Cross-Disciplinary Learning and Teaching Initiative
Purpose of Initiative
Funded by the Advancing Excellence in Teaching Endowment, the purpose of this initiative is to enable faculty members to develop and participate in cross-disciplinary workshops that enhance the quality of the academic program of Whitman College.
In 2010, the Committee of Division Chairs prepared the academic planning document, Building on Excellence, in which it was noted that "the capacity to draw connections between apparently discrete domains of knowledge and experience" is one of the distinguishing features of a liberal arts education. Cultivating "webs of connections among established departments and other key elements of the academic program" is central to this goal. The CDLTI initiative is intended to facilitate this effort.
Maria Lux, Coordinator (Art); Jakobina Arch (History); Eunice Blavascunas (Anthropology and Environmental Studies); Zachary Campbell (Film and Media Studies); Eva Hoffman (German and Gender/Women's studies); Adeline Rother (General Studies and Foreign Languages and Literatures); Ana Maria Spagna (English).
Animals and the Future Report - Lux Workshop
Janis Breckenridge, Coordinator (Spanish); Tom Armstrong (Psychology); Daniel Forbes (Sheehan Gallery); Michelle Jenkins (Philosophy); Lydia McDermott (General Studies/Writing Center); and Jenna Terry (English/General Studies). Report - Breckenridge Workshop
Disability Studies and the Ethics of Representation: Theoretical, Discursive and Aesthetic Approaches to Physical and Mental Impairments
Description: Emerging in the 1980s, disability studies remains a broad, multi-disciplinary field that examines disability as a social construct. Always and already at the intersection of the humanities, sciences and social sciences, disability studies further engages the intersectionality of ethnicity, race, class, gender and sexuality. This CDLTI aims to explore a range of interdisciplinary, rhetorical and aesthetic approaches to disability studies, with an emphasis on the application of theoretical and discursive foundations to literature, graphic novels and the arts. The workshop opens with a roundtable session in which each participant leads discussion of seminal articles (read by all). This session will introduce the field and lay out central questions that to be explored throughout the workshop. We will then examine diverse textual and visual media in areas that include addiction, autism, Alzheimer's, visuality and the body. The primary goal of this faculty workshop is to study diverse trends in the vast field of disability studies through close analysis of leading schools of thought, major critical voices and contemporary practices in literature and the arts.
Participants represent seven distinct programs or academic departments (Spanish, Rhetoric, English, Philosophy, Psychology, General Studies and Studio Art/Sheehan Gallery) from both Division I and Division II. Our first meeting will take the form of a roundtable in which each participant will lead discussion of a foundational essay or chapter that will have been read by everyone. Six additional meetings will be led in turn by each member of the group, who will guide discussion of their selected text. Motivated by our desire to more fully and competently incorporate this field of enquiry and body of literature not only into our research but also into our teaching, each session will include both scholarly and pedagogical implications of the material under study, highlighting methods of applying the materials to diverse classroom settings.
John Stratton, Coordinator (Computer Science); Frank Dunnivant (Chemistry); Moira Gresham (Physics); Marian Manic (Economics); Fred Moore (Physics); Dalia Rokhsana (Chemistry); and Albert Schueller (Mathematics). Report - Stratton Workshop
Computer Simulation as a Research and Teaching Tool at Whitman
Description: Computer Simulation has become an important method for exploring and understanding physical and social systems. When coupled with robust data analysis and visualization, it becomes a powerful mechanism for conducting teaching and research experiments that would otherwise be ethically, economically, or technologically impossible to conduct in the physical world. It is also inherently interdisciplinary, as it always involves at least two areas of knowledge: computing informs the principles and methods of constructing a simulation, while the field of application provides appropriate models of the system of interest in a way that can be meaningfully and accurately simulated. Currently, simulation is used in a variety of ways across many different disciplines at Whitman. It is used in the research of current Whitman faculty members in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, Economics and Computer Science. It is incorporated into many student projects, as suggested by the increased number of projects at the Whitman Undergraduate Conference incorporating simulation. This workshop will bring faculty from several fields together to discuss what kinds of computer simulation methods are currently used. The workshop will provide us inspiration to further develop our own and our students' abilities to use these tools. An interdisciplinary discussion will allow us to expand our knowledge of the kinds of problems computer simulations can solve, and deepen our understanding of the common principles underlying all computer simulations. From this, we expect to see two primary outcomes; that we will be better able to equip students to engage with the interdisciplinary area of computer simulation development, and that we will acquire new ideas for how computer simulations may be incorporated into our curricula to enhance student learning. It is also an opportunity to reach out to the nascent Computer Science program, and include it in the broader liberal arts traditions at Whitman.
Aaron Bobrow-Strain, Coordinator (Politics); Sharon Alker (English/General Studies); Melisa Casumbal-Salazar (Politics); Scott Elliott (English); Michelle Janning (Sociology); Bruce Magnusson (Politics); Lydia McDermott (General Studies/Writing Center); Suzanne Morrissey (Anthropology/Interdisciplinary Studies); and Lynn Sharp (History). Report - Bobrow-Strain Workshop
Scholarship on the Blurry Borders Between Academia, Nonfiction, and Other Ways of Writing Life
Description: This faculty workshop will explore debates, controversies, and experiments around non-normative scholarly writing form by academics and non-academics. Examples include the academic memoir, scholarly narrative nonfiction, co-authorship with research subjects, works of fiction grounded in academic scholarship, and writing by non-academics engages with scholarship in rigorous (if non-normative) ways. Particular attention will be given to considering the way that incorporating non-traditional scholarly writing into syllabi can enrich (or detract from) our classes.
Sharon Alker, Co-Coordinator (English/General Studies); Emily Jones, Co-Coordinator (German Studies & Environmental Humanities); Amy Blau (Penrose Library); Rachel George (Anthropology); Sarah Hurlburt (FLL-French); Colin Justin (WCTS); Justin Lincoln (Art); Lydia McDermott (General Studies/Writing Center); Benjamin Murphy (Penrose Library); Mike Osterman (WCTS); Nico Parmley (Spanish); Melissa Salrin (Penrose Library); and, David Sprunger (WCTS).
Thinking Digitally Alker/Jones - Workshop Report
Description: Formulating a definition of digital humanities is no easy feat. Scholars in the field have been struggling to synthesize the wide variety of scholarship and pedagogy that appears under that field. Elaine Gardiner and Ronald G. Musto, in The Digital Humanities: A Primer for Scholars and Students (Cambridge UP, 2015) have pointed out that in bridging the multifaceted discipline of the humanities and computer science, digital humanities seeks both to look at how digital tools can reconfigure humanities studies and to assess how the humanities can help us understand how the digital is transforming our comprehension of ourselves, our modes of expression, our morality and aesthetics. This project aims to engage faculty in a variety of disciplines in an investigation into these questions and their potential to increase students' digital literacy. By starting small (planning and then initiating a two credit course) we will be able to retain quality, but the intent is to begin a project that will have a far greater influence across the college in three ways.
