CONFERENCE TALK: Discursive Worlds Inside and Outside the Classroom
At the Pennsylvania College English Association conference, I organized a panel with two particularly brilliant former students of mine, Ben Rowles and Jessie Beard, on “Forms, Spaces, and Experiences of Student-Faculty Scholarship.” The panel focused on two non-traditional academic projects that offered useful ways of theorizing the potential relationships between scholarship and pedagogy: a faculty-supported but entirely student-driven public online research project, and an extra-institutional, not-for-credit “unclass.” My presentation aimed to bridge between the two projects and to theorize those projects’ larger implications (for my own pedagogy, for my students’ educational and intellectual experiences, for the ways institutions of higher ed might offer springboards to projects that transcend institutional limitations). Here’s the abstract:
The humanities classroom is a strategic enclosure, a semi-private space in which faculty and students generate a common language appropriate to and reflective of the questions and content of a given course. Though on some level this enclosure is precisely what allows the classroom to be a space of inquiry and intellectual experimentation, I seek to understand what happens when we try to translate the necessarily private, idiosyncratic idioms of a class into more publicly legible forms and media. How can we broadcast the particular knowledge generated within a class—specific to a set of individuals in a specific context, with specific experiences, associations, and languages— to spaces outside of that class, and what happens to that knowledge when it is broadcast? In what forms and with what benefits can the associations, conceptual vocabularies, inside jokes, and private references built over the duration of a class be made to function outside of the space and time of that class? Beyond adapting progressive and constructivist pedagogies to the educational tasks of teaching and learning, what would it mean to think of the classroom as itself a research space, the syllabus as a bibliography, the content of classroom conversations as not a prelude to or an influence on scholarly discourse but as scholarly discourse itself? What happens to pedagogy, to learning, and to research when the classroom in all of its enclosure and particularity is envisioned not as an adjunct space to scholarship (training students to become scholars, allowing faculty to bounce research ideas off of captive audiences) but as paradigmatic of scholarship itself?