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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

narrative prosthesis

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On Mon., after roll, we will start by walking through the main points of all three chapters from Narrative Prosthesis.  Then you can expect some small group time to discuss your take(s) on Mitchell and Snyder’s argument(s) before we move on to a review of Longmore and of Cultural Locations.  At the end of class today, I suggested there are some claims in Narrative Prosthesis worthy of some closer examination.   For example, do you agree with any or all of the  following assertions, or do you feel they need to be qualified to allow for some degree of exception, at least:

disability is foundational to both cultural definition and to the literary narratives that challenge normalizing prescriptive  ideals” (51)

“Narrative prosthesis (or the dependency of literary narratives upon disability) forwards the notion that all narratives operate out of a desire to compensate for a limitation or to reign in excess” (53)

“The anonymity of normalcy is no story at all.  Deviance serves as the basis and common denominator of all narratives” (55)

“Disability inaugurates narrative, but narrative inevitably punishes its own prurient interests by overseeing the extermination of the object of its fascination” (56-57)

Written by cfoss

August 27th, 2010 at 10:18 pm


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Just because I know everyone wanted to see the rest of the cows video… turns out it’s one of the most disturbing and pointless things I’ve ever seen on youtube. Which is saying a lot.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/FavUpD_IjVY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Written by sarahsmile

August 27th, 2010 at 7:26 pm