Studies: 18th Century Literature: Disability and 18th Century Literature

Image: Illustration from John Bulwer’s Chirologia; or, The Naturall Language of the Hand

This course brings together contemporary work in disability studies with literature from the Restoration and eighteenth century. While considering what disability studies can bring to our understanding of historical texts and contexts in which modern understandings of disability did not yet exist, we will also focus on what these texts and contexts can bring to our contemporary understandings of disability. Across the class we will reflect on questions such as how bodily variability was understood before the invention of the “norm”; how ways of describing disability shaped systems of aesthetics; how literary forms such as poetry, the essay, and the novel connect to forms of bodily difference; and how historical frameworks for disability intersected with and powerfully shaped systems of gender, sexuality, and race.

Readings may include works by Aphra Behn, John Milton, Alexander Pope, Eliza Haywood, William Hay, and Sarah Scott.

Assignments will likely include reading responses, an annotation assignment, analysis of a scholarly article, and an essay.

This class will be taught fully in-person.