Daniel Forbes, Co-coordinator (Sheehan Gallery/Art); Kynde Kiefel Co-coordinator (Sheehan Gallery); Krista Gulbranson (Art History & Visual Cultural Studies); Robert Sickels (Film & Media Studies); and Jenna Terry (English/General Studies).
Walla Walla Modern: Biography, Context, and Translations Report - Forbes/Kiefel Workshop
Description: This workshop will explore the work and lives of three Walla Walla artists: Ruth Fluno, Richard Jens Rasmussen, and Jeanette Jackson Murphy. These three individuals functioned as their own exhibiting group for over a decade. They were also an important part of a larger, vibrant creative community during the 1950s and 60s, their work reflecting local, regional, and global art movements. Fluno, Rasmussen, and Murphy all left their artistic fingerprints on the Walla Walla and Whitman College communities through their visual artwork and writings, which remains visible in Whitman's collections, classrooms, and campus mythology.
The workshop aims to answer the following questions: Why do the lives of these three artists still hold such fascination? What is the cultural context inside which each of these artists operated and how did it affect their work and their teaching? In what ways did gender expectation, mental eccentricities, and shifts in belief manifest in their art? How do these three artist fit into the larger movements of their time and the present? How best might we translate these artists' lives and creations into a multi-media gallery display, as well as into Whitman College curriculum?
The group will utilize texts such as The Lure of the Local by Lucy Lippard, Gendered: Art and Feminist Theory by Tal Dekel, Feeling Modern: The Eccentricities of Public Life by Justus Nieland and Technologies of History: Visual Media and the Eccentricity of the Past (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture) by Steve F. Anderson. In considering Ruth Fluno, the group will also examine the biographies and works of Diane Arbus, Sylvia Plath, and Adrian Rich, as well as articles such as ‘The Exploration of Identity through Self-Portraiture' and ‘Feminism and Portraiture'.
The work from the Walla Walla Modern CDLTI will manifest during the Fall Semester of 2016, with faculty group members utilizing this workshop for their own courses in a variety of ways. Krista Gulbransen's AHVCS students will engage in assignments centered around the Sheehan Gallery's Walla Walla Modern October 2016 exhibition, creating their own virtual exhibitions inspired by the work on display. Jenna Terry's English and/or Encounters students will analyze the writings of Fluno in relation to her artwork and feminism. Robert Sickels documentary collaboration with former Whitman student, Evan Martin, about Fluno, Rasmussen, and Murphy will be assigned to his Film & Media Studies students as an example of biographical documentary, in conjunction with the analysis of other films on the lives of artists. Daniel Forbes will use Walla Walla Modern with his foundation students to illustrate the evolution of individual artistic symbolic syntax and the ways recurring themes transcend singular media expressions. Finally, Kynde Kiefel will utilize the workshop to inform the exhibition and create a catalogue and website featuring the work of Ruth. This CDLTI and resulting exhibition will offer not only cross-disciplinary, but cross-community learning opportunities, serving Whitman campus, as well as Walla Walla Community College, Walla Walla University, Walla Walla Public Schools, and Picture Lab.
Kisha Schlegel, Co-coordinator (English); Lisa Uddin, Co-coordinator (Art History & Visual Cultural Studies); Emily Jones (German Studies & Environmental Humanities); Adeline Rother (General Studies and Foreign Language & Literature-French); Jakobina Arch (History); Rebecca Hanrahan (Philosophy) and Hilary Lease (Biology). Report - Schlegel/Uddin Workshop
Description: "Thinking Animals" addresses how nonhuman animals can be understood and incorporated into scholarly disciplines and creative practices that are traditionally the domain of human questions, concerns, and capacities. The emergent field of animal studies, along with more established areas like the environmental humanities, nonhuman geography, and critical race studies, have placed considerable pressure on the autonomy and stability of the "human" vis-a-vis that which is designated as beastly, wild, nonhuman, more-than-human, or otherwise animal. This group seeks to engage and elaborate on these pressures by creating a space for faculty to explore the relationship between animals and humans across disciplines.
These discussions will allow faculty members to create informed and innovative lesson plans and course materials that address these cross-disciplinary concerns. For instance, Jessica Cerullo intends to incorporate animal studies into her movement class. Emily Jones will develop a class on animals in German thought and literature. Kisha Schlegel intends to use animal/human histories to contextualize the literature in her ENGL 181 "Humanimal" class (first taught in Fall 2014). Hilary Lease intends to incorporate lessons on the interconnectedness of humans and animals. Adeline Rother will develop a thematic thread involving the literature of animals, which she will use if given the opportunity to teach "Introductory Studies in French Literature." Rebecca Hanrahan will teach a class in the spring of 2016 on Animals and Philosophy.
Janis Breckenridge, Coordinator (Spanish); Tarik Elseewi (Film and Media Studies); Matt Reynolds (Art History & Visual Cultural Studies); Libby Miller (General Studies); and Andrew Culp (Rhetoric Studies).
Visual Literacies Report - Breckenridge Workshop
Description: This collective enquiry explores a range of multidisciplinary, rhetorical and aesthetic approaches to visual literacy, with an emphasis on critical analysis of graphic novels, photography, paintings and film. The workshop opens by studying generalized critiques of modes of perceptions (Sousanis, selections from the Visual Cultures Reader) and affect theory (Berlant). We then undertake sustained engagement with prominent philosophical and theoretical approximations to political, social and cultural dimensions of visual media especially in times of crisis such as warfare, political upheaval and major cultural shifts (Crary, Ranciere, Virilio, Butler).
Participants in this workshop include five faculty members representing four academic departments (Spanish, Film & Media Studies, Art History and Rhetoric Studies). Five meetings will be led in turn by each member of the group, who will introduce and then foster discussion of their selected text. A sixth and final session will take the form of a roundtable in which supplemental readings will foster reflections on our collaborative cross-disciplinary workshop as well as the deliberate exploration of points of intersection between our individual teaching and research endeavors.
The goals of this faculty workshop include exploring diverse trends in the vast field of visual literacy through close analysis of leading schools of thought, major critical voices and contemporary approaches to visual studies. Motivated by the desire to more fully and competently incorporate visual literacy into my Spanish literature courses (and specifically to inform the creation of a visual literacy seminar to be offered in fall 2015, Memorias visuales/Visual Memories), weekly discussions will highlight methods of applying material under study to the classroom setting. Additionally, we will explore ways to integrate our respective areas of expertise across campus following the workshop such as participation in each others' classrooms, the possibility of team-taught courses, and collectively inviting scholars or artists to campus.
