When the Pedagogical Becomes Political: Transgressing the Boundaries Between the Classroom and the Polis (RMMLA 2013, Vancouver)

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Paul Cook (session chair) / Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association (RMMLA) -- Vancouver, WA -- Oct. 10-12th, 2013
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Observers of all political stripes never seem to tire of reminding us just how politically polarized the US has become over the last decade. As we academics predictably continue to blame the usual suspects--round-the-clock cable “news,” a public education system under siege, the inherent tribalism of the Web and social networking--the rest of the country drifts further apart, digging in their heels and crossing their arms across their chests as if to say, “here we are, just try to reason with us.” Adding insult to injury, thanks in part to administrators’ current obsession with management theory (and, of course, revenue), even the oft-idealized, ostensibly democratic spaces of our colleges and universities are increasingly viewed through the supposedly "politically neutral," technocratic lens of neoliberal economics, thus naturalizing politics as a purely fiscal question rather than as a collective responsibility. In a word, the America of 2012 is resoundingly not the embodiment of the classical Greek ideal of the democratic polis.

Of course, teaching and learning have always been deeply political endeavors, particularly for teachers of literature, language, writing, and rhetoric. But considering the continued attacks on everything from tenure to federal loans for students, it's clear that our pedagogical lives are at the nexus of multiple political concerns even as the leaders of our colleges and universities rely on the “neutral” language of the meritocracy to depoliticize these spheres.

This Special Topic Session of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association (Vancouver, WA: Oct. 10-12th, 2013) seeks submissions that explore the boundaries between the many pedagogical uses of literature, language, writing, and rhetoric classrooms and the increasingly complex political and institutional ecologies in which we teach, work, learn, and live. We’re especially interested in submissions that push against the limits of how politics are “supposed” to be handled in the classroom, as well as explorations that seek to expose and reevaluate the boundaries of what pedagogy and teaching can do in the contemporary academy.

Submissions might follow these general critical itineraries:

 What is the role (or what should be the role) between the teaching of language, literature, writing, and rhetoric and politics?
 In what ways have the teaching of foreign languages become politicized?
 What are--or what should be--the intersections between campus activism and the teaching of literature, language, writing, or rhetoric?
 What is the role of the literature, language, writing, and rhetoric classroom in producing a politically-engaged citizenry?
 How might teaching emphasize the negotiation of difference rather than the framing of positions as such?
 What happens when the pedagogical veers into the political?
 When teaching graduate students, how does one handle institutional critique?

Deadline for abstract submissions: March 1st, 2013. Please send 250-500 word abstracts for short, 12-15 minute presentations (or "critical vignettes") to paulcook@iuk.edu.

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