inadequate futures

teaching philosophy

Learning is dynamic and collaborative, requiring various participants and styles of participation. My teaching fosters critical engagement with and among various textual collaborators that enter the classroom by highlighting how texts ‘resonate’ when we interact with them. Borrowing the term from Wai Chee Dimock’s ‘A Theory of Resonance,’ I utilize the notion of resonance to emphasize that knowledge is not an object unilaterally disseminated by experts, but an unstable result of our relation to texts both fleshy and pulpy. What we learn emerges from the acts of reading, discussing, and composing.

Critical thinking and close reading are vital aspects of what literary studies offers students, but I underscore how these methodologies are tools for navigating the world, not just texts in a classroom. Because the classes I teach often center contemporary literature, film, television, and pop culture, close reading becomes an indispensable strategy for working with texts that lack a wide breadth of critical commentary. However, I also stress that close reading is something we’re compelled to practice everyday. Recognizing how the everyday texts we encounter shape us as much as we shape them is vital for living in the media saturated present. Honing close reading and critical thinking skills encourages students to be reflective participants in the ongoing (re)production of the world we co(in)habit.

Towards this end, my classroom privileges student discussion and participation. Classrooms are not only comprised of students, instructors, and texts, but also an array of disparate affects, concepts, and objects. Understanding ‘collaboration’ as very literally laboring with and within these constraints foregrounds the indistinction between the classroom and what lies beyond its walls. In this way, class discussions are always in the service of how texts function and ask us to see the world differently. By encouraging students to consider what a text does rather than what it means, I reorient habituated modes of learning towards a process model that privileges methodology over content. This also facilitates less restrictive class discussion in which students offer various accounts of how texts function or resonate rather than relying on me to explain what they mean. By decentering the source of and process by which we produce knowledge, I ask students to consider themselves as indispensable nodal points for circulating and transforming ideas.

My emphasis on the function and force of language is echoed in my composition pedagogy. When close reading is positioned as a vital skill for navigating the world, students become attuned to how language works and interweave their reading practices into their compositional practices. While we read and discuss various models for what ‘good’ writing does, I underscore writing as a process by which we take aim at an idea. Writing is always unfinished—even final drafts must be read as in-progress. Blogging assignments provide a low stakes space for students to test out their ideas, while multimodal assignments solicit student expertise in excess of what’s discussed in class. In both cases, learning emerges with and within what we write.