HONR 370 Seminar spring 2019:
Representation of disability throughout U.S. media history
Tuesdays, 5-7:40 p.m.
Stephens Hall, Room 306
Course Description: This course provides an overview of both historical and current representation of disability in mass media, including entertainment television, news, advertising, film, blogging/new media, and even circus performances. Students will learn media analysis techniques, as well as do original research on disability portrayals in media.
Over the course of the semester, students will:
- Explore how the disability community and disability issues have been represented in the U.S. media historically.
- Gain familiarity with disability media and media content created by disabled people.
- Employ methods of media analysis to investigate media content, both historic and current, in which disabled people were portrayed.
- Develop skills in critical thinking, textual analysis, independent research and writing.
- Analyze society’s and their own beliefs and assumptions about disability that have been shaped by media content.
By the end of this course, students will be able to:
- Identify different types of models of media representation of disability and explain their impact.
- Discuss their own interpretations of media texts featuring disability, both orally and in writing.
- Critique historic texts about disability created by mainstream media outlets.
- Gather and analyze evidence about disability representation from media history using a variety of appropriate sources.
- Utilize academic databases to pursue and develop a media analysis research project.
- Evaluate varied academic literature about disability representation and use those sources to support the thesis in their own research project.
Required Books, Readings, and Course Materials:
- Many of the required readings, videos, PowerPoints, various media and websites, and additional course materials will be provided on the course Blackboard site. Some books and streaming video content/DVDs will need to be purchased/rented, and others can be found in the UMS Library System.
Grading criteria for written assignments and course in general: (Whenever written assignments are given, I expect you all to produce the best written work of which you are capable.)
90 – 100 (“A” & “A-“) On the written assignments, this means the paper is clear, organized coherently, and well written. It is an effective discussion of the topic. It has no spelling, grammar, format, or accuracy errors. In terms of the course, this means you have almost perfect attendance, scores in this range on assignments, and have good questions and discussion in class.
80 – 89 (“B+”, “B” & “B-“) On the written assignments, the paper is cohesive and well organized, although it may have some minor spelling or grammatical errors. The discussion covers almost all of the important information and follows proper format. In terms of the course, this means you have good attendance, scores in this range on assignments, and have good questions and discussion in class.
70 – 79 (“C+” & “C”) On the written assignments, the paper is disorganized and contains many minor errors. The discussion missed some pertinent information or does not follow proper format. In terms of the course, this means you have poor attendance, scored in this range on assignments, and have not participated in class discussions.
60 – 69 (“D”) On the written assignments, the paper ineffectively discusses the topic; it is not coherent or understandable. It contains an unacceptable number of spelling, grammar errors and/or inaccurate information or does not follow proper format. In terms of the course, this means you have missed more classes than you have attended, scored in this range on the tests, and have not participated in class discussions.
Below 60 (“F”)* The paper contains major factual error(s) related to the topic. The information presented is completely incorrect. The paper does not meet the requirements in page length, focus, or format. In terms of the course, this means you have missed more classes than you have attended, scored in this range on the tests, and have not participated in class discussions. If you are caught cheating in any way, you will automatically receive an F in the course.
(“FX”)* This is an administrative failure for non-attendance or failure to withdraw. If you do not withdraw from the course by Towson’s preset deadlines for the semester and stop attending the class, this is the grade you will receive.
(“I”) Incomplete. At Towson University, students may only receive an Incomplete with “verifiable circumstances” and “where students have completed most of the term” (Towson University Undergraduate Catalog). I recommend a medical withdrawal over an incomplete.
Guidelines for all assignments:
* No late papers will be accepted after the last day of the semester’s classes.
* Any late papers will lose points for each day they are late.
* Do not plagiarize, fabricate, or submit work you have done for another class. Cite all sources in your paper correctly. If you cut and paste material from the Internet without quote marks or a citation, that is plagiarism. If you paraphrase another’s material, make sure to properly cite the source.
