Once again, the English Department is taking part in the College of Arts and Sciences Professional Development Seminar Series. This year, the program has been expanded to include several new departments, so check the full listings for the 2019-20 series below, but even our department's offerings have grown. Highlights include the return of Kris Over's seminar on race in the classroom and a reprise of Ryan Poll's seminar on a cultural studies approach to the industry that goes by the name of "Star Wars." Tim Libretti returns this year with three fascinating seminars on the dominant concept of American Selfhood in the literature we teach, on "Supremacist" thought in 20th and 21st century literature and culture, and on helping our students understand the nature of Work in the US through narratives like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad." There's more for you in Composition and Assessment techniques, Hybrid Poetry as a model for composition work, material culture studies--how to handle that difficult act in the Shakespeare play your students struggle with, and developed by popular demand, the second of a series of seminars delivered by Tim Barnett in teaching LGBTQ+ issues to high school students.
In all, we think there's plenty of great options. Come join us for some coffee and cake, and three hours of invigorating discussion.
English Department Chair
$110 per seminar
For departments, schools, or districts: If you would like to register for a total of five or more seats for various seminars, you will still receive the discounted price. $500 for five seats; $900 for 10 seats; $1,500 for 20 seats.
2019-20 Seminar Offerings
Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
Allowing Race in the Classroom
Race is real, and clearly on the front burners of the American mind in urgent and sharply contested ways. We like to say that it doesn’t exist because there is no biological fact of race. But beliefs as well and social structures make it real by continuing to map race onto certain bodies in ways that perpetuate inequality. This is particularly true in our classrooms, where students of color, spend disproportionate amounts of energy dealing with material racism and microaggressions, while white students, who generally do not experience racism, are less familiar and less comfortable with its material reality (Helling). In this seminar we will focus on ways to allow the facts of race and racialized inequality into the classroom so that everyone can be acknowledged in the fullness of their being. With the help of contemporary writers, teachers, and thinkers, we will deliberately put issues of race and inequality on the table and practice ways to reflect and keep participating in the conversation.
Kristen Over, English Department
Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
The Problem of the American “Self” in U.S. literature, culture, and history
In this interdisciplinary seminar we will explore contradictory evolutions of the self in American culture and history and how the evolution of a dominant conception of the self in possessive individualist terms and as a commodity has disarmed social transformation. We’ll take a journey through history, beginning with the foundation of the American Republic where we see two competing concepts of the self: one growing out of Enlightenment/Lockean theories of possessive individualism , and one growing out of the new post-revolutionary governing principle of “virtue,” which enjoined that citizens put the public good before private interests and rested on the assertion that “every man in a republic is public property.” We’ll think about how these dual and opposing conceptions inform works like Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography and how they evolved through the 19th century, looking at how Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, valorizing earlier conceptions of virtue, and Henry David Thoreau’s thinking, exemplary of romantic individualist thought continue to play out this debate until we enter the era of realism and naturalism. We will look at how these conceptions of the self are at work in the Black Lives Matter Movement, in slave narratives, and in contemporary Supreme Court arguments around the Affordable Care Act and in the court’s recent Janus decision.
Tim Libretti, English Department
Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
Brain Development, Self-Regulation, and Learning
Why do some children seem to coast through school while others struggle to understand simple concepts? Why do some very intelligent students seem to sabotage their own achievement by making decisions that are obviously not in their best interest? Recent advances in brain science have shown that some regions of the human brain continue to develop up until the early 20s. Knowledge of the time course of maturation of different parts of the brain, and how it can vary from child to child, can help teachers understand what is and is not reasonable to expect for children of a given age. In the workshop we’ll review brain development with a special focus on regions involved in self-control, self-regulation, and learning. We’ll then discuss the most recent new research (i.e. within the last five years), and the ramifications it may have for you as a teacher. Finally, we’ll discuss how you might use this information to modify your teaching strategies and target assignments to your students.