Melissa Salrin, Co-coordinator (Library); Sarah Davies, Co-coordinator (History); Bob Carson (Geology/Environmental Studies); Nico Parmley (Spanish); Kynde Kiefel (Sheehan Gallery); Krista Gulbransen (AHVCS); James Warren (General Studies); Rogers Miles (Religion); and Laura Ferguson (History). Report - Salrin/Davies Workshop
Beyond A Cabinet of Curiosities: A Pedagogical Investigation of College Collections
Description: This workshop engages the unique challenges and opportunities of teaching with college collections. While some faculty members use paintings, photographs, realia, and manuscripts to great effect in their teaching, many members our campus community remain unaware of the depth and breadth of our holdings. We believe a sustained, focused investigation of our collections will not only amplify their use in the curriculum across campus but it will be a preliminary step toward developing institutional awareness of the ethics and legacies of housing such collections. In turn, dialogue with faculty will also enable staff members charged with caring and developing these collections to development policies that are more beneficial to the larger educational goals of the college.
Our work will be hands-on. We'd like to tour our collections, share assignments we have designed, and look for opportunities to incorporate material culture objects in other courses. We also seek to make the practice of collecting/archiving an object of investigation. Our syllabus will include selections from King, Collections of Nothin Anderson, Reinventing the Museum: The Evolving Conversation on the Paradigm Shift; Silverman, The Social Work Museums; Turkle, Evocative Objects: Things We Think With; and Moist and Banash, eds., Contemporary Collecting Objects, Practices, and the Fates of Things. Selected readings will ground our work in larger conversations about teaching and the role of museums/archives in higher education.
The workshop aims to answer the following broad questions: What is the genealogy of collections and collecting practices of Whitman College? What are the ethical considerations of retaining and teaching with objects that may has particular meanings attached to them by their original owners or communities? How can an investigation of collections help us to consider larger themes of inclusion/exclusion?
Elyse Semerdjian, Coordinator (History); Matt deTar (Rhetoric); Daniel Forbes (Sheehan Gallery); Elizabeth Miller (General Studies); Suzanne Morrissey (Anthropology/Interdisciplinary Studies); Jason Pribilsky (Anthropology/Interdisciplinary Studies); David Schulz (Communications); and Jonathan Walters (Religion). Report - Semerdjian Workshop
Orientalism, Photography, and Human Zoos: A Cross-Disciplinary Conversation with the Adnan Charara Collection
Description: We will be reading scholarship on photography, Orientalism, and human zoos with a group of faculty who are interested in working with the Adnan Charara Collection of ethnographic photographs housed at Whitman from 2014-2016.
Devon Wootten, Co-Coordinator (General Studies); Nicole Pietrantoni, Co-Coordinator (Art); Jessica Cerrulo (Theatre); Renee Archibald (Dance); Justin Lincoln (Art); Paul Luongo (Music); and Kisha Schlegel (English). Report - Wootten/Pietrantoni Workshop
Navigating the Intuitive: The Pedagogy of Creativity
This workshop engages the unique challenges and opportunities of teaching the creative arts. Unlike more traditional academic disciplines, in which the criteria of mastery are well-articulated, the creative arts - whether dance, music, acting, visual art, or language - often struggle to justify their conceptual, practical, and pedagogical rigor. This workshop will examine primary texts in a variety of disciplines as well as secondary theoretical texts with an eye toward understanding the terms, concepts, and practices that animate our professional and pedagogical engagements with the creative arts.
Our project necessitates a cross-disciplinary approach. Our investigation into the pedagogy of creativity benefits from the contributions of a wide variety of practitioners. Workshop participants include studio artists Nicole Pietrantoni and Justin Lincoln, dancer and choreography Renée Archibald, composer Paul Luongo, actor and director Jessica Cerullo, and writers Kisha Schlegel and Devon Wootten. Our provisional syllabus includes works from Beethoven, the conceptual writing of Kenneth Goldsmith, performance from Ernesto Pujol, as well as texts that address improvisation, the pedagogical value of failure, student motivation, empathy, and possible strategies for the evaluation of art.
The workshop aims to answer the following broad questions: What are the unique challenges and opportunities involved in the teaching of creativity? What pedagogical strategies are available to us and how can these strategies facilitate student success in- and outside of the classroom? How can our own creative practices inform and enrich our students' creative engagement with the world? And finally, how can we conceptualize creativity within the context of a liberal arts education?
Janis Breckenridge, Coordinator (Spanish); Daniel Forbes (Sheehan Gallery); Kynde Kiefel (Sheehan Gallery); Justin Lincoln (Art); Sarah Hurlburt (FLL-French); and, Nicole Pietrantoni (Art). Report - Breckenridge Workshop
The Art and Architecture of Visual Narration
Graphic novels-hybrid literary and visual texts engaging diverse themes of historical, social and aesthetic import-readily lend themselves to cross-disciplinary study. This workshop, which builds upon a 2012 CDLTI on the art of storytelling and the teaching of graphic texts (narrative and pedagogy), intends to focus upon the artistic innovations of these hybrid works. We will study wordless texts, non-traditional graphic novel formats and comic exhibitions on gallery walls together with theoretical/secondary texts on comic composition, page layout and the art of graphic novel design more broadly.
Workshop participants include four faculty members representing three academic departments (Spanish, Foreign Languages and Literatures and Studio Art) together with Daniel Forbes and Kynde Kiefel of the Sheehan Gallery. We propose to examine visual storytelling through the wordless masterpieces of Lynd Ward and Frans Masereel; through diverse deconstructions of the book format with Guillermo López Peña's Codex Espangliensis, Pascal Rabaté's Fenêtres sur rue, matinées, soirées and Chris Ware's. Building Stories; through David Mazzucchelli's highly stylized masterpiece Asterios Polyp and through Dylan Edward's questioning traditional gender and genre spectrums in Transposes. The final session--a roundtable in which each participant will present on a particular artist, exhibit or museum--will focus specifically on gallery exhibitions of comic artists as a way of looking ahead to the Fall 2016 Sheehan Gallery graphic novel exhibition.
The goals of this faculty workshop include becoming familiar with the rich and varied forms of this hybrid literary/artistic medium, engaging in close analysis how visual imagery and verbal text interact and examining various ways in which these artistic texts have been displayed on gallery walls. Following this workshop, participants intend to incorporate graphic novels and comic theory into their teaching, their portfolios, their repertoire and/or their scholarship.