I do not tolerate plagiarism or fabrication of any kind. You should adhere to the University’s policy on cheating and plagiarism. If you are caught breaking this policy, you will be prosecuted to the full extent that the policy allows. You should adhere to the highest possible standards of ethical behavior for this class.· All assignments must be typed in the form requested and should contain your name, the date, and the assignment topic in the upper left-hand corner. (No folders or binders are necessary for assignments. Just staple the pages together.)· Follow the guidelines for each assignment carefully.· Proofread and correctly edit your papers!
- Class participation and reading responses (15 percent)
- Media Disability History Essay (25 percent)
- Disability Blog analysis oral presentation (20 percent)
- Media Analysis Paper on entertainment media representation (40 percent)
Class participation and reading responses (15 percent):
Reading responses allow you to engage with the assigned material, develop critical reading and writing skills, and prepare for discussions. You will be asked to complete two responses (3-4 pages -1,000-1,200 words – double-spaced, 12 pt. font). Responses should address a key issue or theme developed in the readings from that section. I will distribute prompts, but you are encouraged to create your own topic. Exceptional responses will develop an interesting argument, put multiple readings in discussion with each other, and effectively integrate at least five quotes/paraphrases cited from at least five course materials; include a reference list of all sources, both readings and screenings used.
Rubric for reading responses:
|90 – 100
(“A” & “A-”)
|The paper represents a thoughtful reflection on disability and media. It is creative and substantive and demonstrates excellence in its discussion of the topic. The paper illustrates new ways of thinking about disability and the media and used 5 or more direct quotes from 5+ reading materials/screenings to support that content.||The paper clearly demonstrates a deep understanding of disability and media content and relevance to Disability Studies.||The paper is interesting, compelling and well organized. It has no spelling or grammatical errors. The work displayed is interesting and varied, incorporating the required number of examples from course readings/screenings. Assignment checklist is followed and attached.|
|80 – 89
(“B+”,”B”, & “B-”)
|The paper demonstrates a thoughtful response; however, required examples from readings/screenings are missing or inaccurate. Personal reflections are not as compelling or interesting as they could be. Only 1-2 direct quotes from less than 5 readings/screenings are used.||The paper demonstrates a somewhat superficial connection between disability and the media.||The paper is well organized, but has minor errors in grammar, spelling, required format, or APA style. Assignment checklist is not followed.|
|70 – 79
(“C+” & “C”)
|The paper does not clearly demonstrate a connection between disability and the media or to Disability Studies. Personal reflections are missing or superficial. No direct quotes from readings/screenings are used.||The paper’s content is not relevant to the topic of disability and the media. Content is unclear or not well developed.||The paper is disorganized, has serious errors in grammar, spelling, APA style, or required format. It is not compelling to the reader and does not have required examples or references. Assignment checklist is not followed or attached.|
|60 – 69
(“D+” & “D”)
|The paper is off topic and not connected to disability and the media. No quotes or paraphrases from readings/screenings are used.||The paper uses no relevant course readings or screenings.||The paper meets few of the requirements for the assignment. Assignment checklist is not followed or attached.|
|Below 60 (“F”)*||Sections are missing, or issues of academic honesty or integrity are involved.|
Media History Essay (25%)
This will be an open-book, take-home essay, worth 25% of your final grade. You will receive a list of essay prompts on Blackboard to review in advance. The essay must include at least 10 readings from the first seven weeks of class and at least five readings that you found on your own related to the topic, i.e. at least 15 references in the reference list. The essay should be in APA style and present the information in a compelling and well-organized way. It should have no spelling or grammatical errors. The essay should incorporate media examples, quotes and paraphrase from course readings/screenings. It should have an APA reference list attached.
A portion of the essay will be analyzing a historic media image(s) of disability from a museum about disability history: http://museumofdisability.org/ or http://www.disabilitymuseum.org/dhm/index.html.
Disability Blog oral presentations (20 percent)
Each student will make a presentation about two disability blogs. The following is a list of blog sites from which to select:
Read all the articles from this special issue of Disability Studies Quarterly on Disability Blogging and incorporate them into your presentation.
