109 | CCN: 22926

Aesthetics and Rhetoric

Disability and Novelty in Art and Life

Instructor: Rebecca Gaydos

4 Units

This course examines the relationship between disability, aesthetics, and social life. We will consider how conceptions of impairment and disability have developed throughout the 20th century. Our focus will be on artists, writers, and theorists who approach disability as a site of social struggle and activism, and as a marker of novelty and creative experimentation. We’ll explore the philosophical writings of John Dewey and Georges Canguilhem—thinkers who view pathologies as opportunities for biological and social systems to engage in radical reorganization. As we consider the disabled body’s potential to disrupt the status quo, we’ll look at modernist literature as well as so-called “outsider art.” While experimental art practices are often seen as attempts to break with cultural traditions, we’ll take a slightly different approach by studying the link between aesthetic novelty and the unpredictable variability of human biology.