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ERIC Number: EJ776461
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Jul
Pages: 27
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 70
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0994
Texts of Our Institutional Lives: Performing the Rhetorical Freak Show--Disability, Student Writing, and College Admissions
Vidali, Amy
College English, v69 n6 p615-641 Jul 2007
In this article, the author explores the confluence of discourses surrounding disability, identity, and institutional writing to better understand the rhetorical politics of disability. She argues that a fresh theoretical frame is needed to understand the ways in which students rhetorically manage "risky" bodily identities, particularly in institutionally compelled writing. To explore these issues, she analyzes admissions essays by three students with learning disabilities and these students' comments on their rhetorical motivations, as shared in audiotaped interviews with her. In analyzing these materials, she suggests that disability and rhetorical theory can be productively integrated to consider the rhetorical nature of disability identity and the complicated issues surrounding the disclosure of stigmatized identities in institutional-personal writing. Existing theoretical context for her analysis comes from discussions of embodied student writing, which often omit disability, as well as recent scholarship on admissions essays, which has sidelined the rhetorical labor (and anguish) of student writers by narrowly focusing on institutional expectations and reception of student materials. Her introductory analysis of these separate literatures precipitates her formulation of a more nuanced approach to understanding the articulation of disability. She suggests adapting disability studies' theories of the freak show--which typically focus on the performance of disability on stage or screen--to comment on the textual disclosure of disability, which can be regarded as rhetorically risky and "curious." Reconsidering the ambiguous agency of the freak in a circus setting provides an important opportunity to rethink the idea of students (with and without disabilities) as mere rhetorical dupes of an oppressive admissions system, revealing that students can manipulate both existing and unexpected rhetorical tropes for their own ends. (Contains 20 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A