Diversity in the English Classroom: Global Feminist Literature

Julie M. Barst writes “Pedagogical Approaches to Diversity in the English Classroom: A Case Study of Global Feminist Literature” which contemplates the ways that expressing issues of diversity in classrooms can be challenging for instructors.  This article explains that feminism, as a study, is global in scope and that teaching the concepts strictly in English is very problematic.  The English studies classroom traditionally restricts literatures to those that have been written by the English or have an extremely close connection to the English studies. A Case Study of Global Feminist Literature provides some ideas about how we may allow for more perspectives. The example given to display the issue is of Larissa Behrendt’s book about Australia.  Barst has interviewed Larissa Behrendt about her studies in law and indigenous studies at the University of Technology in Sydney.  Behrendt states that the indigenous peoples were not a part of curriculums until about the 1990’s, and that she felt compelled to write a book about it.  Bart  teaches the contemporary novel titled Home, which is about the “stolen generations” of aboriginal children in Australia that were placed into boarding homes away from their families and then placed as servants in the homes of white families in order to be taught to assimilate.  Barst shares that “ironically the policy was called the Aborigines Protection Act,” and the instructor teaches historical contextual information informing the students about what had happened factually and how it connects to the book Home that she teaches in Australia.  She also mentions that the situation was very similar to Native American Boarding Schools in the United States.  I like this article because it gives some ideas about how we may teach global and minority feminism to our students.  When teaching Zitkala-Sa (1876-1938) , a narrative about a Native American women taken from her family and brought into a boarding school, it may be helpful to discuss the Native Aboriginal displacements in Australia as well, in order to demonstrate the scope of global feminist literature.

What I learned from the response about my Annotations comrade assignment.

My annotation assignment partner gave a lot of helpful feedback about the assignment that I had designed.   The poem was one of her favorites about activism and overcoming injustice, she said, and that let me know that this is a topic close to her heart and within her interest of studies so I felt glad that I was able to provide a material that was relevant to my audience.  My annotation partner had difficulty getting to the poem in order to make annotations on-line because I did not include a link in the post which included the assignment, and this was very important information that she shared with me because I wouldn’t want to make this mistake with future students.  Rather than ask students to look up the poem on the website, it would be far better to include the link on the assignment post.  The analysis about the poem was very thoughtful and scholarly (it was really good!) but what I was concerned with was the emotional reaction about the issues and relatability, which I did get too!  My assignment partner recognizes that minority women within feminism face another layer of oppression, and questions how feminism may be able to better encompass these issues in the future.  I think that my assignment directions may not have been clear enough because my partner was under the impression that I wished her to write a poem, which would be far too much to ask!  What I had wanted was for the future students in my class to add a poem to a class website from poems that have already been written, so that each student had posted a poem to the site that they liked, and we could then study those poems for a future assignment.  I should have been more clear about what I was asking and so I am grateful that this was brought to my attention.  My annotations partner ended the assignment by recognizing that not much has changed since the poem was written, especially with regards to women’s rights.  It would be a good idea in the future to ask students what they would like to see changed and how we might go about enacting change so that students can end the assignment with a feeling of hope and agency, which was my goal.  Thank you so much to my annotations assignment partner and to this assignment!  The lessons learned here are very valuable and will be employed in the future!

Difficulties when teaching T.S. Eliots, The Wasteland

During our class discussion of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland we were able to talk about the fact that some difficulties are presented in teaching the poem, but I’m not sure that we were able to offer a concrete solution about what should be put together. These are some of the ideas I brought in to share about teaching the poem.  Classroom discussion was very helpful in that we could bring in our opinions to see if they were well received and appropriate for teaching.  Pairing Backwards Design, Conversations with Texts, and many other class readings this would be my plan for future students to be able to experience The Wasteland. :

If we see all pieces of art as equal opportunists of expression for a moment, we could situate Elliot’s “Wasteland” between Rene Magritte’s Ceci n’est pas une pipe where the audience is given an image of a pipe and told in the same moment “This is not a pipe,” which displays the Platonic philosophy of the fallacy of representations and describes the confused nature of the world in which the people were inhabiting. Such atrocities were happening, yet not being called out as such. Following “The Wasteland,” art seems to burst out in Pollock’s dripped and flung paint on canvas which seems to deliver an expression of chaos, also describing the confused nature of the world the people were inhabiting. The modernist movement, which seems pillared by “The Wasteland” produced pieces of art that displayed the emotional tumultuousness, as well as glimmerings of hope, of the day. The disarray delivered by Pollock could be inspired by the same concepts of being that Eliot was struggling to describe.

The “Wasteland” is about a world gone wrong.

Langston Hughes writes “One-way Ticket” about how both he, and the world, needs more. He says he needs to go to another place, where all of this hate doesn’t exist. The oppression, racism, and threat to his very existence physically and metaphorically is poignantly displayed in his poem. I wonder if we could share this poem along with the “Wasteland” to show another prospective. To give another prolific writer the chance to give his first hand account and interpretation of events going on at the time.

The commonality of these works is a hope for the future. By declaring that the world is a “Wasteland” Elliot is imploring us to fix it. Hughes proclaims, “I pick up my life and take it with me and I put it down in Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Scranton, any place that is North and East – And not Dixie… I pick up my life and take it on the train…” At the end, the poem states, “I pick up my life and take it away on a one-way ticket – gone up north. Gone out west. Gone!”

Hughes encapsulates the telling of suffering, and we can say it is a reflection of the society. Out of the worst of times, some art did come. Isn’t art a glimmer of hope, which rises and rises, until it’s a burst of full-blown happiness?

My theme in teaching the “Wasteland” would be about the individual’s minds eye during America at this time. I would begin by showing the artistic pictures, from before and after Eliot, and talking about the time period in which they lived. The modernist art movement was a display of the emotions of the people and Eliot’s work contributed to defining a way in which those emotions could be displayed through art. We could discuss New Criticism. We could also discuss the responsibility that there is in art.

To end the class I would want to speak about difficulty once more. The difficulty that artists have to decipher about how they may deliver a work that will at once be widely received opposed to a work that contains only highly human moralities. Often the most famous works will contain both.

For homework, I would ask students to re-read “The Wasteland” and to choose a portion that we discussed in class that they find most compelling to post on the class forum. The students would then give an analysis of the form and content using notes from class. (Assignment 1)

We could talk about Hughes and his concise writing style. We could return to the paintings of Pollock to discuss the abstract expressionist movement. For homework, I would then ask the students to compose a stanza utilizing the gestural expressionist “drip method.” (Assignment 2)

The end of class final would allow a few choices of essay prompts. Some of the prompts would be about connecting the artistic concepts to discourse about the social constructs. (Assessment)