I aim to inspire students with the transformative power of the humanities by emphasizing the cultural, sociological, and political stakes of every assignment. My philosophy of teaching envisions a dual role for students to engage as both participants and leaders within the classroom and in public humanities forums. For example, in my capacity as Faculty Advisor of the IU Kokomo English Club, I mentored students through a semester-long, non-credit independent study of Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein. Along the way, I helped them organize and facilitate a public humanities program (view recording here) supported by an Indiana Humanities Quantum Leap Grant at the Frankfort Community Public Library on the legacy of Shelley’s novel in American popular culture. My students convened a two-hour panel discussion for a community audience of over 100 members. My commitment to facilitating engaged humanities initiatives like this one is informed by my prior work as Programming Fellow for the Chicago Humanities Festival. As the sole Programming Fellow, I helped coordinate graduate seminars, instructor workshops, performances, and public lectures by scholars of American studies and literature.
My emphasis on the affective, structural, and political dimensions of literature yields an interdisciplinary classroom. When I teach gender theory and feminism, for example, I invite students to develop their own clusters of critical terms to help them unpack contemporary gender issues as they variously apply to protest movements, politics, media, and literature. One student proposed thinking critically about “healing masculinity” as a necessary corrective to toxic masculinity; this proposal led to a productive discussion of reparative masculinity as it has variously been anticipated or theorized by feminist philosophers, literary authors, and the Queer Eye Netflix series. My students left that class buzzing with the radical possibilities rendered newly legible by the cultural history and philosophy of gender.
When students model inquiry-based learning for each other, they practice leadership and teamwork skills; they also learn to appreciate diverse approaches to specific issues. I help foster these experiences in the classroom by asking students to collaboratively produce multimedia materials. In my nineteenth-century American literature seminar, for example, my students present their research projects in visually rich PechaKucha format, undertaking interdisciplinary exploration ranging from the fascicle and manuscript history of Emily Dickinson’s self-published poetry, to the foundational writings of American Transcendentalism and their connection to the Hudson River School landscape painters, to the material culture of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). Art history and material culture are touchstone fields of my interdisciplinary humanities pedagogy; in 2015 I helped the IU Kokomo Library acquire the ArtStor database to facilitate digital research in the arts and humanities.
In addition to my medical humanities seminar on gender studies, women’s literature, and the history of psychology, called “Disturbed Minds,” I teach a range of courses that cross disciplinary boundaries and integrate theoretical frameworks. These courses include “Captivity” (on the transatlantic literary tradition of kidnapped hostages who have lived to tell their tales); “American Gothic” (on the aesthetic and historical dimensions of the genre); and “Nature/Nurture” (an ecopoetics course that explores the role of environmentalism in poetic discourses on race, class, gender, regionalism, and nationalism). Through interdisciplinary learning, my students develop individualized research plans and discover diverse points of contact with the literary, social, and political contexts they inhabit as critical thinkers and authors of cultural change.