English - Elective Subject, topic 2: Race and Disability in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century U.S. Fiction

Course content

As literary critic Nirmala Erevelles argues, disability and race have “often been conceptualized as analogous to each other” because they are both forms of marginalized identity.  Yet as Erevelles also points out, it is more appropriate to say that race and disability are “imbricated with one another.” For example, white supremacist discrimination works to disable racial Others while discourses of disability, such as eugenics, have been used to enslave and thus racialize. This fall 2024 BA optional course, “Race and Disability in Twentieth and Twenty First-Century U.S. Fiction,” makes the case that studying race should also be about studying disability (and vice versa), and that looking at both together is essential for understanding modern and contemporary U.S. fiction. 


Rather than taking a chronological approach, the course is organized around key questions and debates in the literary study of race and disability.  For example, through texts like Octavia Butler’s Kindred (1979) and Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019), we will consider the stakes of using disability as a metaphor--a tendency Susan Sontag famously condemned in 1978 but which has recently been re-evaluated by Black feminist disability scholars. Meanwhile, through texts like Gayl Jones’ Corregidora (1975) and Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine (1984), we will discuss representations of madness, trauma, and unspeakability: should we understand a character’s “madness” and silence as a subversive protest against racial and gendered oppression or as acquiescence to these forces?


We will also reassess through the lens of race and disability established ideas of the “southern gothic” and “grotesque” with reference to a range of “idiots” and “freaks” in U.S. southern fiction: examples may include William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929), Eudora Welty’s A Curtain of Green (1941), Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood (1951) and/or “Good Country People” (1955), Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948), and Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer (1961).


Finally, we will also reflect on what it means to read “for” race or disability, as well as what sorts of literary markers authors use to signal race and disability: for example, in Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif” (1983) and Weike Wang’s Joan is Okay (2022).



Seminar-based classes will emphasize student involvement and discussion.

  1. Authors may include Octavia Butler, Truman Capote, Louise Erdrich, William Faulkner, Gayl Jones, Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Ocean Vuong, Weike Wang, and Eudora Welty

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assessment

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 84
  • Preparation
  • 325,5
  • English
  • 409,5


Course number
Programme level

1 semester

See link to schedule
Study board of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting department
  • Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinators
  • Christina Jolan Fogarasi   (3-666b69436b7870316e7831676e)
  • Martyn Richard Bone   (4-64717067426a776f306d7730666d)
Saved on the 08-04-2024

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