Saturday, April 02, 2011

Ground Control to Major Tom

What is the nature of the humanities? What is the nature of literary studies? What is our purpose in the academy? Outside the academy?

These are questions that I've been considering lately. I read an article about academic writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, and one of the suggestions the author made was that all academic writers ask themselves what they are writing that will be read 10 years from now, 100 years from now.

I also talked with a friend of mine about her teaching. She's currently teaching LIT2020, the same short story class that I'm teaching. But instead of focusing on Sci-Fi/Fantasy, like me, she is teaching a course introducing students to literary theory. Her syllabus is impressive; her stories are inspirational. She's teaching students how to think more deeply, clearly, and fairly about concepts like feminism, race, poverty, queer theory, "truth," etc. I think this is beautiful; this is the kind of life-changing teaching I want to do, that I'm not stretching myself enough to do right now.

I'd like to write a mission statement, but I'm not sure where to start. I want to do all the cheesy things that people who teach literature want to do--share my love of stories, my excitement about poetic beauty, my thoughts about how literature can touch our hearts and change our minds, blah blah blah.

But I also want to teach people to use their brains when they interact with the world. To "read" and "write" well--by which I mean, to consume and create meaning in all its various forms. To be responsible and kind citizens. I want to wave Martha Nussbaum's flag and help spread true democracy by encouraging critical thinking.

Having so many big goals makes it hard to know what direction to go in. Like, with this blog, I want to start blogging about the stuff I'm working on at school, Middleton and early modern drama, etc., while at the same time blogging about all my thoughts about sci-fi/fantasy I've been reading (did you know that Tor hires bloggers? What? Why can't I have that job? Oh right, because I just worry about blogging rather than doing it.)

Anyways, I feel a little bit like Major Tom out in space, surrounded by so much, and wondering what to do, and if he'll get back home. I wish I had a ground control. And that's my Bowie reference for the day.

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