Proposal for a Special Issue of the Disability Studies Quarterly: Disability and Rhetoric

Abstracts deadline: 1 December 2009

Finished submission: 1 July 2010

Final revisions: 31 November 2010

Projected publication date: Winter 2011 (Jan-Mar)


John Duffy, University of Notre Dame

Melanie Yergeau, Ohio State University

The profound insight of Disability Studies is its conception of disability as a representational system rather than as a medical problem, a deficit, or a personal tragedy (Thomson, 1997). In this view, disability is regarded not as a settled physical or cognitive fact but rather as a discourse, a collection of figures and narratives, tropes and topoi, speakers and audiences that suggest identities and positions in the world to those participating in the discourse. The analysis of disability, then, necessarily goes beyond medical and psychological perspectives to consider how words and other symbols may be used, recalling Kenneth Burke (1969), by human agents, "to form attitudes or to induce actions in other human agents" (41). Disability, to say it another way, is inherently rhetorical and may best be understood through methods of rhetorical inquiry and analysis.

To that end, we propose a special issue of the Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ) on the topic of rhetoric and disability. The proposed issue will address the intersections of disability, Disability Studies, and rhetoric. While Disability Studies has uncovered, as noted above, the essentially discursive nature of disability, rhetorical theory and analysis promise to further the discussion by contributing a unique set of methods, terms, and concepts. Rhetorical method is a particularly important concern, and we are especially interested in essays that illustrate diverse methods and modes of rhetorical analysis. Writers may, for instance, analyze disability rhetorics in written works as well as other media. The ideal essays will therefore both enrich understandings of the relationship of language, disability, culture, and representation, but also serve as models for future scholarship in studies of disability. We anticipate that the contributors, reviewers, and audience for the proposed issue will include a broad range of scholars interested in Disability Studies, rhetoric, writing, media, and language generally.

Other treatments of disability and rhetoric include Wilson & Lewiecki-Wilson (2001) and Lewiecki-Wilson & Brueggeman (2008). We anticipate that our proposed special issue will build upon these earlier treatments, attracts some of the same readers, and further the discussion of the relationships of disability, rhetoric, and Disability Studies.

As to contributors, we plan to approach specific individuals to write for the issue, as well as calling for contributions from subscribers to the Disability Studies, Disability Studies in Rhetoric and Composition, and Disability Studies in Education listservs. We will also call for contributions on other listservs, such as H-Rhetor and the Writing Program Administrators list.

The proposed timeline is as follows:

  • Queries or abstracts sent by Dec 1
  • Full submissions due July 1, 2010
  • Final revisions due November 31, 2010


  • Burke, K. (1969). A rhetoric of motives. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Lewiecki-Wilson, C., and B.J. Brueggemann. (2008). Disability and the teaching of writing: A critical sourcebook. Boston: Bedford St. Martin's.
  • Wilson, J., and C. Lewiecki-Wilson. (2001). Embodied rhetorics: Disability in language and culture. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

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    Copyright (c) 2009 Brenda Brueggemann, Scot Danforth

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