Plenary Panel

On the evening of Thursday, March 22, five CUNY faculty members will convene to discuss their work in and around Disability Studies, as well as their sense of where the field stands now and how the field might grow in the future:

Sarah Chinn, English, Hunter College

Sarah Chinn’s work primarily explores questions of race, sexuality, and gender in U.S. literature and culture, particularly in the 19th century. She is the author of Technology and the Logic of American Racism: A Cultural History of the Body as Evidence (Continuum, 2000) and  The Invention of Modern Adolescence: Children of Immigrants in Turn-of-the-Century America(Rutgers University Press, 2008).  She is currently working on two book-length projects: Spectacular Men: Early American Drama and National Masculinity, 1780-1830, and Feeling Our Way: The Ethics of Lesbian Writing.

Her recent publications include an article on Audre Lorde in GLQ, on lesbian sexuality and exoticism in the collection Palatable Poison: Critical Perspectives on The Well of Loneliness (Columbia University Press, 2002), and on the Hull-House Labor Museum in the collection Our Sisters’ Keepers: American Women Writers and Poverty Relief (University of Alabama Press, 2005).

Ruth O’Brien, political science, Graduate Center

Professor Ruth O’Brien specializes in American politics, and her publications include Crippled Justice: The History of Modern Disability Policy in the Workplace (University of Chicago Press, 2001), which received an honorable mention from the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Human Rights and Bigotry, and Voices from the Edge: Narratives about the Americans with Disabilities Act (Oxford University Press, 2004), which also earned an honorable mention from the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Human Rights and Bigotry.  O’Brien is the academic editor of The Public Square for Princeton University Press. Finally, O’Brien’s fascination with melding contemporary Continental theory with concrete issues is reflected in Bodies in Revolt: Gender, Disability, and a Workplace Ethic of Care (Routledge, 2005). O’Brien’s articles have appeared in Polity, Studies in American Political Development, Labor Studies Journal, Law and Social Inquiry, and SIGNS, among other journals.

Victoria Pitts-Taylor, sociology, Queens College and the Graduate Center

Victoria Pitts-Taylor is Professor of Sociology, Director of the Center for the Study of Women and Society, and Coordinator of Women’s Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York as well as Professor of Sociology at Queens College, CUNY. She is the author of Surgery Junkies: Wellness and Pathology in Cosmetic Culture (Rutgers University Press 2007) and In the Flesh: the Cultural Politics of Body Modification (Palgrave Macmillan 2003), and many articles and book chapters on social and cultural aspects of the body, medicine, and health and wellness. She is also Editor of the two-volume Cultural Encyclopedia of the Body (Greenwood Press, 2008).

Joseph Straus, music, Graduate Center

Joseph Straus has written extensively on topics in music since 1900. His most recent work is the first to apply a social/cultural model of disability to the study of music, showing how composers, performers, listeners, critical traditions, and exemplary works both reflect and construct disability.

Professor Straus’ publications include

  • Extraordinary Measures: Music and Disability (Oxford University Press, 2011).
  • Sounding Off: Theorizing Disability in Music, co-edited with Neil Lerner (Routledge, 2006).
  • “Music and Disability,” The Health and Humanities Reader, ed. Jones et al., Rutgers University Press, forthcoming.
  • “Autism as Culture,” in The Disability Studies Reader, 3rd ed. (Routledge, 2010): 535-62.
  • “Disability and Late Style in Music,” Journal of Musicology 25/1 (2008): 3-45.
  • “Inversional Balance and the ‘Normal’ Body in the Music of Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern,” in Sounding Off: Theorizing Disability in Music, co-edited with Neil Lerner (Routledge, 2006): 257-68.
  • “Normalizing the Abnormal: Disability in Music and Music Theory,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 59/1 (2006): 113-84.

Talia Schaffer, English, Queens College and the Graduate Center

Talia Schaffer is currently thinking about the disabled subject as part of a larger project on alternative forms of marriage in Victorian fiction, exploring why novels often make disabled subjects into idealized marriage prospects, associating them with egalitarian, affectionate relations.

She is the author of Novel Craft: Victorian Domestic Handicraft and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (Oxford, 2011) and The Forgotten Female Aesthetes: Literary Culture in Late-Victorian England (Virginia, 2001). She has also edited Literature and Culture at the Fin de Siecle (Longman, 2006), Women and British Aestheticism (Virginia, 1999), and Lucas Malet’s The History of Sir Richard Calmady (Birmingham, 2003), and has published many articles about Victorian women’s writing, domestic life, popular fiction, and material culture.

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