Profile picture of Elizabeth (Betsy) Wheeler

Elizabeth (Betsy) Wheeler

Comics and Cartoon Studies, Disability Studies, English
Phone: 541-346-3929
Office: 238 PLC
Office Hours: Winter Term: MW 2-3:30pm
Research Interests: Disability Studies, Comics and Cartoon Studies, American Studies, Postmodern and Contemporary Literary Studies, Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity


I am a professor of English, Disability Studies, and Comics Studies at the University of Oregon and the artistic director of Perfect Circle Theater, which brings together college students with community members with intellectual and developmental disabilities to hear each other’s stories and turn those stories into plays. I am the author of the Choice-award winning book HandiLand: The Crippest Place on Earth (University of Michigan Press, 2019). I received the 2023 UO Faculty Excellence in Universal Design Award and the 2018 LILAC Award from the Lane Independent Living Alliance for my disability advocacy. As the creator and founding director of the University of Oregon Disability Studies Minor, I designed its degree curriculum and several core classes. 

My research focuses on the entrance of people with disabilities into public space as represented in comics, popular literature, and civic discourse. I focus on the interactions of race, class, gender and nationality with disability. My future research projects will expand my reach as a public intellectual. For instance, my next book will be a history in comics form of ableism and anti-ableism in the United States for children and young adults, with the goal of sharing disability studies knowledge with K-12 students and readers. 

Community-building sits at the heart of my work. My community-based education initiatives include not only Perfect Circle Theater but also teaching for the Inside Out Prison Education Program, directing the Disability Studies Minor Fieldwork Program, and founding and directing the UO Literacy Initiative. I have built partnerships with disability community organizations like Mobility International USA, MindFreedom International, Lane Independent Living Alliance, DanceAbility International, OSLP Arts and Culture, and Hilyard Adaptive Recreation. 

My classroom teaching asks students to enact their knowledge not only through conventional college essays and discussion but also through roleplaying, drawing comics, memoir, and activism. In universal design in learning, I aim to create spaces that welcome people before they get there while remaining flexible and making changes in the face of unanticipated needs. 

Classes I teach: 

  • English 205: Fantasy 
  • English 240: Introduction to Disability Studies
  • English 386: Bodies in Comics 
  • English 410: Perfect Circle Theater 
  • English 660: Race and Disability in American Literature and Cultur



HandiLand: The Crippest Place on Earth. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2019. Corporealities: Discourses of Disability series.

  • Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Title.
  • Reviewed in: Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, Disability Studies Quarterly, and Choice.

Uncontained: Urban Fiction in Postwar America.  Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001.

  • Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Title.


“The Joker’s Shifting Face: Eighty Years of Mad History in Batman and American Culture.” Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies 18.3 (Fall 2024). Special issue: Cripping Graphic Medicine II: Access and Activism at the Crossroads of Intersectionality.

“Disability.” Blackwell Companion to Children’s Literature. Eds. Karen Coats, Vivian Yenika-Agbaw, and Deborah Stevenson. Hoboken: John Wiley, 2022.          

  • Invited book chapter. 

“Masculinity at the Orthopedic Preschool.” Constructing the (M)other: Narratives at the Intersection of Motherhood and the Politics of Normal. Ed. Priya Lalvani. Bern: Peter Lang2019: 83-92.

  • Invited book chapter. 

“Runoff: Afroaquanauts in Landscapes of Sacrifice.” Literary Afrofuturism in the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Isiah Lavender III and Lisa Yaszek. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2020. New Suns: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Speculative series. Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Title.

Co-Authored with Chloë Hughes. “Introduction: Mainstreaming Literature for Young People.” Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies 12.3 (Fall 2018): 261-7. Literature for Young People special issue co-editor. 

“Moving Together Side by Side: Human-Animal Comparisons in Picture Books.” Disability Studies and the Environmental Humanities. Ed. Sarah Jaquette Ray and J.C. Sibara. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017: 594-622. 

  • Invited book chapter. 

No Monsters in This Fairy Tale: Wonder and the New Children’s Literature.” Children’s Literature Quarterly 38.3 (Fall 2013): 335-350. Disability Studies special issue. 

Don’t Climb Every Mountain.” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 20.3 (Summer 2013): 553-573. 

  • "Editor’s Choice” for issue’s best article.