Shampa Biswas, Coordinator (Politics); Melisa Casumbal (Politics); Lydia McDermott (General Studies/Writing Center); Suzanne Morrissey (Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies); Katrina Roberts (English); and Elyse Semerdjian (History). Report - Biswas Workshop
Writing the Self: Incorporating Autoethnography across Disciplines
Description: The aim of this workshop is to explore the integration of self-reflective writing into courses in ways that push students' personal boundaries, but are also rigorous and intellectually challenging. We all come from different disciplines and teach very different kinds of courses, but have all struggled with the question of how to incorporate "the subjective" into our pedagogy in ways that don't lapse into strings of random anecdotes, but instead help draw out the larger social and political import of student self-reflections (for brief descriptions of each of our particular interests and motivations, please see attached document). The reading materials for the workshop are of two kinds (a) ones that explore "autoethnography" as method and pedagogy, and (2) works that are exemplary of the kind of narratives we are interested in generating. In addition, we will meet for extended workshops with two writers (1) Sorayya Khan (CV attached), a novelist (visit funded through the O'Donnell Visiting Educator funds) who has been working with Shampa Biswas on developing a writing assignment along similar lines (2) Everett Maroon (http://transplantportation.com/press/), whose memoir and blog routinely explore the question of writing narratives of vulnerability and intimacy in politically empowering ways. We hope to learn from each other and our two visiting writers, and generate some concrete suggestions for the use of different pedagogic techniques, the value and functions of different narrative styles, and methods and rubrics for evaluating student work in this area.
Aaron Bobrow-Strain, Co-Coordinator (Politics); Jason Pribilsky, Co-Coordinator (Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies); Scott Elliott (English); Michelle Acuff (Art); Matthew Reynolds (AHVCS); Phil Brick (Politics); and Nicole Pietrantoni (Art). Report - Bobrow-Strain Workshop
Post-Natural Histories: Geographies of Gentrification, Sacrifice, and Militarization in the Anthropocene West
Description: Our workshop, exploring intersections between the visual arts, literature, creative nonfiction, social theory, and environmental studies, seeks to understand key categories that animate each of our professional and teaching lives: "Nature," "Rural," and "the West." For more than twenty years Whitman's Environmental Studies program has excelled at place based studies of regional Nature and natural resources. As our region careens through the new millennium, however, it is clear that foundational categories of our program require radical reworking. We believe that a growing number of scholars, artists, and activists engaging with the geographies of the rural West in ways that blur the boundary between the arts and social sciences offer an exciting way forward. How can we, as scholars, writers, and artists, study, write, represent, or perform this brave "new" West?
Jan Crouter, Coordinator (Economics); Nick Bader (Geology); Ellen Bishop (Environmental Studies/Geology); Bob Carson (Geology/Environmental Studies); Alissa Cordner (Sociology); Frank Dunnivant (Chemistry); Laura Ferguson (History); and Don Snow (Environmental Humanities/General Studies). Report - Crouter Workshop
Description: The purpose of the proposed workshop is to provide its participants some background in the interdisciplinary aspects of water so that a course might be developed and taught (hopefully) in spring 2016. This course would serve as an option for Environmental Studies students seeking to fulfill the interdisciplinary requirement for the major. In addition to discussing the readings, the workshop participants will also identify interdisciplinary connections that might be exploited in a course and will consider how such a course should be taught. Please note that I anticipate the successful completion of the CDLTI workshop will be followed by an Innovation in Teaching and Learning (ITL) grant proposal.
Tim Parker, Coordinator (Biology); Nick Bader (Geology); Patrick Belanger (Rhetoric); Tim Doyle (General Studies); Moira Gresham (Physics); Christopher Leise (English); Kelly McConville (Mathematics); and Dan Vernon (Biology). Report - Parker Workshop
Inference in Science
Description: Science holds a privileged place in our society. Knowledge that can claim to be ‘scientific’ is explicitly valued by governments, many segments of the private sector, and by large portions of the public. This is rooted in the belief that something often referred to as ‘the scientific method’ exists and that it provides a uniquely robust means of building understanding of the material world. This belief plays an important role in our society, but this belief and the assumptions behind it are not widely discussed or examined. Even most scientists devote little if any time to critical examination of the ‘scientific method.’ There is certainly almost no discussion of these topics between scientific disciplines. Further, many of the academics who think most about scientific inference as a phenomenon are outside of science, and communication between those who study science and those who practice science is typically equally rare.
The goal of this workshop is to bring scientists and those outside of science concerned with problems of inference
together to discuss science as a mode of understanding the world and as an institution in society. Some of the
questions we may address include:
- Is there a monolith called ‘science’ that relies on a fundamental set of principles of inference?
- How does science generate knowledge?
- Are some scientific practices more effective than others? (Are some sciences weaker or stronger?)
- Does scientific understanding progress?
- How do scientists’ understandings of scientific inference fit with the understanding of the public?
- What role should science play in society?
- How is the public’s understanding of science manipulated for political ends?
- How does the funding of science implicitly or explicitly endorse different beliefs about the process or value of
We will address these and other questions using a series of case-studies selected by participants. We will read
primary scientific as case studies as well as literature from other disciplines to provide insights on the sorts of
questions listed above.
Zahi Zalloua, Coordinator (FLL-French ); Daniel Forbes (Sheehan Gallery); and Margarita Pignataro (Spanish). Report - Zalloua Workshop
Visual Culture and Theory
Description: Visual Culture is the cross-disciplinary study and practice of the visual. Emerging as a scholarly field in the 1990s, Visual Culture actively pursues the study of the visual in everyday life and its use in public space and discourse. The Journal of Visual Culture (Sage Publications) defines it as the critical engagement “with ways of seeing, practices of looking, regimes of vision, and the epistemological and ontological questions that both underpin and challenge our notions of the visual, and visual culture itself.”1 The Visual Cultures Program at NYU emphasizes that, “By means of cross-cultural, cross-platform and cross-temporal comparison, visual culture endeavors to create critical approaches to the convergence of war, economy, religion, the environment, technology, and other issues in globalized visual media.”2 Furthermore, as the Center for Visual Studies at the University of Madison-Wisconsin states, Visual Culture “considers visuality in a global context and attends seriously to differences.”3 Visual Culture encompasses theoretical tools derived from diverse disciplines including but not limited to: anthropology, art, art history, geography, literature, philosophy, politics, sociology, technology, etc.
This workshop is designed to promote cross-disciplinary thought, collaboration, and the continued development of cross-disciplinary pedagogies among Whitman faculty and staff whose teaching and research engages with Visual Culture and Theory. Participants include faculty and staff from both Humanities and Fine Arts disciplines, as Visual Culture is interested in both theory and praxis. We are fortunate to have the participation of the Sheehan Gallery director, as Visual Culture studies critically engage with the display and installation of artwork and objects.
