This article seeks to center what lies before, beside, and beyond normative modes of linguistic communication in the classroom and in literary scholarship. Framed by my experiences with my disabled brother, I focus mainly on Disability and Difference, a section of English 2 that I developed and taught at Brooklyn College for five semesters between 2008 and 2010. Throughout, I pay particular attention to mental disability; stigmatized and silenced, it is often unspoken and unspeakable. I begin by outlining some of the ways that students can benefit from exploring disability and how it frustrates linguistic representation. I then discuss ways that academic discourse, as well as pedagogical practices and policies, may begin to better account for mental disability. I conclude by briefly considering a kind of disability aesthetics that privileges the inarticulate and inarticulable, one that might allow students and scholars to appreciate the extent to which literary studies is already enriched by the same kinds of non-normative articulations that are deprivileged in our modes of formal discourse.

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