Disability and the Arts - ARTS5220

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2023 to 2024
Spring Term 5 30 (15) Shaun May checkmark-circle


This module will look at disability in the arts, covering theatre, film and visual art. 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. The students will also 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 informs the aesthetic qualities of their work.


Contact hours

Contact hours: 50
Private Study Hours: 250
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main Assessment Methods:

Assessment 1: Essay, 3,000 words (50%)
Assessment 2: Accessibility Review, 3,000 words (50%)

Reassessment Methods:

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

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

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a 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, demonstrate a greater understanding of disabling barriers in artistic institutions.
5. Demonstrate an understanding of the interplay between the lived experience of disability, the ethics and politics of disability representation and the aesthetics of disability arts.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. 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;
2. Develop the skills of communication, improving performance, and problem-solving;
3. Locate and use appropriately a range of learning and reference resources (including academic books, journals and articles as well as writings by disability activists);
4. Employ information technologies to research and present their work;
5. 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;
6. Approach problem-solving creatively, and form critical and evaluative judgments about the appropriateness of these approaches to a level where a degree of autonomy and self-reflexive awareness is achieved in these tasks.


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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