Seeing through Language: Pedagogy as Self and Institutional Critique

By Christine Abbott.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Humanities education participates in the uncritical reproduction of existing society, particularly through its still widespread and often unspoken assumption that language is a transparent medium used merely to express existing facts in sanctioned styles. When we stress individual mastery and the passive consumption of skills to evaluate academic literacy practices, we use literacy pedagogy to restrict access to higher education, marginalize the humanities, and subvert possibilities for new modes of understanding and collective struggle. By positioning language outside of theory, politics, and history, we develop practices that undermine any real possibilities for critical and/or emancipatory education. Conceiving of reading and writing as simple skill acquisition rather than bonafide forms of cultural production, and seeing language as reflecting rather than producing meaning, we deny the politics of representation and translate wrongheaded and outdated assumptions into contemporary pedagogy. This paper describes a 15-week upper-division interdisciplinary course, part of our college’s “core” curriculum, designed to challenge institutional power relations by focusing on dominant discursive practices in the academy. Drawing upon diverse contemporary and historical texts and through sequenced weekly writing assignments, students are asked to contextualize and engage various struggles—both educational and political—to restructure public life in democratic ways.

Keywords: Humanities, Literacy, Pedagogy, Reading, Writing, Politics, Representation, Interdisciplinary

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.193-200. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 519.993KB).

Christine Abbott

Associate Professor, English Department, La Roche College, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Convinced that teachers must push themselves beyond the limits of disciplinary training by utilizing new sources in new ways, I am committed to using the classroom as a research site and to working collaboratively with colleagues in other disciplines. A recent example of such collaboration can be seen in a paper written with colleagues Astrid Kersten and Lauren Lampe, in management and graphic design respectively. The paper, titled Tags, Voice and Performance: Art and the Academy and published in the journal Culture and Organization (March 2006), grew out of work done with nametags as self-representation at the Art of Management and Organization Conference, Paris, France, September 7, 2004.


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