Linda Rueckert, Psychology Department
Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Stereotypes in the Classroom
Both students and teachers face lots of different expectations, and both are subjected to a range of stereotypes in the classroom. The worst of these stereotypes can disrupt long-term learning, agency, and an individual’s ability to view the classroom as a space where they belong and can grow. In this workshop, we will discuss some recent work from philosophy and social psychology on the impact that stereotypes can have in the classroom, and consider the ways they create “epistemic injustices”—injustices centered around how we share and receive knowledge. We’ll share strategies and resources for resisting the impact of these stereotypes, and for dismantling the social structures that allow them to spread and linger in our education system.
Stacey Goguen, Philosophy Department
Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
Particle Physics and Dark Matter
The goal of this workshop is to cover the experimental search for dark matter, whose motivation touches on topics at the forefront of particle physics, cosmology, and astrophysics. This gives us an opportunity to discuss and to provide a broad overview, with an emphasis on conceptual understanding appropriate for high school students, of the Standard Model of particle physics, particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider, the detection of new particles like the Higgs boson, general relativity, big bang theory, various astronomical observations, and the ongoing searches for dark matter. We will use household materials to construct a simple particle detector, a cloud chamber, and use it to discuss particle detection techniques and the types of ionizing radiation that form the dominant background, or “noise” from which the signal for dark matter is hoped to be teased apart.
Orrin Harris, Department of Physics
Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
Iran, Islam, and Contemporary Middle Eastern Politics
This seminar will provide historical understanding that is essential for analyzing Iran and its role in the contemporary world. The seminar will first address the early history of Persia, its relationship with the Roman Empire, and the development in Persia of Shi’a Islam. This essential background will help explain formation of the Iranian state in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and its relationship with western powers. Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Iran-Iraq war, and the deterioration of relations with the U.S. will be addressed. The seminar will conclude with discussion of recent issues in Iran and its international relations, such as the role of women and gender, nuclear negotiations with the U.S., and the Trump administration’s attitude towards Iran’s theocratic regime.
Mateo Farzaneh, History Department
Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
It’s Not Easy Being Green: Infusing sustainability studies across disciplines
Now more than ever, a holistic understanding of our complex and critical environmental issues must involve multiple disciplines and perspectives. In this seminar, we will explore innovative ways to infuse sustainability concepts into multiple social science disciplines using theoretical frameworks and practical tools from the fields of environmental education, environmental interpretation, and conservation psychology. Content will include a breakdown of current environmental issues, the domains of sustainability, models of effective environmental education and interpretive strategies, and determinants of environmentally responsible behavior. Educators will practice developing multiple student activities that enhance the nature-self relationship, and methods to enhance student environmental responsibility. This seminar will be interactive and may include brief outdoor activities if weather permits.
Melinda Storie, Geography & Environmental Studies Department
Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
Problems With Shakespeare
We all have them. Is there a play you can’t seem to get right? Are you tired of the same old assignment? Are you curious how historical context might enrich your students’ readings of the plays? This seminar will focus on addressing what teachers like you find difficult in teaching Shakespeare’s plays. Before we meet I’ll solicit at least one problem from each participant. I’ll then circulate the results and at our meeting we’ll explore solutions as a group. If there are shared issues for which a reading will help, I’ll circulate material so that we can discuss it.
Brad Greenburg, English Department
Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
Literary Nuts & Bolts
Guest-teaching the old "Where I Lived" chapter from Walden in a classroom of high school juniors last fall, I was struck by how a digression into the details of how the book was originally published got the class's attention in ways its transcendental import did not. How often, in Language Arts classes, do we address the nuts and bolts of how books (or any other cultural form) get produced, and are we always prepared to connect those economic details with the "content" under discussion? In this seminar, we will share two strategies: 1) how we introduce students to literature and culture as material objects physically made, sold, and advertised by people other than their "authors," and 2) how we can show students the ways these material facts are intimately related to the ideas or "content" they usually hear about or write about only in ideal--indeed, "transcendental" terms. I'll bring examples bearing on work by Edgar Poe and Harriet Wilson in the 19th century and William Faulkner and Ngugi wa Thiong'o in the 20th, but I look forward to hearing yours as well.
