Disability and the Arts - ARTS5100

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


This module will look at disability in the arts, covering theatre, film and visual art. There will be three sections to the course relating to the three assessment points. First, the students will engage with the historical representation of disability within the arts and the way in which disability scholars have critically engaged with it. This will culminate in an essay that will focus on the history of disability representation in theatre, film or visual art. Second, the students will look at arts institutions (i.e. theatres, cinemas and galleries) and the disabling barriers within those institutions that prevent the full participation of people with impairments in the arts. This will culminate in an 'accessibility review', whereby the students analyse the adjustments made by arts institutions for people with impairments and the extent to which they are effective. Finally, the students will engage with examples of contemporary disabled artists whose impairments inform the aesthetic qualities of their work. This will culminate in an essay that will focus on a case study of a contemporary disabled artist.


Contact hours

Contact hours: 20 hours of lectures (10 x 2 hour lectures), 20 hours of seminars (10 x 2 hours of seminars), 10 hours of screenings (5 x 2 hour screenings), 250 hours of personal study.
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Assessment 1: Essay 1, 2,500 words (35%)
Assessment 2: Accessibility Review, 2,000 words (30%)
Assessment 3: Essay 2, 2,500 words (35%)

Indicative reading

Davis, Lennard (2016) The Disability Studies Reader. (5th Ed.) London: Routledge.
Johnson, Kirsty (2016) Disability and Modern Theatre. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama.
Kuppers, Petra (2014) Studying Disability Arts and Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
McGuer, Robert (2006) Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability. New York: New York University Press.
Millett-Gallent, Ann (2012) The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Mitchell, David T. and Sharon L. Snyder (2000) Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. Michigan: University of Michigan Press
Norden, Martin (1994) Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press
Siebers, Tobin (2010) Disability Aesthetics. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Have a systematic knowledge of the ways in which the arts (drama, film and visual art) engage with disability and the politics of disability identity;
2. Understand the different modes of analysis undertaken by academics in disability studies and 'crip theory', and how it applies to the study of the arts;
3. Critically engage with the work of disabled artists through a sustained engagement with key methods of enquiry based on a synthesis of historical, theoretical, and aesthetic approaches;
4. Through analysing the current practice within theatres, cinemas and galleries, gain a greater understanding of disabling barriers in artistic institutions.
5. Develop a greater understanding of the interplay between the lived experience of disability, the ethics and politics of disability representation and the aesthetics of disability arts.
6. Develop skills in critical and historical analysis, together with generic intellectual skills of synthesis, summarisation, critical judgement and problem-solving, that will allow for the construction of persuasive arguments;
7. Develop skills in analysing the practice of artistic institutions such as theatres, galleries and cinemas;
8. Develop the skills of communication, improving performance, and problem-solving;
9. Communicate effectively, using appropriate vocabulary, ideas and arguments in a written form;
10. Read critically, analyse and use a range of primary and secondary texts;
11. Locate and use appropriately a range of learning and reference resources (including academic books, journals and articles as well as writings by disability activists);
12. Employ information technologies to research and present their work;
13. Demonstrate the acquisition of an independent learning style; for example in the preparation and presentation of course work, in carrying out independent research, in showing the ability to reflect on their own learning and by mediating complex arguments in written form;
14. Approach problem-solving creatively, and form critical and evaluative judgments about the appropriateness of these approaches to a level where a substantial degree of autonomy and self-reflexive awareness is achieved in these tasks.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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