Navigating the Landscape: Using Disability Studies to Enhance the Analysis of Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar

Marva Hutchinson, English, Providence High School

Final Unit (PDF)     Implementing Common Core Standards (PDF)200 Word Synopsis

Students will consider disability as a social construction and examine the intersection between race, culture, gender and identity. Students will deepen their understanding of this thematic approach and explore how disability can be woven into other thematic approaches to analyzing literary texts. Disability is a “bodily category” but “also a social category shaped by changing social factors.” Although the definition of disability “theoretically has been based on bodies, the categorization of bodies as disabled has been shaped by factors such as, race, sexuality, education, levels of industrialization or standardization, access to adaptive equipment or privacy, and class.” The Bell Jar allows us to explore the complex intersection between disability and gender. The text also offers an opportunity to explore the idea of disability as something that must be embraced and incorporated as part of a powerful self, not something that has to be cured, hidden or thought of as a weakness. The study offers students the opportunity to use critical thinking skills and explore new areas of thought.