Tim Scherman, English Department
Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
Cribbing Hybrid-Form Texts for the Writing Classroom
Much contemporary writing operates in the “hybrid-form,” meaning: it either employs multiple forms/genres or is itself genre-less. The multiple textures of hybrid-form works can be particularly useful in writing instruction because they demonstrate the complex web of identities students actually navigate: code-switching and costume-changing between a performance of self at home vs. at school vs. on the internet, etc. This seminar is geared toward helping teachers develop creative approaches to the instruction of writing (of all kinds!) through the examination of several excerpted hybrid-form texts. Examine (and become aware of) these interesting texts, deconstruct them for the purpose of technique-examination, and employ those isolated techniques as constraints for generating new writing. This process suggests the links between reading and writing, and between finished pieces of literature and works-in-progress. Participants will get fuel for their own lesson planning and actively work with the catalog of constraints we generate on-the-spot (just as students can do).
Olivia Cronk, English Department
Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
Mold Making and Casting Workshop
This workshop will introduce students to basic mold making and casting techniques. Emphasis will be placed on understanding of the positive and negative form through the study of an organic form and mold making process. This workshop will explore a variety of casting materials, and students will develop multiple mold making skills and ideas. Projects include: organic from study, one part waste mold and two parts mold. Plaster, clay and modeling tools will be provided.
Shencheng Xu, Art Department
Note: This seminar takes place in FA 215.
Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
Coding as Feminist Practice
This workshop will lead with a presentation of pedagogical research examining Kimberly Crenshaw's intersectional feminist values through the praxis of art and technology-based pedagogy. KT Duffy will present project methodologies, with applications across a variety of subjects, which allow for alternative ways of hypothesizing and planning and which explore the potential for a logic of feminism where objects are reoriented within a radical feminist discourse. Attendees will then participate in a follow along coding activity which engages in intersectional discourse through the use of object-oriented programming. All levels of coding experience, including beginner, are welcome. All fields which engage visual thinking, tech/coding, and social justice/intersectional feminist value systems are encouraged to attend.
KT Duffy, Art Department
Note: This seminar takes place in FA 226.
Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
Why Did They Write That? Using Error Analysis in the Classroom
Have you ever wondered why some of your English language learners (ELLs) forget articles? Why do Spanish speakers say ‘eschool’ and Arabic speakers say ‘filem’? Does it seem like you’re addressing every student mistake and getting nowhere? This seminar introduces teachers to error analysis, which focuses on patterns in student writing and speech that indicate transfer from their first languages. The beauty of this approach is that teachers don’t have to know the students’ first languages. While some errors in English stem from specific language backgrounds, others are common to all learners, even native English speakers. We will learn how to look for sounds and structures in student speech and writing so as to target specific problem areas in learning classroom English. These strategies enable teachers to develop lesson plans that efficiently focus on known student language needs, without the frustration of papers covered in red ink. Teachers will leave this seminar with resources and sample lesson plans targeting student errors, patterns, and non-targetlike forms in academic American English.
Richard Hallett, Linguistics Department
Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
Teaching Cultural Studies in the High School Classroom
This seminar introduces teachers to the theoretical debates and interpretative strategies for successfully teaching cultural studies in the high school classroom. Using an interdisciplinary approach, this seminar explores how culture is produced, distributed, consumed, and responded to in diverse, contradictory ways. Cultural forms discussed will include movies, comics, television, digital images, music, and video games.
Ryan Poll, English Department
Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, 9 a.m.-noon
Thinking Through “Race”: Exploring Supremacist thought in American history, literature, and culture
The politics of white supremacy tend to be thought of as extreme and distasteful—and certainly not part of a mainstream American value system. And yet in many ways in America culture and society versions of supremacist thought are unflinchingly accepted, normalized, and vociferously defended. The concept of meritocracy goes a long way in American culture and political/social life towards endorsing inequality and declaring some people to be superior on the basis of skills, intelligence, and so forth; few question categories such as “skilled” and “unskilled” or how we value work in our political economy. Indeed, “race” and “gender” can be understood, historically speaking, as mechanisms for determining people’s merit or worth. In this seminar, we will explore “race” as one element or dimension at work in a broader complex of hierarchical thinking, and analyze together how we can think through “race” to decode fundamental tendencies of hierarchical thought in U.S. culture and history. We will think about what it would mean to analyze U.S. literature, culture, and society through the categorical lens of supremacy. How might the category of supremacist thought, as we think through “race,” inflect how we read and talk about Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wall-Paper, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, or any number of literary and culture productions? And how, by extension, might we think about normalized social relationships differently?