DSQ Special Issue on Disability Blogging, http://dsq-sds.org/issue/view/1:
|· “Editor’s Introduction,” by Stephen Kuusisto
· “Performance and digital communication,” by Scott Rains
· “Blogging brings more of us to the table,” by The Goldfish
· “Wheelie Catholic,” by Ruth Harrigan
· “Get Around Guide,” by Darren Hillock
· “Making Connections: Linkages Through Disability Blogging,” by Kay Olson/ Blue
· “In Other Words: The radical nature of telling stories through blogging,” by Alicia “Kestrell” Verlager
· “A Dialog,” by Wheelchair Dancer
· “Wheelchair Princess,” by Emma Crees
· “Say it Ain’t So,” by Stephen Kuusisto
What the presentations should include:
- Explain what model(s) or perspectives on disability the blog post appear to operate under.
- What seems to be the blogger’s or disability organization’s perspective toward disability, toward people with disabilities? How do you know?
- Be sure to support your argument with specific references to individual blog posts and the date of entries.
- Who is the site’s intended audience? Who are they seeking to reach?
- Based on the blogger biographies, what are their backgrounds and how does that seem to influence the blog content?
- What are your reactions and reflections on the blogs?
- How do or don’t the blog posts fit the disability models discussed?
- How do they reflect the perspectives in the DSQ essays about disability blogging?
- Discuss the possible larger societal impact of the blogs.
- Your presentation should include a 10+ slide PowerPoint with screen grabs from each blog site discussed.
- Finally, create a 250-500 word document about your presentation that includes a reference list of everything you used. (Cite each blog post separately.)
Final Project: Media Analysis Paper on Entertainment Representation of Disability (40 percent)
- Select your media text for analysis, i.e. a qualitative content analysis/textual analysis of a film/TV show listed below. (These entertainment representations are the only choices for a very specific reason, so if you do not want to do your paper on one of these, see me about the other options for the assignment.)
- Your proposal should be about 500 words and can be used as the introduction in your final paper. It should discuss the significance of topic, i.e. how these media representations are important in portraying disability U.S. culture, and it should include the beginning of a theme list, i.e. what media models or narrative themes or disability stereotypes (both positive and negative) might be found in the media text(s).
- Go to http://media-disability-bibliography.blogspot.com/ for a bibliography of research about media and disability and do a search in the Academic Search engine, Ebsco. Write a literature review about all the research relevant to the topic.
- Research the topic in the disability media, such as New Mobility magazine (http://www.newmobility.com/), The Ragged Edge archives (http://www.ragged-edge-mag.com/), disability organization Web sites AAPD (http://www.aapd.org), ADAPT (http://www.adapt.org), etc., disability blogs sites, etc. See if you can find reaction from the disability group represented about their reactions to the film or TV program text.
- Apply the Fries or Gold test to the media narrative.
- Apply the McKee book methodology for your paper. The general question your paper should answer is: How is the disabled person represented in the film or TV program? Look at the general cultural themes McKee discusses (pp. 102-105) and see if you can come up with disability-related themes you will be looking for in the text. The Models of Disability and the Media Models of Disability Representation can help you evaluate the representations of disability in the text or news coverage.
- Research the specific disability portrayed in the film or TV show so you can assess the representation presented.
- The final paper should include: 1.) An introduction to the representation you are analyzing and why it is important, 2.) the literature review, 3.) your methods, i.e. how you developed the list of themes you are looking for in the text, 4.) your findings, 5.) your conclusions about how the film/TV program represents people with disabilities, and 6.) a complete reference list in a proper academic reference style (The final paper should have at least 20 references).
- Your paper will be evaluated on the quality of your writing, the organization of your paper, and your ability to integrate analytical concepts from academic literature into your analysis.
Paper Length: at least 2,000 words, including the 500 words from the proposal/introduction.
- Final paper due on the final exam day.
Submit idea for final papers/projects in class March 12: This will be three-four paragraphs explaining your idea, i.e. why the disability representation is important to research.