The gathering of this diverse group of scholars and practitioners will advance cross-disciplinary conversations and collaborations across our disciplines. One of the goals of this workshop will be to explore future intellectual collaborations between our different Whitman departments and units and to foster more cross-disciplinary teaching and research opportunities.
The majority of the texts chosen for this workshop were published within the last six years as we want workshop participants to critically engage with the most recent scholarship in the field. The workshop will be divided into three units, each unit will be five weeks long. Participants will take turns leading discussion throughout the semester.
The first unit of the workshop (Weeks 1 to 5) will focus on texts that situate Visual Culture as an emergent field that draws from cross-disciplinary perspectives and which questions the role of the visual in everyday life. The selected readings will situate the field both globally and broadly to include studies focusing on different media and approaches. During the second unit (Weeks 6 to 10), participants will read specific Visual Culture studies that highlight key interdisciplinary theoretical approaches, including feminism, psychoanalysis, and postmodernism. In the final unit (Weeks 11 to 15), participants will analyze Visual Culture studies on specific forms of media. We will read texts that discuss the current practices and theories of photography, film, digital and new media, and installation. Finally, we will meet at the end of the 15 weeks to evaluate the workshop and provide participants with the opportunity to make final reflections on the subject and ideally develop future collaborative projects around visual culture and theory.
1 The Journal of Visual Studies Website, http://www.journalofvisualculture.org/about/
2 NYU Visual Cultures Program Website, http://www.nyu.edu/media.culture/visual.culture/
3 UW-Madison Center for Visual Cultures Website, http://www.visualculture.wisc.edu/
Jack Iverson, Coordinator (FLL-French); Susan Babilon (FLL-German Studies); Janis Breckenridge (Spanish); Donghui He (FLL-Chinese); Sarah Hurlburt (FLL-French); Julia Ireland (Philosophy); Chas McKhann (Anthropology); Lisa Perfetti (Associate Dean of the Faculty); Jason Pribilsky (Anthropology); and Jon Walters (Religion). Report - Iverson Workshop
Languages Across the Campus
Description: At a time when Whitman College has strengthened and reaffirmed its commitment to the teaching of foreign languages (with recent hires in Chinese and Japanese and an anticipated search in German), and as the College continues to place heavy emphasis on internationalization and global studies, it seems vital to engage in a sustained reflection on the role of language study and the study of language in the broader educational experience of our students as an issue that holds great interest for the institution as a whole (and not only for the departments in which foreign languages are taught). This cross-disciplinary workshop will bring together faculty members who have an interest in the study of language, drawing from a broad range of departments. While the workshop will not aim specifically to develop a curricular proposal, we will nevertheless work with a close eye to the benefits of increasing the study of language on our campus and the modalities that might be used to achieve that goal. To pursue these two targets, we will begin with a reflection on the benefits of language study, focusing specifically on two areas that are currently receiving considerable attention in academic circles—bilingual education and trends toward internationalization. We will subsequently address proposals and initiatives that are transforming the role of foreign languages in academia broadly and that might be integrated in our work at Whitman College. Among these, the important 2007 report from the Modern Languages Association, "New Structures for a Changed World" has generated a number of thoughtful responses. Also, "Languages Across the Curriculum" initiatives continue to make headway on a number campuses nation-wide, with several remarkably success programs in place. Finally, we will think more narrowly about how the study of language on our campus might be enhanced by focusing on several specific areas, including off-campus study, the admissions process, technology, and support for languages that are not commonly taught on our campus.
Janis Breckenridge, Coordinator (Spanish); Dalia Corkrum (Penrose Library); Sarah Hurlburt (FLL-French); Chris Leise (English); Justin Lincoln (Studio Art); Katrina Roberts (English); and Elyse Semerdjian (History). Report - Breckenridge Workshop
The Art of Storytelling and the Teaching of Graphic Texts
Graphic novels—hybrid literary and visual texts engaging diverse themes of historical, social and aesthetic import—readily lend themselves to cross-disciplinary study. This workshop aims to study a cross-cultural set of innovative and socially committed graphic texts.
This workshop is composed of six faculty members representing five distinct departments (Spanish, Foreign Languages and Literatures, English, Studio Art, and History) together with Dalia Corkrum, College Librarian. We propose to engage in a cross-disciplinary study of contemporary graphic novels that address such topics as self-consciously representing the Holocaust in comic format, employing techniques of the mystery novel to trace racial identity in America in the 1930s, drawing on oral testimony to uncover genocide in the Middle East, rendering a graphic exposé of the uses and misuses of the creative arts, combining literary realism with comic art, and creating genre-bending illustrated poetry. Dalia will serve as a resource person throughout the workshop, providing information about the historical development of the graphic novel as a genre and its acceptance within literary, library and academic circles. The final session will focus specifically on pedagogical issues related to the successful presentation of graphic novels in the classroom.
The goals of this faculty workshop include becoming familiar with the rich and multicultural history of this hybrid literary/artistic form, engaging in close analysis of the many ways in which visual imagery and verbal text interact, and discussing cross-disciplinary approaches to teaching these complex texts. Following this workshop, participants intend to incorporate graphic novels and comic theory into their teaching, their portfolios, and/or their scholarship.
Mitch Clearfield, Coordinator (Philosophy); Pavel Blagov (Psychology); Keith Farrington (Sociology); Gilbert Mireles (Sociology); and Pete Parcells (Economics).
Theories of Crime and Punishment
While rough definitions of crime and punishment are easy enough to compose (crime is a certain kind of violation of the law; punishment is a certain kind of state-imposed hardship on the perpetrator of a crime), significant academic debates exist about nearly every issue surrounding those rough definitions: What is the nature and origin of the distinction between criminal and non-criminal behavior? Why do people commit crimes? How should the state view criminals, crimes, and the causes of crimes? What are the effects of state punishment? What are, and what should be, its purpose(s)?
These questions are addressed in different but overlapping ways by the disciplines represented in this proposal:
- Psychology: How do psychologists explain the etiology and maintenance of antisocial behavior, particularly the kind of chronic, versatile, and highly destructive criminal behavior associated with antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy? How do psychologists define “punishment,” and why do they generally consider it to be ineffective? How do psychologists in correctional settings evaluate the rehabilitation and treatment needs of inmates? What are the (a) behavioral and (b) cognitive mechanisms of change that psychologists usually employ when designing programs for correction? What do mental health courts contribute to rehabilitation as an alternative to the “traditional” correctional system?