Tim Libretti, English Department
Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
The Impact of Vocabulary Knowledge on Students’ Academic Success
“I would like to use academic podcasts, TV programs, and novels in my classroom. But, how do I know that my students can handle the vocabulary demands of these materials?” To answer that question, the presenter discusses the number of words necessary to understand audio/video and print (book) materials in English and introduces user-friendly resources designed to improve the lexical quality of teachers’ pedagogical materials. In addition, the presenter will provide a list of effective strategies that help students improve their academic and technical vocabulary knowledge.
Ulugbek Nurmukhamedov, TESOL Department
Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
Literatures and Theories of Love
What does it mean to love? As philosopher John Armstrong writes, “This is to raise one of the deepest, and most puzzling, questions we can put to ourselves.” This seminar explores diverse narratives and theories of love, especially emerging from marginalized authors including bell hooks, James Baldwin, and Emma Pérez. As the seminar explores, love not only underwrites conceptions of the self, but more broadly, enables and generates new forms of community, ethics, and politics.
Ryan Poll, English Department
Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
Workshop: Enrich Spatial Thinking in the Classroom Through Open Source GIS
Geographic Information System (GIS) visualizes and analyzes location-based information with a broad range of applications in both physical and social sciences. It helps students better understand and learn the world through the lens of geography and technology. This workshop will focus on geospatial visualization and analysis using publicly available data and the leading open source GIS software - QGIS. QGIS has an intuitive graphical user interface and is cross-platform, plus many cartographic capabilities including some not available in any other GIS packages. We will discuss various geospatial data sources and data acquisition techniques. We will also brainstorm ideas to encourage spatial thinking and incorporate GIS and related geospatial technologies in your classroom.
This workshop will be held in an equipped Smart Classroom on NEIU’s Main Campus; location TBA.
Ting Liu, Geography and Environmental Studies Department
Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
Teaching LGBTQ Literature, Part II
This seminar builds off of the first part of Teaching LGBTQ Literature by focusing on specific texts and strategies teachers have used when working with LGBTQ issues in the classroom. We will share texts that have worked (primarily for the study of literature but also, potentially, for the teaching of writing) and those that have not. Each teacher will be asked to bring in a bibliography of texts used in class along with one teaching strategy and/or one problem that arises when teaching LGBTQ literature. Teachers new to LGBTQ literature are welcome, but teachers with some experience in this area are especially encouraged to come share ideas and learn new ones.
Tim Barnett, English Department
Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
My Other Teacher Would Give This an “A”: Uncovering What We Value in Student Writing
As teachers, we tend to believe that we all recognize good writing and "know it when we see it." Yet, studies reaching as far back as one hundred years suggest that teachers vary widely in the scores they assign to a given piece of writing. Norming sessions for inter-rater reliability can sometimes alleviate this disparity, but it can also sometimes create a situation where evaluators are bullied into conforming with how the majority of raters view a piece of writing. Exploring ways of building positive communal assessment sessions, this hands-on workshop will challenge us to consider (as Robert Broad says) what we value as teachers of writing. We will then discuss how these insights can be applied to designing and implementing shared writing assessments.
Marcia Buell, English Department
Friday, Feb.7, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
Improv for Educators: Cultivating Creativity in your Classroom
With a focus on agreement, heightening and foundational improvisational theatre teachings, participants will experience activities designed to engage and enliven any classroom setting. This workshop session will employ a high level of interaction, with processing along the way, to provide a clear understanding of how to incorporate improv activities into curriculum across all disciplines.
In addition to gaining a greater understanding of improvisational theatre and how it pertains to the classroom, there will be an added focus on the role of the teacher in creating and sustaining a caring classroom community. We will explore how we engage students to participate and ways to embrace diversity of ideas in a group setting. An intentionally designed sequence of activities will begin with building trust among the group and end with problem solving and cooperation. Participants will leave with resources that describe games highlighted in the workshop and research that provides insight into ways that improv is an effective tool for teachers. Creating caring communities of learners in a playfully productive atmosphere is the goal.