Film & TV program choices for the final film/TV project (All have been checked for their availability through paid streaming or on DVD.) Note: No more than 2 students per film or TV show. DO NOT work on the final research paper with another student.
- “The Elephant Man” (1980). Feature film about John Merrick, a British disabled man rescued from a freak show.
- “Freaks” (1932). Feature film about disabled people who work at a circus freak show
- “Girlfriend” (2010). Independent film about a man with Down syndrome who pursues a nondisabled single mother.
- “Monica & David” (2009). Documentary on a couple with Down syndrome who marry and what their married life is like.
- “My Left Foot” (1989). Feature film/biopic about Irish author with CP Christy Brown. Read Brown’s autobiography, My Left Foot, to go with this film.
- “A Quiet Place” (2018). A thriller about a family with a deaf daughter that must navigate the world in silence to avoid creatures that hunt via sound.
- “The Sessions” (2012). Feature film/biopic about American writer Mark O’Brien who lived in an iron lung. For this analysis, watch the documentary about him, “Breathing Lessons,” online at: http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/breathing_lessons and read essay that is the subject of the film, “On seeing a sex surrogate” https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/174/on-seeing-a-sex-surrogate
- “The Station Agent” (2003). An independent film about man who is a little person and inherits a train station in a small town.
- “Temple Grandin” (2010). Biopic on HBO about the autistic animal science professor and author. Read Grandin’s autobiography, Thinking in Pictures (Doubleday, 1995) for analysis of this film, http://fhautism.com/thinking-in-pictures-my-life-with-autism-dr.-temple-grandin.html
- “Wonderstruck” (2017). Two children (one deaf) navigate the world 50 years apart.
- “Wretches & Jabberers” (2011). Documentary about two autistic men traveling the world as advocates.
TV shows (You will need to watch at least 4 episodes for your analysis).
- “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” (Season 4, 2014), which had multiple disabled characters for its circus-themed season.
- “Born This Way” (2015-). Reality show about a group of adults with Down syndrome working toward independence.
- “Glee” (2009-2015). Fictional TV show about a high school show choir that has a member who is a wheelchair user. The show added a cheerleader character with Down syndrome, Becky, in season 2. Please select episodes that focus on the Becky character.
- “Life Goes On” (1989-1993). Family show featuring a main character with Down syndrome, played by an actor with Down syndrome. Season 1 available on DVD
- “The Little Couple” (2009-). Reality show about a married couple who are little people and have internationally adopted two children who are little people.
- “Little People, Big World” (2006-). Reality show about parents who are little people and have four kids, one of whom is also a little person.
- “My Gimpy Life” (2012-2014, all episodes free on YouTube) Web show created by and starring an actress who uses a wheelchair. http://www.youtube.com/user/MyGimpyLife
- “Raising Tourette’s” (2018-). Reality show about adolescents with Tourette’s syndrome navigating their lives.
- “Riding Shotgun with Zach Anner” (2012-13, all episodes free on YouTube). Web travel reality show from a man with cerebral palsy. Read his autobiography for this paper, If at Birth You Don’t Succeed. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKid_CNBQaE7cw-MQX-kjiupEFmsijqgh
- “Switched at Birth” (2011-2017). Fictional TV show about two teens switched at birth, one of whom is deaf and part of the Deaf community.
- If you want to do your media analysis about another form of media, e.g. news coverage, advertising, comics, photography, please make an appointment with me so we can discuss how you will proceed.
Books to use in final media analysis paper:
- Adelson, B. M. (2005). The Lives of Dwarfs: Their Journey from Public Curiosity toward Social Liberation. NJ: Rutgers University Press.
- Bogdan, R. (2012). Picturing Disability. NY: Syracuse University Press.
- Ellcessor, E. & Kirkpatrick, B. (2017). Disability Media Studies. NY: NYU Press.
- Ellis, K. & Goggin, G. (2015). Disability and the Media. London: Palgrave.
- Enns, A. W. & Smit, C. R. (Eds.) (2001). Screening Disability: Essays on Cinema and Disability. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America.
