Your Papers are Due at 3:00; My Panic Attack is at 4:00: Mental Illness in the Academy

full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
contact email: 

In Mad at School, Margaret Price claims that "Persons with mental disabilities lack rhetoricity; we are rhetorically disabled." Our experience as academics with diagnosed mental disabilities bears witness to this silencing. While we advocate for our disabled students in powerful and vocal ways, we often find ourselves without voice, without power, without the language to articulate our own experiences to our colleagues, department chairs, deans, and to our students, the very same students we encourage to be honest and open in their own writing. We respectfully listen as students share their stories about mental illnesses and addictions; we make accommodations (even without ADA requirements); we refer them to support services. Despite the care we give our students and the space we create for them to "come out" about their disabilities, we, as academics, have yet to find a way to create this space for ourselves. At this historical moment, the academic institution, a place for innovation and enlightenment, can still be a site for the suppression of messy and unpleasant truths.
The purpose of this roundtable session is to provide a forum for those struggling with mental illness to find their rhetoricity, that is, to en-able often verboten conversations about mental disability.
Our panel of 5-6 discussants will each present a 4-5 minute opening statement about his/her own experience being mentally ill in the academy. Then, we will open the floor for discussion.
As a panel, we will have a list of conversation starters prepared, but we will only use these pre-formed questions if needed to reinvigorate conversation. We will be looking for panelists who can clearly articulate what their experience(s) has been and who can step back from that experience and reflect on the larger implications for the academy of those experiences.

Please submit Abstracts through NeMLA's website at: and please feel free to email the Chairs with questions: Leslie Anglesey and Melissa Nicolas