Call for papers : Disability and Rhetoric

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

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, a special issue of the Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ) will address the topic of rhetoric and disability. While Disability Studies has revealed 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 as these relate to disability. Essays may analyze the workings of rhetoric in printed works about disability but also in other media, including film, music, web-texts, graphic novels, and other forms of sound and image.

We define « disability » broadly to include physical, cognitive, and intellectual difference. The ideal essays will enrich understandings of the relationship of rhetoric and disability, but will also serve as models for future scholarship in studies of symbolic representations of disability. Potential issues or topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

– Disability as, in, or and rhetoric
– Disability and or as trope
– Disability rhetorics in the media
– Disability rhetorics in the classroom, workplace, or home
– Disability rhetorics and narrative
– Disability and digital rhetorics
– Activism and rhetoric
– Disability and audience
– Disability and rhetorical appeals, the rhetorical canons, and/or the rhetorical triangle
– Disability and legal/governmental rhetorics
– Rhetorics of accessibility
– Rhetorical constructions of disabled identity

– Queries or abstracts sent by February 1, 2010
– Full submissions due July 1, 2010
– Final revisions due November 31, 2010
– Publication in the Winter 2011 issue of DSQ.

Submission guidelines:
Manuscripts must be in the form of a Word document and:
– Have a cover page that includes the author’s name, institutional affiliation, and contact information
– Have an abstract of 100-150 words
– Be between 3,000-6,000 words in length (approximately 10-20 double- spaced pages)
– Provide full references for all citations
– Include a brief biography of the author (50-100 words)
– URL :
Please send queries and submissions to John Duffy ( ) and Melanie Yergeau (

– Burke, K. (1969). A rhetoric of motives. Berkeley: University of California Press.
– Thomson, R. G. (1997). Disability, identity, and representation:  An introduction. In R.G. Thomson, Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia, University Press, 5-18.