Catherine Prendergast Seminar, Liverpool Hope University

Mad in Court: Mentally Disabled Pro Se Litigants and the Complex  Embodiment of Mind

Prof. Catherine Prendergast, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Date: Wednesday 3 October 2012

Time: 2.15pm–3.45pm

Place: Eden 109, Liverpool Hope University, UK

Despite the recent increase in self-advocacy by people who are mentally impaired, the legal realm is still considered a risky area for self-representation, as though “nothing about us without us” should stop at the courthouse door. To complicate this notion, Prof. Catherine Prendergast presents two cases that demonstrate both the persuasive force and jurisprudential significance of mentally impaired pro se litigation. The contention is that these litigants offer something akin to Tobin Siebers’s notion of “complex embodiment” in the sense that they lend concrete form to the oppressive and flattening abstraction of mental illness. They also provide first-hand accounts of the barriers that hamper inmate efforts to engage in self-expression and advocacy, including limitations on publication rights, and lack of access to materials for writing and research. These accounts finally question the mind-body dualism implied in the notion of “embodiment” itself.

Catherine Prendergast is Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she teaches courses in disability studies, rhetoric, and writing. Her articles on the subject of mental impairment have appeared inSAQ: South Atlantic QuarterlyCollege English, and The Disability Studies Reader (3rd edition). She has co-edited (with Elizabeth Donaldson) a special issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies on the topic of Representing Disability and Emotion.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. David Bolt,

Director, Centre for Culture & Disability Studies,

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