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as reflecting rather than producing meaning, we deny the politics of representation and translate wrongheaded and outdated assumptions into contemporary pedagogy.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|
Associate Professor, English Department, La Roche College, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
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