Thursday, December 03, 2015

#InclusiveSyllabus: Tips For/From Premodernists


A brief posting for academics who are thinking ahead to the next semester:

Earlier this week, Aimée Morrison and Erin Wunker (two of the co-founders and editors of the excellent blog Hook & Eye) launched an important conversation about how to incorporate a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds into any new course. Wunker proposed using the #InclusiveSyllabus hashtag to carry these discussions over to twitter.

One big challenge that medievalists (and scholars in other historically distant fields) can face is this: how do you craft an inclusive syllabus if the discipline, era, genre, topic, or field is dominated by (dead) white men? You can check out this archived #InclusiveSyllabus convo for more tips (I'll be updating it periodically as the conversation continues).


In case you're not on twitter or don't want to scroll through the tweets, I offered ten ideas with reference to teaching pre-1500 British literature (but much of these ideas apply to other fields too):

1. In each course, include least two female authors. One woman can't represent an entire gender, and it's useful for students to access to varied modes of (gendered) writing.

2. Put texts in conversation, but not necessarily by obvious "identity category." For instance, a Kempe/Mandeville juxtaposition can reveal new insights into travel writing; a Kempe/Malory pairing might consider romance conventions.

3. Even if you can't avoid a "white male" syllabus, you can still include varied scholarly perspectives: women, people of color, non-Anglo perspectives, etc.

4. Use multiple translations or editions of a work to frame varied responses to a text (works by women and men, different media, forms, generations of scholarship).

5. Find "diversity" and inclusion even within a "white male" canon. Thinking about queerness or disability, for instance, can reveal nuanced facets of authorial identity.

6. Use the anonymity of many premodern texts to question classed/gendered assumptions about authorship.

7. Premodern literary cultures are inherently collaborative; scribes, authors, readers, and translators can all be active "players" in interpretation.

8. Even a "male only" syllabus can still stress role of women as patrons, readers, audience, and scholars who shape meaning and context.

9. Present texts in multiple forms (various print editions, different kinds of media, visual art or other adaptations) to show varied modes of accessing a work or tradition.

10. Lead with and integrate women and varied perspectives throughout the syllabus, rather than grouping "diverse" perspectives at the end of the term or within special segment of the term.

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