Jeremy Babcock, College of Arts and Sciences Education Program (CASEP)
Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
Creating Engaging Materials for the Spanish Language Classroom
Students often need various approaches to understand a particular grammatical concept. In this workshop, we will take several problematic grammatical concepts: ser vs estar; subjunctive vs indicative; preterit vs imperfect, etc., and design engaging materials to help students master these concepts. Some materials can be sent home with the students so that they can practice on their own, and others can be created for interactive use in class. The skills for these simple grammar points are applicable to other linguistic models as well. Feel free to bring your most challenging teaching content and we will brainstorm a remedy.
Denise Cloonan Cortez de Andersen, Department of World Languages
Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
Crime and Violence in Chicago in Historical Perspective
In the 2016 presidential debates, Donald Trump touted Chicago’s gun violence as evidence of the failure of Democratic Party rule. Indeed, 3,010 people had been wounded or killed by gunfire in Chicago at that point. From 2001 to September 2016, murders in Chicago (7,916) exceeded Americans deaths in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (6,888). Parts of Chicago were war zones—and that was nothing new. Chicago has a long and dreadful history of crime and violence, reaching back to the 1850s when German and Irish immigrants rioted over lager beer, to the reign of Al Capone in the 1920s, and to the formation of modern street gangs like the Latin Kings and the Blackstone Rangers. This seminar will explore why crime and violence has long plagued Chicago and why its political leaders cannot seem to stop the killing. Finally, it suggests how teachers can use the terrible example of crime and violence in Chicago to help students think about larger issues of race, immigration, politics, and economic opportunity in America.
Joshua Salzmann, History Department
Friday, Feb.28, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
From Drama to Melodrama: Latin American and U.S. Latinx Television in the Classroom
Many students watch tons of TV. Daily. In fact, they go beyond watching. They binge-watch. These shows speak to them and often shape their worldviews in profound ways that can rival or eclipse the values we hope to instill the classroom. As educators, we should not only be aware of the influence of television, we should actively engage with student consumption of it in order to promote critical thinking and content mastery. This seminar explores ways to welcome U.S. Latinx TV shows and telenovelas from Latin America into the classroom in order to analyze narrative strategies and discuss content related to contemporary social issues in an age-appropriate manner. In particular, we will consider different ways of using this type of cultural production to engage with students about questions of identity, including gender, sexuality, race, social class and religion. Educators teaching advanced levels of Spanish and/or AP courses, as well as Social Studies or History, are encouraged to participate in this seminar. Taught in English. No knowledge of Spanish required.
Dr. Catalina Rincon-Bisbey, Department of World Languages Roycemore School
Friday, March 6, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
Teaching Mindfulness in the Classroom
On a daily basis as teachers, we are faced with situations of feeling overwhelmed and stressed with students and/or colleagues. Students also need to be exposed to positive role models of mindfulness to help with their learning outcomes, by teaching content and promoting human potential through mindfulness techniques. In addition to working with students to systematically learn content (scaffolding) and associated opportunities for self-growth, your role can also be to create “teachable moments” for students to develop their own effective coping strategies. In this workshop we will review different mindfulness principles, have group discussions on topical ideas in the classroom/workplace, and actively engage in effective mindfulness strategies using group exercises. Classroom activities (i.e., jigsaw classroom) that foster an inclusive and compassionate “mindful” classroom will be shared. These learning outcomes will then be discussed regarding proactive stress management models for classroom students and workplace colleagues. Finally, we will share ways to teach students about positive mindfulness techniques.
Lisa Hollis-Sawyer and Amanda Dykema-Engblade, Psychology Department
Friday, March 13, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
Active Learning: What, Why, and How
Active Learning is on the minds of educators everywhere. Clearly, students who are engaged do better than those who aren’t. And active learning strategies are one way of improving engagement and learning. Research reveals that after 24 hours, students who learn the traditional way—via reading and listening to lectures—retain less than ten percent of the material. Students who “practice by doing” and teaching others retain 70 and 90 percent, respectively. But educators are busy and flooded with teaching tips and a plethora of best practices. Who has the time to figure it all out? Learn about active learning, why it should be on our minds, and how to do it. In this workshop, we will cover strategies from “activating” lectures to setting up and facilitating successful peer learning.
