My pedagogy informs my research in 19th Century American literature, and my work on Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson has deeply influenced my teaching. As Emerson advises in “The American Scholar,” I believe students must settle questions in their own minds, search to know themselves, challenge old ways of thinking, and learn from experience in the worlds to be found inside and outside of books. I view each text as a new window into our present moment, and every assignment as an exploration of multimodal expression that prepares students for the future. Read more about my digital pedagogy here.
My teaching philosophy balances backwards planning with student-driven learning, aiming to empower individual students. For example, students in my classes have: provided the starting points for discussion by posting their questions on Twitter; written their own final exam and learned the art of asking a good question in the process; and determined what texts will be on the syllabus by giving me their input. These exercises have helped foster a respectful and flexible learning environment, increased transparency and made me more approachable as an instructor, and instilled a confidence in students that assists the development of their independent critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Courses Taught with Sample Syllabi
This survey treats every early American text as containing an idea critical to the formation of American identity such that each idea is still found pervasive today. Students engage with the course content and participate in numerous ways (e.g., going on a nature walk in New York City, comparing the American Puritans to religious sects in Game of Thrones, and using BuzzFeed to get a better understanding of Moby-Dick). By the end of the semester, they have a grasp of early American life as it was lived by its founding mothers and people of color and a deep understanding of how American politics today have been shaped by the founding fathers.
This advanced topics in nineteenth-century literature course considers gender in renaissance across the nineteenth century, expanding F. O. Mattheissen’s conception of the American Renaissance to include more women authors from Catharine Maria Sedgwick to Fanny Fern. The course also examines texts that return to the period to examine the intersections of gender and race, such as bell hooks’ ain’t i a woman and Octavia Butler’s Kindred. Using a conversational method and also reviewing some of the basic practices in literary studies, this course builds off of what students know while introducing them to feminist and race theory as critical lenses for literary analysis and bridging literature to activism.
English Composition 101: “American Revolution in New York City” (Fall 2016)
This game-based course gives each student two public speaking assignments and two formal writing assignments in addition to many informal writing assignments scaffolded in between. Each student is assigned a role in the game and learns how to structure their argument-based papers to appeal to an audience they must persuade. The readings included Locke, Hume, They Say/I Say, and more. Lesson plans went over P.I.E. paragraphs, thesis-writing, ethos/pathos/logos, and tips for editing and revising drafts. The game was originally developed in the Reacting to the Past series at Barnard College and adapted to a first-level composition course at NJCU in Fall 2016.
English 220: Introduction to Writing About Literature (Spring 2017, Spring 2016, Spring 2015, Fall 2014)
This second-level composition course has a Women’s and Gender Studies theme and exposes students to writing about poetry, fiction, and drama in thesis-driven papers. The course has changed semester-to-semester, but generally begins with textual analysis and scholarly article reviews, moves to incorporating secondary sources into research-shaped papers, and cultivates independent critical thinking. The course is designed to become increasingly student-driven and collaborative as the semester progresses; for example, in Spring 2017, students wrote their own plays, they selected the reading for the fiction unit, and they wrote the discussion questions for each class using Twitter.
Women, Gender and U.S. Literature (Summer 2017)
This five-week summer seminar was an intensive reading course in women’s literature from Margaret Fuller’s Woman in the Nineteenth Century, to Octavia Butler’s science fiction novel Kindred, to Una’s graphic novel Becoming Unbecoming. Students planned the last two weeks of readings, they completed weekly reading reflections and did oral presentations in class, and they wrote thesis-based final papers at the end of term. As a result of their ability to take part in making the syllabus, students demonstrated devotion to completing the readings, understanding the historical context behind them, and pursuing arguments that they were personally invested in, bridging the gap between literary theory and activism.
Full course descriptions are available here.