- Sociology: Much like the field of Psychology, the discipline of Sociology is very concerned with the question of why exactly certain individuals, as well as certain groups and types of individuals, have higher propensities to violate criminal norms and thus participate in criminal behavior. It is also concerned with the related questions of how and why specific societies are led to punish or otherwise deal with these criminal actors in various ways, and how effective (or not) these various forms of societal reaction are (a) in punishing individuals for their indiscretions; (b) “curing” or otherwise preventing these individuals (and others who may be similarly motivated) from participating in similar actions in the future; and (c) maintaining acceptable levels of safety from crime in society. A particular theme to be pursued in this workshop is that of “marginality” as it relates to the differential labeling and systemic punishment of the members of our society – i.e., marginality by race and class, marginality by age status, marginality by gender, and marginality by mental health status. Economics: Economics is about incentives which are necessary when there are unlimited wants and limited resources. Punishment is one of the incentives used to provide those (all) with limited resources from fulfilling their desire for unlimited wants. In the larger context of crime and punishment, economists tend to focus on the economic impacts (and consequently the social impacts) resulting from a society’s rules and regulations (broadly defined). In simple terms, economists define all societal actions (crime and punishment) in the context of society (and individuals) trying to maximize benefits and minimizing costs. Understanding how economists view social and economic impacts and how these views explain the past, current, and future of the criminal justice system, is essential for all disciplines. Exploration of the economic perspective will demonstrate how there are not really different realities of crime and punishment across disciplines but only different (and perhaps overlapping) perspectives.
- Philosophy: Philosophers focus on normative evaluations of the system of crime and punishment. Particular attention will be paid to concerns about goal-oriented justifications such as deterrence and rehabilitation that seem to underlie much work in the social sciences. Out of those concerns, versions of retributivism will be developed, which view punishment as deserved suffering for the free choice to do break the law. Those theories will propose alternative understandings of the nature of crime and criminal responsibility, and corresponding understandings of the nature of punishment as somehow undoing or compensating for crime.
For many years, these different disciplinary perspectives on crime and punishment have been brought into informal and haphazard contact through the meetings and other activities of the Prison Research Group. If approved, this workshop would give us the opportunity to develop those interconnections in more sustained and rigorous ways. By working together through relevant readings and sharing ideas for lesson-plans, each of us could incorporate multidisciplinary perspectives into the courses about crime and punishment that we already teach (including ECON 266 – Economics of Crime & Punishment, PHIL 141 – Punishment & Responsibility, PSYC 217 – Psychology and Law, PSYC 260 – Abnormal Psychology, PSYC 270 – Personality Theories, and SOC 3XX – Sociology of Prisons & Punishment). That work could also be integrated into the senior theses and other student-projects that we supervise and the ongoing work of the Prison Research Group, enhancing the experiences of those students (and other faculty). Finally, we believe that there is a significant possibility of the development of new team-taught courses involving two or more of us, and/or of the development of other collaborative academic opportunities open to students (such as an informal reading group, Independent Study framework, or summer workshop).
Susanne Beechey, Coordinator (Politics); Helen Kim (Sociology); Nicole Simek (FLL-French); Alberto Galindo (Spanish); and Bruce Magnusson (Politics). Report - Beechey Workshop
Interdisciplinary Modes of Inquiry in Race and Ethnic Studies
Description: This reading group is composed of faculty currently involved in the Race and Ethnic Studies Program from two divisions and four departments. We seek to engage in a semester-long conversation on modes of inquiry in race and ethnic studies in order to develop a common vocabulary and intellectual background from which to grapple with the challenges of interdisciplinary work in this area. We plan to read articles on negotiating the challenges of studying race and ethnicity from cross disciplinary perspectives as well as cutting-edge and foundational work on race and ethnicity from across our respective disciplines.
The motivation for this workshop stems in part from challenges we have faced in advising and evaluating interdisciplinary thesis work in the Race and Ethnic Studies major. We hope this semester of cross-disciplinary inquiry will provide a shared foundation as we serve on senior thesis committees together and advise our thesis students. We also hope this experience will help us to conceptualize a course or course module on interdisciplinary methodologies in Race and Ethnic Studies and assist us in advising senior thesis writers and committees.
Phil Brick, Coordinator (Politics); Jan Crouter (Economics); Delbert Hutchison (Biology); Kate Shea (Environmental Humanities/Classics; Ellen Bishop (Environmental Studies/Geology); and Jason Pribilsky (Anthropology). Report - Brick Workshop
Landscape and Nature in an Era of Climate Change
Description: Our proposed workshop brings together teacher/scholars from all three divisions to explore how the prospect of climate change might be understood as an invitation to creative re-imaginings of nature, landscapes, and human interactions with natural systems. Once released from dominant climate narratives that place singular emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, how might such re-imaginings open up new metaphors for understanding nature and landscapes, climate activism, and new opportunities for creative human engagements with natural systems?
We propose a series of three on-campus seminar meetings throughout the spring semester to explore various dimensions of this question, followed by an intensive overnight field trip to Wallowa County, Oregon late in the semester, where we will work with our Whitman in the Wallowas partners at Wallowa Resources to explore ways in which new understandings of landscapes in the context of climate change are already inspiring local efforts to re-imagine local landscapes, local economies, and the local community. Thus one explicit objective of this workshop is to build cross-disciplinary instructional capacity for our Whitman in the Wallowas program both on campus and with our Wallowa County partners.
Concepts of nature, landscape, and natural systems easily invite a truly interdisciplinary conversation. The creative re-imaginings we have in mind require knowledge from the deep time of geology (Ellen Bishop), historical time (Kate Shea); a knowledge of ecological systems (Delbert Hutchison), economic systems (Jan Crouter), and political systems (Phil Brick).
Nohemy Solorzano-Thompson, Coordinator (Spanish); Janis Breckenridge (Spanish); Justin Lincoln (Art); and Malynda Poulsen-Jones (Art) Report - Solorzano-Thompson Workshop
Performance Art Studies
Description: In the 1950s and 60s, performance art in its contemporary form emerged in the West as an artistic genre composed of diverse performative acts combining different types of visual media and live drama in order to eradicate the so-called fourth wall between the actors on stage and the audience. Performance art today is defined as a politically-charged genre through which practitioners use their own bodies as the medium or object to express their artistic vision and message. Performance art, however, is not a solely Western art form nor was it “invented” in the twentieth century. The genre has a rich global tradition that spans cultures, languages, geographies, and historical periods. Recent scholarly research traces the diverse and multicultural roots of performance art through a variety of disciplinary perspectives combining the tools of literary, visual, performative, political, and ethnographic research.
The goal of this cross-disciplinary faculty workshop is to first familiarize participants with theories about performance art, its rich and multicultural history, and contemporary cross-disciplinary approaches to its study; and second, to study a set of innovative contemporary performance artists whose work spans the Western Hemisphere and promotes a transnational North/South dialogue within the Americas. Through this workshop, we hope participants will be able to incorporate performance art and theory into their teaching at Whitman and future scholarship.
