Brueggemann, Brenda. “An Enabling Pedagogy: Meditations on Writing and Disability.” JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory 21.4 (2001): 791-820. Print.

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Summary

Brueggemann is responding to five problems of representation that inevitably come up when teaching about disability: erasure of disabled subjects, economic arguments against access, the instability of disability as a category, the fact that canonical representations of disability lie, and the question of how to create new, better representations. In this piece she is outlining what she calls an “enabling pedagogy” which regards disability as insight. This is largely a narrative piece in which Brueggemann describes teaching experiences with three different classes where disability was either a topic of inquiry or a significant topic of discussion. These classes include a graduate-level composition pedagogy class, an upper-division literature class centered around disability, and a first-year writing course. In these teaching accounts, Brueggemann highlights the moments wherein critical discussion of disability provides insight, both for her as a teacher and for her students. Not all of them are positive moments–many of them are moments where systems fail and student resistance is incredibly high. But the insights Brueggemann points to are really helpful in demonstrating how intertwined issues of disability are in everyone’s everyday lives–disability becomes a critical lens with which to think about our bodies, our identities, and the spaces and institutions through which we move.

Comments

This is definitely a helpful piece with a lot of practical pedagogical strategies and practices for integrating disability into the classroom, but Brueggemann’s discussion of disability as insight—as a lens that allows us to understand things about ourselves and the spaces in which we move that we wouldn’t otherwise notice—is a really useful concept.

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