My Teaching Philosophy

I have extensive teaching experience at the postsecondary level in small- and mid-size classroom environments, and have consistently received outstanding teaching evaluations from faculty advisors and students. In courses ranging from introductory thematic programs, to survey courses in literature and theatre, to academic and business writing, I have established a rigorous yet accessible environment designed to maximize student involvement in the subject matter. In a society where knowledge is increasingly defined by practical, applicable, immediate skills, my primary motivation for teaching is to provide a balance to this social development. As a specialist in literary and cultural studies, I center my teaching approach around the objective of providing students access to abstract thinking, thereby formulating a deeper philosophical understanding of current cultural issues. My aim here is to demonstrate to students that the skills developed in a liberal arts course are crucial to responsible participation as global citizens, as well as to any and all post-graduate employment experience.

In all of my teaching, I endeavor to present canonical and popular texts in a light that reinforces their relevance to students’ perspectives on the world around them. Ultimately, I try to convey the passion I feel for early modern literature to students. I encourage them to take on the challenges inherent in the language of the texts, thereby achieving comprehension of the universality of theme and character. When teaching Shakespeare’s plays, I present a selection of filmed and televised adaptations (Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet 2000, Kenneth Brannagh’s As You Like It), postmodern interpretations of the texts (Margaret Atwood’s “Gertrude Talks Back”, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead), as well as cross-cultural performances (Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, Vishal Bharadwaj’s Maqbool) to demonstrate the flexibility and approachability of these texts. Whenever possible I incorporate attendance at a local production with reading of the text to emphasize the performance nature of Shakespeare’s plays. I hope to bring students to the conclusion that having a deeper understanding and knowledge of literary texts of the previous centuries will put contemporary issues in their own societies into a more global perspective.

In all classes I emphasize discourse and group work interspersed with lecture. At the beginning of term I establish that a sound ability to read and write critically is essential. I reinforce this with an introductory lesson module that requires students to demonstrate their reading and writing ability. I incorporate group research into major term assignments, wherein each group (comprised of 5-7 students) takes responsibility for presenting their results of a close, critical reading of a text as well as pertinent contextual information about the author, period, and style of a particular story. Each student is responsible for five minutes of a 30-minute group presentation. Each member of the group then submits a self/peer evaluation designed to encourage articulate, constructive criticism. Finally, each student writes an analytical essay developing one aspect of her research. I believe that new media can provide a valuable enhancement to liberal arts curricula, and my pedagogical approach incorporates a variety of media elements (including blogs, wikis, Twitter, and numerous humanities computing tools) into my curricula.

ENGLISH 1102 (Spring 2011)

Lights, Camera ... Murder!

(Sections P6, E6, M3)

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the introduction of film and film culture created a symbiosis between technology and entertainment that changed American (and world) society forever. In this course we examine the early days of Hollywood when Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Valentino and the Keystone Kops ruled the screen. In addition to a critical analysis of the elements of film-making, we address technological and sociological issues that made the film industry possible and irrevocably changed the way we relate to media. We consider how a sleepy little citrus-growing retirement community in southern California became a massive center of industry within ten short years. We contemplate what made silent films so popular on an international scale, with a near universal appeal that has not been equalled since. We examine how the movie studios reinvented the identities of movie stars and worked with the press to actively alter the audience’s sense of what was real and authentic. Over the course of the term we watch excerpts of a variety of films from the silent era and read books and articles about the early years of the film industry in an effort to better understand how it affected and was affected by developments in American and world society.

The course culminates with a unique research project concerning a spectacular real life crime that rocked early Hollywood. In 1922 William Desmond Taylor, a popular film director, was murdered in his home under questionable circumstances. Many famous film actors and actresses were implicated in the investigation, and the press and US government used Taylor's murder to demand reform of sinful, scandalous Hollywood. But despite the identification of over 300 suspects and a worldwide manhunt, the murderer was never discovered. Together we use social networking tools (such as wikis, blogs, podcasts, digital video, etc.) to gather facts about the murder, sort through suspects, motives and alibis, and present our own theories of who killed William Desmond Taylor. Students develop and produce these theories as silent films, games, virtual re-enactments, or other interactive presentations.

ENGLISH 2400 (Spring 2011)

Introduction to Media Studies

Intro to Media Studies: This course offers an introduction to the historical development and cultural impact of various forms of media - print, radio, television, film, and interactive electronic applications. It will focus on three main aspects: an introduction to theoretical concepts in media studies through seminal essays, a historical survey of different forms of media, and analytical strategies to study and discuss media texts. These class components will work in tandem to help us understand how media shapes cultures, and how culture shapes media.

Taking advantage of the opportunity to examine the role played by media (and in particular social media) in Egypt and surrounding Middle Eastern countries, the class is taking part in a discourse on events happening in "hyper-real time". Without any idea of how this situation will play out in Egypt and beyond, the only way to approach this idea is by creating a "flash" case study that evolves along with events and media coverage of those events. By using the case study approach, I ask my students to consider questions of credibility, authority, bias, and effective communication methods. They examine ideas pertaining to mediation and remediation. We discuss what happens when a government attempts to cut off media outlets of its citizens, and how social networking tools (such as Speak To Tweet) are creating a narrative of the unrest in Egypt. We debate questions of ethics in terms of media coverage of such an action. Students wil read a combination of appropriate chapters from their textbook, Media and Culture, news reports, theoretical pieces, and social network feeds. They participate in an ongoing blog and twitter stream through which they learn to articulate and evaluate what they are observing. They take part in a series of formal in-class debates keyed to questions of ethics and technological benefits. They are visited by guest lecturers - Brittain Fellows who are interested and expert in a variety of the aspects of the topic. They also have input into the types of in-class activities and assignments they undertake. The section concludes with a multimodal midterm project geared to synthesize the work they have done in class.

ENGLISH 1101 (Fall 2010)

The Cult(ure) of Celebrity - Developing a Discourse.

(Sections E4, G5, P5)

In this section of 1101, we focused on American society’s apparently insatiable appetite for celebrity gossip, as well as the blurred line between what is “news” and what is “entertainment”. Through an ongoing rhetorical examination of figures and narratives from the entertainment and sports industries, as well as politicians and other noted persons, we as a class began to establish our own “credibility scale” for the information that seems to bombard us from all sides. Our readings in the course text Critical Theories of Mass Media: Then and Now, as well as a series of recent scholarly articles from the disciplines of literature, behavioral science, and culture, media and gender studies, assisted us as we addressed issues of authority and authenticity, and we asked one another and ourselves how we can become more responsible participants in the transmission of all of this information. We also looked back at previous generations’ experiences with celebrity culture in an effort to determine whether we in the twenty-first century are particularly affected by “infotainment”, or if there is actually some sort of ongoing human need for this type of discourse. We read, viewed, wrote about, discussed, and (most importantly) analyzed recent and current media stories with which the class was interested and by which they are affected. Throughout the course, they produced a variety of multimodal artifacts. Theyd regularly contribute to a class blog that tracked these stories as they occurred over the fall term. They also worked in small groups to present final projects using one of a variety of media platforms (including but definitely not limited to: podcasts, mash-up videos, word cloud textual analyses, comic strips, etc.). These projects represented their culminating perspectives on the relative importance and influence that mainstream media can wield.