Centre for Culture &
                Disability Studies  

Our Seminar Series

Disability and the Emotions

Seminar series hosted by the Centre for Culture and Disability Studies

No crying in disability studies, that was the rule set by Joseph Shapiro's No Pity in 1993, only to be broken a few years later by Elizabeth J. Donaldson and Catherine Prendergast at the 2000 MLA conference. In the decade that followed there was a proliferation of work on emotion, especially affect, which culminated in Donaldson and Prendergast's Representing Disability and Emotion, a themed issue of JLCDS published in 2011. Since then the Centre for Culture and Disability Studies has engaged with the subject of emotion recurrently. For instance, Tom Coogan and Rebecca Mallett guest edited a special issue of JLCDS that focused on humour (2013), Marie Caslin critiqued the category of BESD in Changing Social Attitudes Toward Disability (2014), and Emmeline Burdett returned to the matter of pity in Disability, Avoidance and the Academy (2016). The centre is now set to sustain this engagement by hosting a seminar series entitled Disability and the Emotions.


Affect and the Disability Encounter

Dr Ria Cheyne, Liverpool Hope University

Date: Wednesday 5 October, 2016
Time: 2.15pm-3.45pm
Place: TBC, Liverpool Hope University, UK

Disability makes us feel. Affect theory provides a rich and generative vocabulary for exploring the ways disability is experienced and encountered; affects are inherently unwieldy, intractable and impure, resisting precise definition. Dr Cheyne examines the role of emotion in disability encounters, and in Disability Studies. Scholars and activists have examined the ways in which disability encounters involve a range of emotional and sensational responses, and place a burden of emotional labour on the disabled person. However, the field has enacted a binary between acceptable and unacceptable affects: pride and anger, for example, are perceived as legitimate subjects for investigation, while the only acceptable response to feelings such as pity, fear and shame is a critical one. The field's engagement with affect and emotion has therefore been channelled in specific, limiting ways. Dr Cheyne argues that Disability Studies must examine the effects of affects if it is to successfully challenge disablism.

Ria Cheyne is Lecturer in the Department of Disability and Education at Liverpool Hope University, where she is Core Member of the Centre for Culture and Disability Studies, Occasional Reviewer for the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, and Guest Editor of a special issue on genre. Her work brings together disability studies, literary studies, and the medical humanities, focusing on representations of disability in contemporary literature and culture.


Pride and Prejudice - Emotions in the lives of fathers of autistic children

Ms Joanne Heeney, University of York

Date: Wednesday 16 November, 2016
Time: 2.15pm-3.45pm
Place: TBC, Liverpool Hope University, UK

Most research with fathers of autistic children focuses on the psychological aspects of raising an autistic child, paternal stress and coping. MacDonald and Hastings (2010) find not all fathers of disabled children are psychologically distressed, although this has not been adequately reflected in research. Fathers are likely to experience a range of complex and contradictory emotions in relation to masculinity and (dis)ability, and draw on a range of identities and practices as they encounter different social actors and situations. Ms Heeney examines fathers' reflections on their personal relationships with an autistic child; where fun, humour, joy, pride, intimacy and fulfilment stand in stark contrast to what may be assumed about masculinity, autism, and masculinity in relation to autism. Also, men's management of their own emotional and behavioural responses following other peoples' reactions to their presence alongside autistic children in different social situations are discussed. A contextual lens shows how fathers experience complex and contradictory messages and emotions about disability and gender which may conflict with their earlier accounts.

Joanne Heeney is Doctoral Candidate at the University of York, Centre for Women's Studies. She returned to university as a mature student, completing a masters in Social Work at Liverpool Hope University in 2012.


"An Unstable and Fantastical Space of Absence": The Entanglement of Memory and Emotion

Dr Margaret Price, Ohio State University

Date: Wednesday 14 December, 2016
Time: 2.15pm-3.45pm
Place: TBC, Liverpool Hope University, UK

Memory (memoria), the fifth canon of rhetoric, is attached in powerful ways to the ways that humans feel, and feel about one another. To lose one's memory is to be disabled in a particularly abject way—a way that calls into question whether one is, indeed, fully human. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 37 disabled faculty members from the US, UK, and Canada, Dr Price analyzes the emotional labor performed by academics as they self-accommodate for impaired memory. As the study shows, the experience of memory impairment is not confined to one sort of disability, but instead is associated with a wide range of conditions, including chronic pain, brain injuries, mental illness, physically debilitating diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and communication-related disabilities. This study's findings also suggest ways that academic environments could be made more accessible for those with memory impairments.

