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The Dr. Who Christmas special this is is “A Christmas Carol.”

The tagline would make Dr. Foss happy:

“(Christmas)Time can be rewritten.”

Written by Robert

November 19th, 2010 at 7:51 pm

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Andrew’s Class Summary: September 22nd, 2010

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Class began with Dr. Foss warning us that even though he may appear incompetent with technology, remember and trust that at least he can still grade papers. While carefully mulling over this assertion (threat), we went on a walkthrough of a new program called Panopto, which involved unicorn magic, twists, turns, mazes and a rant against the administration for taking so long to get him a new laptop, or at least one with the correct number of monitors. Unfortunately, this precise case of the dual monitor mystery plagued the impressive presentation and we were forced, not through desperation, but through sheer ingenuity, into small groups to talk about Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and its importance in disability studies. While Tiny Tim is a hot button topic for many disability theorists, must we really be so hard on Dickens, or can we use his depiction in order to further the conversation in disability studies?

While discussing Dickens’s A Christmas Carol in small group, we relied heavily on Mitchell and Snyder’s “Narrative Prosthesis” essay. We thought that Dickens was very self serving in using Tiny Tim as a walking, talking metaphor to represent disabled persons. Instead of being a true representation of the disabled, Tiny Tim is a representation of how we are supposed to feel in a guilty and charitable way. Bérubé asserts that, Tiny Tim is used as a reference to the other  characters’ “moral standing, offering [them] opportunities to demonstrate whatsoever they might do to the least of their brothers”(570). This helps to distinguish the intentions of the other characters based on how they perceive and treat Tiny Tim, but fails to shed light on the plight of the disabled, and does not depict any serious ways to help improve their conditions in society.

In comparison to Longman’s “The Cultural Framing of Disability: Telethons as a Case Study,” using Tiny Tim as an object of charity undermines his human nature and causes him to a poor representation of disabled persons, much like the children in the telethons who were direct copies of Tiny Tim, frequently shown as the “…perpetual child, sweet, cheerful, and brave,.. the disabled person as object of charity, grateful but hopeless and doomed unless those who are healthy and normal ‘give’; the disabled person as vehicle of others’ redemption…”(505).  In the end, because of these stereotypical traits, we only see that Scrooge is truly a changed man because he takes pity on Tiny Tim and saves his life by buying his family a giant Christmas Turkey, but are given no insight into Tiny Tim’s actual character. As cynical as this seems, our group did end on an optimistic note, while pondering over Garland-Thomson’s idea of depicting Tiny Tim as a naughty,  “normal child,” we thought it better that at least Tiny Tim wasn’t depicted as evil, like with Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Back in large group, Foss relayed the back story of Dickens’s life leading up to the publication of “A Christmas Carol,” and how Dickens lambasted the treatment of the poor and disabled during a lecture tour of America, which you can read about in his travelogue, “American Notes for General Circulation.” The criticism of American institutions lead to a huge loss in appeal and popularity for his works in the Americas. In order to win back his audience, and make up some money for his publisher, Dickens released the sentimental Christmas tale.

We were then asked to consider the work as a study of the urban poor, much like his later work Hard Times. Is A Christmas Carol more of a study of lower class life or of disability and impairment? Obviously, we chose the latter. Unfortunately, the chimes were ringing fifty past two at that moment and we were left with one last question: If the way we perceive the poor in literature is inaccurate, can we or should we change our way of thinking in the ways described and outlined by scholars in disability studies?

Written by aallingh

September 28th, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Sarah Roop’s Formal Blog Post on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

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“A Christmas Carol” portrays the disability of Tiny Tim in a clear and often uplifting light. The young boy, who comes from a poor family, is always cheerful despite the hardships that he has faced. At times this is seemingly unrealistic. In chapter three, when Scrouge first visits the family with the Second Ghost, Tiny Tim is put up on a figurative pedestal in the mind’s eye of the family. This can be seeing when Mrs. Crachit asks how he behaved at church and Bob Crachit compared his behavior to better than gold.

As the dialogue continues, a connection is made between Tiny Tim and Christ, which further idolizes the representation of disability. Bob Cratchit relays the words of the young boy, “He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see,” (page 58). Tiny Tim is referencing the healing powers that Christ possessed. His mannerism is also similar to the representation of Christ as a humble person. Tiny Tim has accepted his disability and hopes that others will be able to learn from his misfortune, in a sense he actions and words self-sacrificing.  Crachit goes on further to say that “Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty”, as if he himself is being healed by the powers of believing. The connection to Jesus and his ability to heal the the unfortunate  is reinforced with the words ‘”God Bless us every one!” said Tiny Tim, the last of all.’ (page 60)

Tiny Tim was an icon for disability, as the family’s merriment often centered around the strength and perseverance. Scrooge upon seeing the small boy softened and was genuinely concerned for the well-being of Tiny Tim. This is seen around the world with people who have a disability. Those individuals are often reflected in a somber light that illuminates their disability, while acting as icons for the rest of society. The portrayal of Tiny Tim and his cheerfulness became a standard of measure for the world. People saw his actions and felt that all people with disabilites acted in the same manner.

Written by sroop

September 22nd, 2010 at 10:31 am

Robert’s (In)formal Post on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

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Written by Robert

September 21st, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Robert’s Formal Post on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

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We do not typically think of “endearing” Tiny Tim as a cyborg. This, however, makes for an interesting and thought provoking comparison. In “Disability in Theory: From Social Constructionism to the New Realism of the New Body,”  Tobin Siebers quotes Donna Harroway’s definition of cyborgs as “a hybrid of machine and organism” (178). Siebers argues that Harroway’s theory means “our cyborgs are people with disabilities” (178). Tiny Tim’s “active little crutch” (58), limb “in an iron cage”, and his father’s substitution as “Tim’s blood horse” (57) are useful tools that create what Harroway calls “power charged communication” (178). In A Christmas Carol, the “power charged communication” rests almost solely within Tiny Tim and his disability and his/its effect on the miserly Scrooge. Tiny Tim provides a moral conviction for Scrooge, one that ultimately brings about a change of heart in the frigid and miserable man.

Without his disability – or, more specifically, the prosthetic devices involved – Tiny Tim would have no “power charged communication” to affect Scrooge’s black heart. If Tiny Tim and his disability had not affected Scrooge so deeply, then Scrooge would not have “hung his head to hear his own words [about decreasing the surplus population] quoted by the Spirit” or have been “overcome with penitence and grief” (60). Without the hybridization of host and machine – in this case, Tiny Tim and his crutch(es) –Scrooge would have been doomed to an eternity in chains, Tiny Tim’s crutch would have set motionless by the wall, the Cratchits would not have gotten their Christmas Turkey, and we would have been left with no warm and fuzzy Christmas story.

Written by Robert

September 21st, 2010 at 11:11 pm