Today, I continued work on preparing my paper for the Society for Disability Studies conference that I am attending this month. The conference is in Denver, Colorado from June 20th-25th. It is my first time attending SDS and I am really looking forward to it. This conference experience also marks the first time that I have organized a panel. The panel, “Patients, Pedagogies, Plagiarists: An Exploration of Mainstream Narratives of Disability and Unexpected Alternatives,” includes my Emory colleague Megan Friddle writing about representations of disability in children’s literature and Andrew Marcum, a grad student from the University of New Mexico who will turning a critical eye to the way that Helen Keller’s story has been used pedagogically. I am also pleased that the conference committee chose to include Carol Gill on this panel. She is a “Senior Scholar” at this year’s conference and a really accomplished scholar. I am so excited to learn more about her work.

My own paper is about “The Frost King” plagiarism controversy. As a child, Helen Keller was accused of plagiarizing a short story by children’s author Margaret T. Canby. I write about this incident in my dissertation because it has come to be used as a frequent example of cryptomnesia, or unconscious plagiarism, even though the incident occurred several years before the term “cryptomnesia” itself was coined. In this paper, I focus on the question of whether a more expansive reading of authorship might help to make room for an understanding of Keller’s story as its own original work — especially in an affective, experienced sense.

What spurred me to write this blog post was the task of writing out proper names and jargon to send ahead to SDS to assist the conference organizers in planning for transcription, captioning, and other accessibility services. While the names of the major players in my project are frequently plastered on sticky notes, Google searched, and stamped on book covers, I have never before had occasion to compile them all together without context. Even on their own, I was struck by what an interesting story they tell. It made me excited all over again about my dissertation. I’m looking forward to  sharing the connections between these people and ideas with colleagues at the conference, especially those who might not otherwise have been aware of some of the ways that they are linked. Without further ado, here is an abridged roster:


Helen Keller

Anne Sullivan

Joseph P. Lash

Michael Anagnos

William Shakespare

Francis Bacon

Richard Gilder

Alexander Graham Bell

Avital Ronell

Margaret T. Canby

The Goodson Gazette

The Frost King

The Frost Fairies






unconscious plagiarism


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