Margaret Price is Associate Professor of Rhetoric/Composition and Disability Studies at The Ohio State University. Her book Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life (2011) won the Outstanding Book Award from the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Her work has appeared in Canadian Journal of Disability Studies , Disability Studies Quarterly, Hypatia, and the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, for which she is also Occasional Reviewer.


Pain as Emotional Experience

Ms Emma Sheppard, Edge Hill

Date: Wednesday 18 January, 2017
Time: 2.15pm-3.45pm
Place: TBC, Liverpool Hope University, UK

Ms Sheppard presents a critical crip reading of pain as an emotional lived experience, based on the findings of her PhD research. It begins with a crip reading of normative understandings of pain, which exposes how this relies on normative understandings of bodies, health, and “appropriate” reactions to our own pain and others'. This is then used to underpin an exploration of two themes in the research: the emotional experience of pain for individuals living with chronic pain who engage with BDSM pain, and how engaging with the pain of others during the research impacted Ms Sheppard's own emotional experience as a person living with chronic pain. This demonstrates how a crip reading of pain blurs the line between emotion and physical experience, and how normative constructions of pain constricts how pain is recognised and discussed.

Emma Sheppard is Doctoral Candidate at Edge Hill University. Her thesis, Kinked and Crip(pl)ed: disabled BDSM practitioner's experiences and embodiment of pain, explores pain from the viewpoint of people with chronic pain who play with erotic pain/BDSM, exploring concepts of pain, disability, sexuality, and crip.


"For the future let those who come to play with me have no hearts": Dis/enabling Narratives and the Affect of Pity in Oscar Wilde's "The Birthday of the Infanta"

Prof Chris Foss, University of Mary Washington

Date: Wednesday 1 March, 2017
Time: 2.15pm-3.45pm
Place: TBC, Liverpool Hope University, UK

Prof Foss argues that Wilde's fairy tale about the death of a performing Dwarf at the Spanish court allows for a complex consideration of the role the affect of pity plays within Victorian sentimentalism. "Birthday" may appear mired in damaging stereotype and maudlin melodrama, but it also suggests more progressive emotionally-based possibilities for sympathy, acceptance, and even identification. Wilde's text invites readers to recognize its seemingly simultaneous manipulation of the narrative toward a reliance upon and a critique of the consumption of pain necessary to the workings of the affect of pity. It further forces readers to acknowledge their own complicity in this pity and pain, ultimately revealing crucial complexities inherent in such emotional responses to disability.

Chris Foss is Professor of English at the University of Mary Washington, where he specializes in nineteenth-century British literature, with a secondary expertise in disability studies. He is Editorial Adviser for the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies and editor of Disability in Comic Books and Graphic Narratives (2016). He also has published on disability-related topics in Disability Studies Quarterly, Pedagogy, and the book collection Kidding Around: The Child in Film and Media.


A Secret Worth Knowing: Living Mad Lives in the Shadow of the Asylum

Dr Michael Rembis, University at Buffalo

Date: Wednesday 10 May, 2017
Time: 2.15pm-3.45pm
Place: TBC, Liverpool Hope University, UK

Dr Rembis explores the emotional lives of women and men living in the 19th century United States who considered themselves "mad" or "insane," or who were defined as such by family, friends, associates, medical professionals, and the like. For decades, social historians of medicine have engaged in fine institutional histories, and more recently they have interrogated the role of family, work, and "patient perspectives," in the experiences of asylum inmates. Little attention, however, has been paid to those "mad" or "insane" folks living outside the asylum, especially their emotional lives. Yet emotion is absolutely central in both the lived experiences of "mad" or "insane" subjects and the people who sought to "care" for them. Drawing on new research, Dr Rembis highlights the importance of a critical evaluation of emotions in this past, as well as the valuable contributions that disability history and disability studies can make in studying this past.

Michael Rembis is Director of the Center for Disability Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). He has authored or edited many works, including Defining Deviance: Sex, Science, and Delinquent Girls, 1890-1960 (2011) and Disability Histories, co-edited with Susan Burch (2014).