The class is always new, being constituted for the first time. My mood is different week to week, more confident one day and confused another. The students are changing too, the liveliest unusually quiet on Kafka and the shy energetically engaged by Kant. The text is strange—we haven’t seen anything like it this term. The lighting changes throughout the meeting. The cold weather makes our circle feel warm and comfortable, the hot weather makes it cool and calming. The class is—can be—anything.
This spirit of possibility and creativity defines my approach to teaching. I strive to create an open classroom that inspires possibility, risk, and rigor. Readings teach students to think across disciplines and between discursive frames, and assignments give students literacy in an array of expository tools—from cartographic programs to video editing software to ethnographic reports to analytic essays. My classes make use of all of the tools NYU makes available to teachers and students. I have worked with NYU students to develop an atlas of Queer New York, and have worked with faculty and library services to create the Digital Downtown, a website (under construction) dedicated to introducing students to the Downtown Collection at NYU Libraries.
I encourage students to consider the histories they bring to the work; in discussions and student projects, close-readings guide intellectual and affective responses, which are then used to illuminate the text or film. This approach enables students to contribute to longstanding debates in literary and cultural history, and it draws out the breadth of perspectives that diverse groups of students offer, enriching the classroom and the conversation.
This teaching philosophy informed my first experience as a Teaching Assistant at NYU and has shaped the Gallatin seminar I am currently teaching, “What is “the World” in World Literature?” This course surveys the history of the idea of world literature, from its inception in 19th century Germany to its use today to describe an approach to works from diverse contexts that focuses on borders, migration, translation, and circulation. The texts lead our discussions from the small to the massive—Kafka’s depictions of the tedium of maneuvering through bureaucracies, Kant’s descriptions of global peace. As our conversations unfold, we continuously expand the arena of investigation, discussing, through insightful scales of analysis, the power dynamics of the classroom, city, nation, and world; the poetry of our texts; the purpose of reading, debating, and understanding.
My hope is that students leave my courses with a mastery of the material as well as a range of theoretical and technical tools. These tools should generate enthusiasm for different methods of critical analysis that animate different aspects of a text or topic. As students complete my courses, they understand the way different discourses and interpretive models color and illuminate a text or concept in different ways. By grounding my courses in my own commitment to working across theoretical models and disciplinary divisions, I hope to impart a sense of intellectual excitement and openness.