early.  I do not automatically give extensions; however, I am a reasonable person, and you should ask for help or time if you need it.  I would rather have a late paper than no paper at all; I would rather have no paper at all than a plagiarized paper.  Late papers are subject to a grade reduction at my discretion, and I do not provide comments on late papers.