Reading to Listen and Writing to Speak: A Pedagogical Challenge for the Selfie Age


School of Humanities and Social Sciences

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A "turf war between literature and composition" has been waged for decades now in English departments across the country, reflecting academe's broader reprioritization of professional skills over the liberal arts.1 On one side, we typically see traditionally trained Ph.D.s in literature who continue to teach close reading and theoretical approaches to literary texts from neatly demarcated eras (such as the Middle Ages for British Lit folks, or modernism for Americanists), to a dwindling number of English majors.2 On the other side are scholars of Rhetoric and Composition ("rhet-comp"), along with a contingent of adjunct instructors, who teach primarily First-Year Writing and other so-called service courses that sharpen the writing and critical thinking skills of the university's diverse population. At a moment in higher education when students' (and their parents') "return-on-investment" (ROI) is of utmost importance-when they are paying a higher and higher price for degrees they hope and need to channel into professional success and financial stability4-English departments feel a weighty responsibility to teach the specific skills that employers demand: namely, critical thinking and written communication.5 Moreover, at a moment when "diversity" is rightly valued but often lacking or misunderstanding on our campuses, we increasingly work to foreground students' perspectives by cultivating their abilities to tell their stories in their own voices. [...]I argue for the value of reading, and of teaching reading-as-listening, apart from the expressive skill of writing. [...]the danger of emphasizing "writing about literature" lies in the potential for misunderstanding the purpose of our response; the danger is that every story becomes a story about the self.


Writing; Listening;Critical thinking;

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Christian Scholar's Review





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