Literary scholars, mark your calendars for SAMLA 88! The South Atlantic Modern Language Association’s annual conference is coming to Jacksonville in November—with the theme of Utopia/Dystopia: Whose Paradise Is It?
And guess what?
They accepted my workshop proposal! Michele and I will be presenting a fabulous workshop you won’t want to miss! Don’t believe me? Check out our proposal below:
Insensible Paradise, Invisible Nightmare: Complicating Embodiment in the 21st Century Classroom
In this workshop, Emily K. Michael and Michele Boyette map the conflicts between literary and literal bodies, exploring the paradoxes and pleasures of disclosure. The safe distance of metaphor and the legality of red tape have contrived a minefield for academics—both disabled and nondisabled. We disabled faculty hardly expect nondisabled colleagues to be conversant with the latest activism, yet we seek the most productive and empathetic environment for our disabled students. This nebulous landscape harbors a failure of imagination; our colleagues and students have no guide beyond the literature they discuss.
Most academic encounters with disability occur in print or onscreen. Professors and students fathom disability through assigned course materials often created outside the disability community. When we experience disability as chiefly secondhand, we learn to view disability as a frame for analysis and interpretation, rather than a commonplace human condition. Disabled students and faculty become impromptu teachers regardless of their expertise or interest in teaching.
Once on campus, disabled students disclose their disability and learn to negotiate accommodations. However, the red tape that protects a student’s privacy can also foster silence and estrangement. The disabled instructor’s disclosure is equally fraught with complications. She travels in a department that regularly employs problematic representations of the disabled body.
Emily K. Michael, a blind adjunct instructor at the University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville, creates productive dialogue with disabled students and redesigns course language to invite disability into the classroom. She helps faculty to examine their syllabi, course texts, and assignments to produce an empathetic, three-dimensional understanding of embodiment.
Michele Boyette, instructional coordinator at the UNF Writing Center, speaks from her position as a nondisabled instructor who encounters the invisible and visible disabilities of students and staff. She complicates the uneven responsibility of disclosure by highlighting the impracticality of red tape in appointment-based tutoring sessions.
Together we open a space where faculty are unafraid to examine disability off the page. We target faculty who have found little occasion to research disability on their own. We offer practical strategies for widening academic imagination to welcome the disabled student or colleague. This workshop is an informal and informative playground for the tabooed bodies and minds appropriated by our academic environments.