Jack Iverson, Coordinator (FLL-French); Sharon Alker (English); Bob Carson (Geology); Denise Hazlett (Economics); Rogers Miles (Religion); Suzanne Morrissey (Anthropology); and Dean Snider (SSRA) Report - Iverson Workshop
Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives on Canada
Description:This workshop will bring together a broad range of faculty members in order to advance our collective knowledge of Canada and to allow us to think about how we can promote the inclusion of Canadian perspectives both in our own teaching and in that of our colleagues. We are not proselytes for a Canadian cause, but we do believe that the close proximity, both political and geographic, of Canada to the U.S. makes this nation a particularly fruitful point of international comparison in any number of areas. As prosperous, stable democracies, our two countries share a great number of things in terms of history, culture, and natural environment. And yet, at the same time, national institutions and attitudes differ in significant ways that appear immediately in almost any field of study. We anticipate that our collective reflection on these cross-border differences will lead us to better appreciate the methods and kinds of analysis that we use in our respective fields, even as we see how they can work together to sharpen our vision of the things that define and distinguish Canada. Our combined perspectives will thus contribute to a cumulative deepening of our understanding of the ways in which multiple factors, inextricably linked, define what Canada is. This workshop promises to be particularly rewarding and stimulating insofar as its participants include most of the faculty members who have done the most to sustain the nascent Canadian Studies initiative on campus over the course of the past six years. Ironically, this will be our first opportunity to meet in a sustained way as a group and to discuss our interests in depth.
Christopher Wallace, Coordinator (Biology); Rebecca Hanrahan (Philosophy); Wally Herbranson (Psychology); Doug Hundley (Math); Leena Knight (Biology); Tom Knight (Biology); Matthew Prull (Psychology); and Ginger Withers (Biology) Report - Wallace Workshop
Cross-disciplinary Analysis of Brain, Behavior and Mind
Description:Neuroscience is arguably one of the most cross-disciplinary fields today, and understanding the brain is regarded as one of the great frontiers. Although not offered as a program of major study at Whitman, it is a discipline that captures significant student interest, and a number of the faculty offer expertise in analyses of brain, behavior and mind. Here, we propose a workshop that will gather colleagues from 3 Divisions, representing Biology (L. Knight & T. Knight, Withers & Wallace), Psychology (Herbranson and Prull), Philosophy (Hanrahan) and Mathematics (Hundley) to enter each others intellectual space as we consider issues we face as we seek to reconcile the study of brain with the understanding of mind. The intended practical outcome is that each of will leave the workshop with enhanced readiness and capacity to: 1) Include to perspectives that extend, complement, or provide counterpoint to material we are already teaching, 2) As a result, enhance the links between our existing course and raise the level at which students can participate in current debates in neuroscience and 3) Establish a “web of connectivity” between colleagues as the basis for designing a potential minor in “Neural and Behavioral Science” that would involve synergy with our existing programs.
Kurt Hoffman, Coordinator (Physics); Matthew Prull (Psychology); Walter Herbranson (Psychology); Keith Farrington (Sociology); and Peter Crawford (Music) Report - Hoffman Workshop
Did you hear what I heard?: A multi-divisional conversation about the production and perception of sounds.
Description: The workshop will be an interdisciplinary discussion on the topic of sound with music being the unifying theme. We will explore disciplinary viewpoints of music: its perception, analysis, and production. Prof. Crawford will engage the subject from the point of view of creating music bottom up. As an instructor of music technology, he is well versed in combining simple sounds into complex musical compositions. Prof. Hoffman will highlight experimental techniques to break complex sounds into their simpler components. This analytic approach is often utilized in the general education course, “Sound and Music” as a way to understand the connection between the physical structure of a musical instrument and the unique sounds they produce. Professor Herbranson will focus on the neural basis of music perception and its evolutionary significance. Professor Prull will integrate cognitive perspectives to the perception of sound, speech, and music into the exchange of ideas. Finally, Prof. Farrington will introduce some sense of the cultural into this overall mosaic. For example, he will look at how exactly the cultural production of musical sound comes to take place within society, and with what gains and what losses. The multifaceted approach to the subject of music and sound represented by the participating individuals will force us to consider new ideas, new vocabulary, and new approaches. By including members of three different divisions and four traditional academic departments, we have ensured a wide open conversation that will certainly challenge our individual viewpoints.
Nadine Knight, Coordinator (English); Cynthia Croot (Theatre); Susanne Beechey (Politics); Jacqueline Woodfork (History); Brooke Vick (Psychology); and Kendra Golden (Biology) Report - Knight Workshop
The Deviant Female Form
Description: In the "deviant" female body, we find an intersection for a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary inquiry. Including faculty and staff from all three divisions, we want to examine, within and across our disciplinary borders, the very way in which certain women's bodies have also transgressed borders, both literal and metaphorical. We shall begin with the history, science, politics and performance of Sara Baartman (the so-called Hottentot Venus), who herself crossed literal borders as she was removed from present-day South Africa and put on display as a "freak" in Europe, and whose body, decried, sensationalized, and sexualized, became itself a "border" for clashing views on race, physiognomy, nationhood, and individual sovereignty. Baartman's remains were put on display for nearly a century after her death, making Baartman an excellent case study for the increased disempowerment of female bodies in the name of science and the service of public display. Moreover, Baartman, who began as an anthropological curiosity and then a scientific display, lives on in aesthetic works by Joyce Carol Oates and Suzan-Lori Parks, and in a new film.
Encompassing the medicalization, politicization, and aestheticization of the female body, our seminar seeks to share our knowledge about how women who do not fulfill "normal" standards of beauty, health, nationality, and/or race, have been treated as "deviant" beings. They become mere bodies whose existence seems to invite or require examination, publicization, and, ultimately, external control. Our goals are a new understanding of how the woman's body has been defined across time, cultures, and disciplines. This will influence content in courses such as "Sex and Gender in Anthropological Perspectives," and work toward future interdisciplinary courses: a literature/history course on "Black beauties," for example, or a politics/drama course on drag.
Christopher Leise, Coordinator (English); Allison Calhoun (Chemistry); Kay Fenimore-Smith (Education); Nina Lerman (History); Kari Norgaard (Sociology/Environmental Studies); and Matt Reynolds (Art History) Report - Leise Workshop
Plateau Indians Interdisciplinary Study Group
Description: Under the auspices of the Cross-Disciplinary Teaching and Learning Initiative, we propose to undertake a course of study that will better familiarize us with the history and contemporary issues concerning the groups of indigenous Americans known as the “Plateau Indians.” We anticipate that much of our reading and discussion will focus on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation—namely, the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla—though we will at times expand our scope to include the eastern regions of Washington and Oregon.
