The Curious Incident of Disability in Literature
with Brenda Jo Brueggemann
Offered in partnership with The New-York Historical Society
Monday, March 12, 2018

Literature is rife (and ripe) with representations of disability and deformity. But why, and how, does the condition of the body—infirm or whole, crippled or complete, abnormal or extraordinary—matter in our literature, history, and culture? And how do representations of disability in literature challenge popular, political, economic, and educational views of differently-abled bodies and minds? This master class will offer a general overview of literature through a disability lens, with brief reference to landmark texts such as Richard III and Jane Eyre, but our primary focus will be Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the ways in which its protagonist’s (assumed) disability influences how we experience and interpret a literary text.

Brenda Jo Brueggemann is Professor of English and Aetna Endowed Chair of Writing at the University of Connecticut; she also teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College during the summer. She has been deaf (genetic) from birth. After college, she taught high school in her rural Kansas community for five years before going to graduate school. In the mid-1990s, bolstered by the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, she helped conceptualize the new field of Disability Studies. She has written, co-written, edited, or co-edited 16 books, including nine memoirs in the “Deaf Lives” series she created for Gallaudet University Press, and more than 70 essays and articles at the intersections of Deaf/Disability Studies and writing/art. Her current research centers on disability and deafness in the visual and literary arts. She’s always curious, loves the night-time and mysteries, and believes that disability is more than just a strange “incidence” in all of our lives.