ENG660 202102 Graduate

Winter 2022
ENG 660
Applies To: 
Course Description: 

Recent offerings include African American Women Writers, Evolutionary Theories and Narrative, Sentimental Novel, V. Deloria and Native American Cultural Values. Repeatable.

American Literature: Race & Disability

Elizabeth (Betsy) Wheeler

Elizabeth (Betsy) Wheeler profile picture
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Additional Title: Director, Disability Studies Minor
  • Phone: 541-346-3929
  • Office: 238 PLC
  • Office Hours: S22: TUES 2:30-4 PM & WED 12:30-2 PM. Please email ewheeler@uoregon.edu to make an appt. TUES: Zoom, phone, or in person in 238 PLC WED: Zoom or phone
Department Section Description: 

ENG 660: Race and Disability in US Literature and Popular Culture introduces students to essential texts and concepts in intersectional disability studies and applies them to American history, popular culture, and literature, with a focus on racialized identities and learning directly from people who experience a wide spectrum of bodymind variabilities. Disability is not an issue relevant only to those who live with it. It is of wider significance because shared ideas of capacity, personhood, and belonging govern societies as a whole. How can we uncover the voices, strengths, and perspectives of disabled people in a history characterized by dehumanization? How do race, disability, gender, class, and sexuality intersect in such strength and dehumanization? How do contemporary arts talk back to the past and make new disability cultures?  


In ENG 660, we focus on two important sites of U.S. disability history: the asylum and the freak show. We explore how twenty-first century creators with disabilities have remade the past in order to reclaim lost voices and express new, liberating visions of body and mind variability. The seminar takes an intersectional approach. We’ll apply bodymind theories poised at the nexus of gender, race, class, and ability to a variety of art forms, including memoir, speculative fiction, theater, film, creative non-fiction, and painting. We will take existing theories apart to see what we might learn for our own work as we hone the crafts of scholarly writing, especially grant applications and transforming papers into publishable articles. We will learn from thinkers and creators of African, European, Mexican, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native American descent. Artists include Cristen Hepuakoa Marquez, Riva Lehrer, Janelle Monae, Octavia Butler, Sins Invalid, Meda Kahn, Nalo Hopkinson, and Tod Browning, while scholars and activist-thinkers include Moya Bailey, Susan Burch, Judi Chamberlin, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Leah Lakshmi Piepza-Samarisinha, Mia Mingus, and Lydia X.Z. Brown.  

American Literature: 21st Century African American Fiction

Courtney Thorsson

Courtney Thorsson profile picture
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Phone: 541-346-1473
  • Office: 244 PLC
  • Office Hours: On leave spring term; not available by email
Department Section Description: 

In this course, we will study African American novels and short stories of the twenty-first century in their historical, political, and literary contexts. As we read these works and relevant scholarly texts, we will consider questions of periodization, genre, and literary tradition. We will observe and analyze the function of genres such as satire, contemporary narratives of slavery, science fiction, realism, and horror in our readings. We will work to identify ways that African American literature of the last two decades both engages and departs from the formal strategies and thematic concerns that define earlier periods of African American literature. Authors whose works we may read include Toni Morrison, Mat Johnson, Colson Whitehead, Danzy Senna, Victor LaValle, Danielle Evans, and Nafissa Thompson-Spires. This course requires substantial reading and writing and vigorous participation. The goal of this course is to help you engage with African American literature, improving your writing, reading, and critical thinking skills in the process.