Structurally, we anticipate meeting twice monthly during in the spring of 2011. While will take the lead in matters administrative, we hope to foster a sense of co-directorship across the workshop-group, with a different member choosing a text, and site-visit or activity in what will be thematically paired meetings. This will help us address not only how to approach a topic from a specific disciplinary perspective, but also give us the opportunity to observe and ask questions about how to teach such material from that perspective. We intend to speak with Native leaders directly on topics, either by leading the group to the speakers‟ locations or, when more suitable, arranging visits to campus.
Given the wide array of issues comprising Native American Studies, our conversations not only lend themselves to, but necessitate, an interdisciplinary approach.
Justin Lincoln, Co-coordinator (Art); Albert Schueller, Co-coordinator (Math); Bill Bogard (Sociology); Sharon Alker (English); and Sarah Hurlburt (FLL-French) Report - Lincoln/Schueller Workshop
Computational Thinking across the Disciplines
Description: Marshall McLuhan suggested that as we shape our tools our tools shape us. In our networked world it is important to critically and creatively study this ongoing iterative process. How can we leverage the intimate relationship between our bodies, minds, and technological tools, for our selves and our students? All participants will provide insights on these relationships in their own research and teaching.
Our suggested group reader will be The New Media Reader (MIT Press) edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. All participants in the group will at times supplement the reader by providing additional materials that provide a glimpse at how these relationships come to play (or don’t) in their own research and teaching. To facilitate this process, members will also take turns leading weekly discussions.
Tim Parker, Coordinator (Biology/Environmental Studies); Jan Crouter (Economics); Frank Dunnivant (Chemistry); Bob Carson (Geology/Environmental Studies); and Nick Bader (Geology) Report - Parker Workshop
Interdisciplinary teaching in Introduction to Environmental Studies
Description: Our proposed workshop will bring together faculty from the humanities, the social sciences, and the sciences to identify and analyze important concepts at the foundation of Environmental Studies. Those of us who currently teach the class tend to organize it around environmental issues that we then explore from an interdisciplinary perspective. The workshop will be similarly arranged. We have identified a series of environmental topics. On each day that we meet we will focus on one of these topics. Prior to attending each workshop session, all participants will read a series of short pieces, suitable for ENVS-120 students, assigned by each participant. During the session we will discuss our individual disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives on the topic and work to identify concepts and information that should be part of the foundation that ENVS-120 provides for our students. At the end of the process, we should each have more sophisticated interdisciplinary perspectives on a range of environmental issues, along with improved ideas for exploring these topics with students through readings and classroom work. Although the workshop is designed around ENVS-120 (a course which between 50 and 100 Whitman students take each year), we expect the workshop to foster interdisciplinary perspectives in the teaching of any other classes (especially environmentally-oriented classes) taught by the participants.
Katrina Roberts, Coordinator (English); Michelle Acuff (Art); Don Snow (Environmental Studies); and Mare Blocker (Art) Report - Roberts Workshop
WORD/IMAGE/OBJECT/SCAPE: World, Word, Work: Translating Experience into Art through Lyric, Image & Object, In the Studio, Lab, Atelier, Field & Gallery
Description: If, as William Carlos Williams says, “Perception is the first act of the imagination,” then we should all pack up our journals, our paints and lab kits, and tromp out into the field together. What we (a group of colleagues from Studio Art, from Environmental Studies, from the Critical Art world, and from the Department of English) would like to do during the Spring term is to see with each other's eyes, to understand how inspiration happens, to translate this world and our experiences within it into new languages for ourselves and for others. We're interested in the "made thing," and the "natural thing," and how they inform one another. And we're also drawn toward discovering and comparing languages necessary to invent, to transcribe, to remember, to invoke, to define, within our own genres and those of others. Following Englehard’s ecopoetic notion that poetry is connected to the world in a way that implies responsibility, we’re invested as poets, naturalists, and artists in becoming aware of our connectivity with and distances from others, and in devising ways to expand the scope of our individual visions, thereby strengthening our ability to be engaged members of a global community. As artists, editors, and poets at heart, we’re passionate about how the personal is political, and the political personal. The creative process is by necessity cross-disciplinary, and we are hoping to formalize this engagement. We relish the possibility of inspiring conversations and sessions with colleagues similarly interested in challenging and enriching pedagogical and scholarly practices with the techniques, textures, and visions of experts and practitioners across our campus.
Melissa Wilcox, Co-coordinator (Religion/Gender Studies); Zahi Zalloua, Co-coordinator (FLL-French); Nicole Simek (FLL-French); Nohemy Solorzano-Thompson (Spanish); and Suzanne Morrissey (Anthropology) Report - Wilcox Workshop
Description: Feminist theory, and feminist studies more broadly, have developed a number of subfields over the years. One of these is masculinity studies, which critically examines the construction and representation of masculinities from a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary viewpoints. Scholars approach the study of masculinities from fields as wide-ranging as psychoanalytic theory and history, as well as literary and cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, religious studies, and political science. Furthermore, because of its location within gender studies and its heritage within feminist studies, the study of masculinities is intrinsically interdisciplinary, often drawing on the work of scholars who themselves are difficult to place within a particular disciplinary category. For these reasons, masculinity studies is especially well suited as a topic for the cross-disciplinary learning and teaching initiative. Furthermore, although there are a number of professors at Whitman who are interested in masculinities, there are few of us who teach on the topic, resulting in a lacuna in the curriculum that the Gender Studies program has itself remarked upon. We hope that this workshop will not only assist us in approaching masculinities within our research, but will also strengthen the teaching of masculinity studies at Whitman.
This workshop will focus on the multiple and contested meanings of masculinity. It asks: What are the origins of masculinity studies? What contexts does masculinity studies emerge from and respond to? That is, what perceived limitations does it seek to rectify? How does it relate to other subfields in gender studies? For example, what is its relation to feminist studies? Is the construction of the male body any more (or less) ideological than that of the female body? If not, how can we address the ideological dimensions of both bodies without simultaneously flattening their different genealogies – or, for that matter, the diversity of male bodies as inflected by race, class, sexuality, nationality, and other axes of power?
In tackling this topic, we will turn first to conceptual pieces that theorize (Western) masculinity, exploring its various meanings and deployment in a number of different disciplines as well as its relationship to feminism. We then spend three weeks on non-Western masculinities and two on gender-variant masculinities. We will conclude our workshop with a wrap-up session during which we will watch a film that is a focus of study for Nohemy Solórzano-Thompson: Amores Perros, a 2001 film by Alejandro González-Iñárritu.