Brenda Brueggemann's "Lend Me Your Ear: Rhetorical Constructions of
Deafness" (Gallaudet University Press 2002) as well as many of her
recent essays and research, analyze the built-in discriminatory effects
of oratory that bar disabled persons from social participation. She has
a terrific talk that interprets Neil Marcus's documentary "Storm
Readings" as turning the claims of rhetorical propriety in a classical
mode on its head. Likewise she discusses the implications of a
rhetorical tradition for would-be participants excluded on the basis of
their modes and body styles. Someone with a disability is viewed as
introducing "the personal" into a discussion inappropriately just
because of the fact of their uh (disability or impairment or corporeal
variation -- insert the preferred term based on region). Glad you also
brought up Cicero -- the descriptions of his goals in oratory being a
matter of making his features acceptable to the mocking crowds. For
those of us "body theorists" (as Mairian Corker dubbed the MLA U.S.
dis studies crew) Brueggemann's ongoing study of rhetorical traditions
from disability studies perspectives has been liberating (and great for
use in classes). Thanks for reminding me to mention it.
The ever awesome "Not Dead Yet" led a street theater kind of protest of
Peter Singer's latest celebrity gig last night at a Chicago bookstore.
Singer was smooth, deceptive, fully "correct" in his presentational
style. NDY (as a disability activist collective) was studied, careful,
calm, and measured in the question and answer session. Some just pulled
out message t-shirts after the talk started. Others handed out flyers.
Power chairs up front and the bookstore put guards up to block
everyone's view of Singer. But Singer broke "style" eventually --
telling my colleague (whose name I will reserve for the truly
interested) that his parents and the rest of "us" (an appeal to all the
non-disabled to join forces against the rest) would have been happier
if he had been killed at birth and replaced with a more perfect
brother! Power chairs in unison with multiple and self-declaring and
concealed/ revealed disabilities. Expressive modes automatically
disrupt standards of traditional oratory -- and one simply has to work
from there. Many (im)pertinent questions ultimately turned a
non-disability identified local crowd to serious awareness (in my
opinion). My thanks to ADAPT and independent living center associates
who made this evening into such a resounding platform for rights. Take
small pleasures while ye may -- in these times.
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