- Haller, B. (2010). Representing Disability in an Ableist world: Essays on Mass Media. Louisville, Ky.: Advocado Press.
- McKee, A. (2004). Textual Analysis. A beginner’s guide. London: Sage.
- Mogk, M. E. (2013). Different Bodies: Essays on Disability in Film and Television. McFarland.
- Monaco, R. (2009). How to Read a Film. UK: Oxford University Press.
- Norden, M. (1995). The Cinema of Isolation. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
- Osteen, M. (Ed.) (2009). Autism and Representation. London: Taylor & Francis.
- Schatz, J.L. & George, A. E. (2018). The image of disability. Essays on media representations. McFarland Press.
- Schuchman, J. S. (1999). Hollywood Speaks: Deafness and the Film Entertainment Industry. University of Illinois Press.
Please note: The syllabus may be modified at points during the semester. Any changes will be announced in advance in class and via Blackboard, and an updated version of the syllabus will be online.
All readings should be completed before class (except Jan. 29).
|Date||Class Topic and Assignment(s)|
|Jan. 29||Introduction to the course; stigma, representation and models of disability
|Feb. 5||Freak Shows and early film images
|Feb. 12||The Deaf community and the film industry
Assignment: Reading response 1 due
|Feb. 19||Early charity advertising/modern advertising
|Feb. 26||19th and 20th century Deaf and disabled writer contributions
|March 5||Media analysis for analyzing disability representation
Assignment: Reading Response 2 due
|March 12||The modern power of media to frame disability, inspiration porn & emerging media forms
Media History Essay prompts will be put on Blackboard on this day.
Assignment: Final research paper proposal due
|March 17-24||Spring Break|
|March 26||No class. Media history essay due via Blackboard by 7:40 p.m.|
|April 2||Disability media vs. “cripping up”
|April 9||Individual meetings about final project|
|April 16||Disability blog analysis project, oral presentations|
|April 23||Autism in the media
|April 30||Documentary and images
|May 7||Work on final paper; additional final paper meetings if needed|
|May 14||Work on final paper|
|May 21||Final research paper due in class|
Academic Integrity Policy
All student work including assignments, presentations, and tests must adhere to the university’s Student Academic Integrity Policy http://towson.edu/studentaffairs/policies/. The policy addresses such academic integrity issues as plagiarism, fabrication, falsification, cheating, complicity in dishonesty, abuse of academic materials, and multiple submissions. Penalties to violation of academic integrity ranges from F for the assignment to F for the course, in addition to a report filed in the Office of Student Conduct and Civility Education.
COFAC Civility Code and classroom behavior
COFAC places a priority on learning. We value the inherent worth and dignity of every person, thereby fostering a community of mutual respect. Students have the right to a learning environment free of disruptive behaviors and offensive comments. Faculty have the right to define appropriate behavioral expectations in the classroom and expect students to abide by them. Faculty have the responsibility to manage and address classroom disruption. Staff have the right and responsibility to define appropriate behaviors necessary to conduct any university activity free of disruption or obstruction.
We believe that in order to achieve these ideals, all COFAC students, staff, and faculty are expected to exhibit and practice civil behaviors that exemplify: (1) respecting faculty, staff, fellow students, guests, and all university property, policies, rules and regulations; (2) taking responsibility for one’s choices, actions and comments; (3) delivering correspondence – whether verbal, nonverbal, written, or electronic – with respectful language using professional writing standards and etiquette; and (4) accepting consequences of one’s choices and actions. The use of offensive, threatening or abusive language, writing, or behavior will not be tolerated and can lead to academic dismissal. Further information about civility can be found in Appendix F of the university catalog.
Examples demonstrating civility in the classroom as a student include:
- Being respectful of the professor and other students.
- Not texting or using cellular phones and other electronic devices.
- Not using your laptop for activities other than class work.
- Not eating or drinking in class.
- Not reading things unrelated to the course or listening to music during the class.
- Not sleeping in class.
Examples demonstrating civility in the classroom as a faculty member include:
- Being respectful of the students.