Maureen W. Erber, Psychology Department
Friday, March 27, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
Teaching Star Wars: Culture, Politics, and Economics
Star Wars is a multi-billion-dollar franchise that spans multiple generations, nation-states, media forms, and social platforms. The ever-expanding, multi-media empire includes movies, novels, toys, comic books, video games, television shows, theme parks, fan fiction, podcasts, and cosplay. Taking a multidisciplinary approach, this seminar studies how multiple media, modes, and genres contribute to the narrative world-building of Star Wars, and how this fictional galaxy is informed by wider historical, political, and economic processes from the late 1970s to the present.
Ryan Poll, English Department
Friday, April 17, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: New Perspectives on Old Debates
This seminar will focus on a phenomenon that bound together four continents, brutally affected millions of lives, and ultimately created pathways of globalization. The trans-Atlantic slave trade has been studied intensively for decades, but new perspectives—and perhaps more important, new sources of information—have led scholars to question much of what we thought we knew. From the numbers of the enslaved, to the patterns of trade, to the large scale of African resistance, recent research has changed much of what we thought we knew. We will examine what the trade meant for Europe, Africa, and the Americas, how it came about, operated, and finally ended. It will also touch briefly on slave systems in the Americas, and the effects of the slave trade around the Atlantic.
Michael Tuck, History Department
Friday, April 24, 2020 9 a.m.-noon
Caravans and Crisis: How U.S. Interventions in Central America Contribute to the 'Crisis' on Our Southern Border
Chants of “build the wall” echo across the United States in response to the so-called crisis on the U.S./Mexico border. A flood of people from Central America seek refuge in the U.S. But why? We must look at the history of Central America and how U.S. interventions contributed to the current refugee crisis. This seminar will give you the background necessary to discuss the current situation. First we’ll examine the various U.S. interventions in the region during the first years of the 20th century, including the overt U.S. Marines’ occupation of Nicaragua and the covert CIA coup in Guatemala. Next we’ll look at the revolutionary movements in the region during the 1970s and 1980s, and U.S. responses to them. Lastly, we’ll discuss the current “crisis” and its connections to U.S. actions and policies of the last decade. There will be time for questions and discussion in each section. I will conclude by presenting some options for curriculum development.
Richard Grossman, History Department
Friday, May 1, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
How to be a Macho or a Vieja in Latin America
When exposed to authentic cultural products from Latin America, students often ask about stereotyped and/or exaggerated portrayals of masculinities and femininities. This seminar will analyze portrayals of male and female characters in social media, recent TV shows, and soap operas from Latin America. It aims to help teachers to explore strategies for use incorporating recent Latin American cultural production into the high school curriculum in an age-appropriate way that can be useful for opening classroom conversations, to approach them in an age-appropriate way, and to open conversations about issues of gender equity and ethnic stereotypes. Educators teaching advanced levels of Spanish and/or AP courses, as well as Social Studies or History, are encouraged to participate. No knowledge of Spanish required.
Dr. Catalina Rincon Bisbey, Department of World Languages, Roycemore School
Friday, May 8, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon
Re-claiming Work in American Literature and Life
Work, like sex, is a central element of the human experience. But while we reflect on sex obsessively, we don’t reflect much on the meaning and role of work in our lives. Mostly, it isn’t a central category we use for analyzing literature and culture, although studying work inevitably leads us to thinking about more prominent categories of race, class, gender, and sexuality in more complex ways. What if we began our analysis of our society and economy, our literature and culture through the lens of work—how we organize it, what it means to us, how we relate to it, how it puts us in relation to others? How might reading the works of Hawthorne, Henry James, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Tomas Rivera, and others through the lens of work generate fresh insights into our social and human conditions? This seminar will take us in these directions, reflecting on contemporary literary and cultural productions as well, such as "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," "Orange is the New Black," "Dexter," and "Mister Rogers Neighborhood." Since we all work and our students work, this seminar hopes to offer exciting possibilities for getting students to engage material in the classroom.
Tim Libretti, English Department