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Literature Students Explore Themes of Disability and Otherness

Literature Students Explore Themes of Disability and Otherness

This year, upper school world literature students are asking the essential question, “How is otherness theorized, established, and cemented?” In their introductory unit, students are engaged in extensive research on the concept of “Disability” and its representation in literature, pop culture, and the law. Reading essays and opinion articles, each student leads a class seminar discussing a specific topic related to Disability. For example, after watching documentaries, they discussed how able-bodied filmmakers might represent Disability differently than someone who self-identifies as Disabled. An essential text was the Keywords for Disability Studies, a collection of critical essays that aims to introduce key terms and concepts around Disability.

To synthesize their understanding of these concepts, keywords, and sources, each student then chose a topic on which to create a public service announcement to educate the Wildwood community. Students tailored their presentations to be the most effective and impactful to express their arguments to their target audiences (parents, students, teachers, school administration, and facilities). The goal of these projects was to clearly share knowledge and ultimately inspire necessary change to make Wildwood a more equitable and inclusive space. 

The project was personal for students, some of whom chose their topics based on what affected them directly. Some presented on invisible Disabilities, while others explored films and TV shows that promoted harmful and violent messages about the Disabled. Others used pamphlets to concisely share topics like the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Disabled students. One student created an interactive box with facts about Black American Sign Language (ASL) and its cultural significance. Another researched the menstrual product dispensers in the school bathrooms and solicited input from a student survey. Next in their study of “otherness,” students delved into the history of political and religious differences and how they are portrayed in literature.

  • fall 2021