Interdisciplinary Pedagogy: A Victorian Frontier
Dr. Paul Beidler.
The course came about when I mentioned a paper I’d recently completed on Tennyson’s The Princess. I described it as a poem about cross-dressing, and he immediately mentioned to me his on-going work on gender and mobs, in which rioting men dressed as women, and which Tennyson may have known about. We decided to build a seminar around exploring that question, and the experience has so far been quite fruitful. We built the course around a reading list.
I’ve spoken with many colleagues about team-teaching, and I’ve never heard it described as a positive experience. I’d like to report on our experience, which so far has been very positive indeed. But I’d like also to discuss the problems that we’ve encountered, and I’d like to relate those problems, and our solutions to them, to the subject under study, Victorian gender politics. Here’s a brief list of obstacles:
• Course Content. Interdisciplinary work is profoundly difficult. Students have really struggled with the different reading styles they’ve had to deal with.
• Disciplinary ideologies.
• Contradisciplinary friction. When the history guy spoke about how utterly difficult it is to form any cogent idea of “how it was back then” it became difficult for the English folks to tell why we needed historians around.
• Curricular obstacles. It was profoundly difficult to get this course through the various committees and onto the schedule. We experienced a profound suspicion of interdisciplinary work.
Here are some of our attempts to negotiate these obstacles:
• Queering the curriculum. We dealt with the problem of remuneration by running two separate courses and having them both meet in the same room.
• Gendering the disciplines. It became clear early on that English and history majors made certain assumptions about each other’s scholarly inadequacies—that was fun to see.
• Theoretical noodling. But what is serious play? We had to teach the students about that-it was new to them.
Dr. Paul Beidler (United States)
Assistant Professor of English
School of Communication and Literature
I have spent a lot of time living abroad and have devoted my academic life to interdisciplinary studies. I have mainly been interested in working between philosophy and literature and am beginning a new phase of research concentrated on gender studies.
(Virtual Presentation, English)