Texts That Teach : Curriculum, Affect, and Critical Pedagogy in the Neoliberal University

McCoy, Shane. Texts That Teach : Curriculum, Affect, and Critical Pedagogy in the Neoliberal University. 2017. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

This dissertation bridges together the fields of composition studies with literary studies in order to advance a new pedagogical framework for teaching for social justice in the writing about literature classroom. Coined a pedagogy of insurgency, this pedagogical framework intends to transform how undergraduate students envision and engage social justice through literary texts. In the Introduction, I outline the core aspects of pedagogy of insurgency and how it functions as a pedagogical apparatus in the writing about literature classroom. In Chapters 1 and 2, I mobilize pedagogy of insurgency into a critical reading practice and illuminate for readers how Michelle Cliff's Abeng (1984) and Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy (1990) intervene into the common assumptions of the average American reader. In these chapters, I introduce the concept of affective counter-narratives, which, as I argue, feature subjugated knowledges and histories. With affective counter-narratives as a lens, I examine how Cliff's Abeng functions as a critique of the architects of Empire in the liberal past. Similarly, I examine how Kincaid's Lucy interrogates the rhetoric of happiness and well-being in the neoliberal present. Taken together, I conclude that affective counter-narratives in Abeng and Lucy serve as vehicles for 'winning hearts and minds' for social justice and affect readers cognitively and emotionally.

While Chapters 1 and 2 mobilize pedagogy of insurgency as a reading practice for limning affective counter-narratives in Cliff's Abeng and Kincaid's Lucy, Chapter 3 examines how pedagogy of insurgency impacts my scaffolding procedures in the writing about literature classroom. I close-read the curricula I have developed between academic years 2012 and 2015 in order to illustrate how I implement pedagogy of insurgency as a heuristic for teaching social justice in the writing about literature classroom. I examine sequencing for justice, reading for justice, 'doing genre' for justice, and writing for justice as central to my curriculum.

In Chapters 4, 5, and 6, I pivot to an empirical investigation into how pedagogy of insurgency affects undergraduate students' learning outcomes. With Kathy Charmaz (2006) constructivist grounded theory methodology for qualitative research, I offer insight into the extent to which students are transformed by my pedagogy of insurgency as they navigate contexts both within the university classroom and beyond it. My qualitative research bolsters key arguments staked in outlining my pedagogy of insurgency and how I recondition students' affective relationship to social justice. This research includes examining how students' prior knowledge and world-views affect learning about social justice in Chapter 4; how students acquire new knowledge of social justice in the classroom in Chapter 5; and how students "recontextualize" (Nowacek 2011) knowledge acquired in my courses in new contexts in Chapter 6.

To end my dissertation, I reflect on the implications of my research project and summarize for readers the revisions I have made to my curricula. Additionally, although my research takes place in FYC and sophomore literature courses at the University of Washington, I offer insight for all teacher-scholars committed to teaching for social justice. In outlining aspects of pedagogy of insurgency and its influence on close-reading and teaching practices, I do not intend for this pedagogical apparatus to be dogmatic or prescriptive in nature. Rather, I offer pedagogy of insurgency as simply one way for transforming how we might be responsive to student learning outcomes while also advancing social justice in the neoliberal university. To that end, Chapter 7 presents readers a generalized rubric for "teaching for justice" (Alexander 2005) and offers teacher-scholars outside of English departments and the Humanities suggestions for transforming students' orientations to advancing social justice.

Status of Research or Work: 
Research Type: 
Related Fields: