NeMLA 2021: Disability Studies and Its Potential to Enrich Composition Theory and Practice

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
contact email: 

52nd Northeast Modern Language Association Convention

March 11-14, 2021 / Philadelphia, PA


Critical disability theory is a useful tool for understanding underlying concepts of composition, such as instability and the contextual nature of language, yet its potential to enrich composition studies remains generally under-explored. Indeed, a look at the broader historical trajectories of attitudes toward disability and composition studies illustrates various parallel trends as the two disciplines have struggled for consensus and authority. The earliest discussions and representations of both are rooted in medical models of understanding, with disability and the need for writing instruction each signified as weakness or deficiency requiring some sort of intervention. Tensions between theory and practice also play a defining role in both composition and disability studies, as members of both fields grapple with recognizing matters of context and personal experience while at the same time trying to maintain political and administrative power. These latter attempts to assert control are, within both disciplines, shaped in no small part by the tensions between those within the field and those without—whether from the larger university structure or an ableist society more generally. With this panel, we will explore the conceptual linkages between composition and disability studies, and ways a disability studies perspective can lead to a richer, more productive understanding of composition theory and practice.

Submissions are encouraged from composition studies, disability studies, interdisciplinary studies, cultural studies, media studies, and other relevant disciplines.

Abstracts of 250-300 words should be submitted directly through the NeMLA portal:

For more info on NeMLA 2021, visit

Please direct any questions to Courtney Stanton at