- Attempting to understand individual student needs and learning styles.
- Discussing civil behavioral expectations during the first class.
- Taking time to talk with students whose behaviors negatively affect the classroom.
- Encouraging students to follow your civil behavior.
In all assignments, students must comply with all laws and the legal rights of others (e.g. copyright, obscenity, privacy and defamation) and with all Towson University policies (e.g. academic dishonesty). Towson University is not liable or responsible for the content of any student assignments, regardless of where they are posted.
Students with Disabilities Policy
This course is in compliance with Towson University policies for students with disabilities as described in http://www.towson.edu/dss/. Students with disabilities are encouraged to register with Disability Support Services (DSS), 7720 York Road, Suite 232, 410-704-2638 (Voice) or 410-704-4423 (TDD). Students who suspect that they have a disability but do not have documentation are encouraged to contact DSS for advice on how to obtain appropriate evaluation. A memo from DSS authorizing your accommodation is needed before any accommodation can be made.
You must have a letter from the coach explaining your place on the team and a schedule of any away games or competitions during the semester. You must take any tests and prepare any assignments that conflict with this schedule before the test or due date, not after.
To promote a safe and secure campus, Towson University prohibits the possession or control of any weapon while on university property. See the university policy at http://www.towson.edu/studentaffairs/policies/.
HALLER CLASSROOM POLICIES
Earning a college degree is an endeavor that is preparing you for a future in a professional workplace. I expect you to display those qualities of professionalism in my classroom. Here are some policies and behaviors that I require you to follow:
- You will show respect to your fellow classmates and your professor. You will not belittle or laugh at others’ ideas or dominate discussions. The professor may eject you from class for any inappropriate or disruptive behavior.
• You will not interrupt or disrupt the class. This means all cell phones will be turned off during class. AND NO TEXTING! If you eat or drink during class, you will do so quietly and will always clean up after yourself by throwing away your trash. Leaving class to get food or beverage is a disruption. Only the restroom or an illness is an acceptable reason to leave the class. If you have a legitimate reason for leaving class early, please tell your professor before class and sit near the door.
• You will be counted absent if you are more than 15 minutes late for class. You will be counted absent if you sleep in class, or leave class and do not return.
• If you bring a laptop to class, it should only be used for taking notes. You will be counted absent for that class if I find you surfing the Internet, messaging, etc.
• Because this is a once a week class, you are allowed only two unexcused absences. After that, you must bring in documentation, i.e. a signed doctor’s note or a signed health center note. However, please DO NOT attend class if you are contagious; we do not want your illness. In the case of car or traffic-related absences, you must bring a car repair bill or towing bill. (Not being able to find a place to park on Towson’s campus is NOT an excused absence.) In the case of a death-related absence, please email before you attend the funeral and give me the name of the deceased. The key to an excused absence is proper documentation.
• Any UMS-recognized religious holiday is an excused absence, and the work missed can be made up. However, please inform your professor that you will be out of class and arrange to get the make-up work. Please obtain any missed notes from a fellow classmate.
• Work-related or internship-related absences are NOT excused. Do not sign up for a class that conflicts with your work/internship schedule, or if you do not have the free time to complete required outside class assignments.
• It is your responsibility to make up any missed work due to an absence. Please get to know your classmates and ask them first. The professor will discuss make-up work before or after class or during office hours, not during class time.
• You, not the professor, are responsible for your grade. If you do not complete an assignment, you will receive a zero.
• Do not attend class if you have been drinking or taking illegal drugs. If you do so, the campus police will be called and you will be asked to leave class.
• Never lie, cheat, plagiarize, or fabricate. A mature person asks for help, rather than taking these unethical “shortcuts.” If your professor cannot give you the help you need, then she will refer you to the numerous on-campus resources, such as tutoring services or the Writing Center. If the class is still too difficult for you, become self-aware enough to understand when or if you should drop or withdraw from the class. There is no shame in withdrawing from a class and taking it another semester.
• Respect yourself enough to try your best, and the professor will respect you, too.