This cluster of three courses is about the constraints and agency of individual actors in social spaces, with a particular focus on the institutional settings of colleges and prisons and the “critical spaces” that can open up within them. How might we come to voice in such spaces? How might we practice silence? What “apprenticeship in freedom” is available to us? What larger visions might activate the lives shaped by the institutions in which we live? What can we learn from the juxtaposition of colleges and prisons as institutions that pose drastically different and also interestingly parallel kinds of challenges to human beings who are in contrasting and yet also perhaps linked phases of their lives?
Arts of Resistance Courses:
Education 290: Learning in Institutional Spaces
Taught by Jody Cohen, this course considers how the institutions of schools and prisons operate as sites of learning. Beginning with an examination of the origins of educational and penitential institutions, we inquire into how these institutions both constrain and propel learning, and how human beings challenge and change their surroundings. We investigate the role of “voice”--speaking out, expressing, engaging in dialogue—in teaching and learning: In what ways can “voice” instigate understanding and even change, and how is this notion also complex and problematic? We consider official, explicit curriculae for learning, alongside implicit, even hidden curriculae; how do people inside these spaces collude with, subvert, and challenge these curriculae as they create their own agendas for learning?
English 228: The Rhetorics of Silence
This course, taught by Anne Dalke, considers silence as a rhetorical art and political act, an imaginative space and expressive power that can serve many functions, including that of opening new possibilities among us. We share our own experiences of silence, re-thinking them through the lenses of how it is explained in philosophy, enacted in classrooms, and performed by various genders, cultures and religions. Taking as our point of departure Elizabeth Ellsworth’s query, “What kind of educational project would redefine the silence of the unknowable, freeing it from…’Absence, Lack, and Fear,’ and make of that silence ‘a language of its own that changes the nature and direction of speech itself?” we situate ourselves on the margins of conventional discourse, on the edges of language, to explore a conceptual understanding of silence as a source of active transformation, a form of active resistance that challenges how social meaning is made. Possible theoretical positions and practices are drawn from philosophy, linguistics, cultural studies, feminist inquiry and religious thought; concrete applications draw on a variety of cultural expressions, including the visual language of the Deaf.
Political Science 291: Arts of Freedom
Observing political life in the early United States, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “It cannot be repeated too often: nothing is more fertile in wondrous effects than the art of being free, but nothing is harder than freedom’s apprenticeship.” What is this “art of freedom” and how can we take up “freedom’s apprenticeship”? This course, taught by Joel Schlosser, investigates questions of freedom in the contexts of democracy, oppression, and revolution. We study not just the historical meanings of freedom but also who has experienced freedom and who struggles for freedom in concrete terms. Over the course of the semester, students develop a theoretical vocabulary with which to analyze freedom in different social and political contexts, learn these concepts through their use, analyze how they function within theories of freedom, and examine how different theorists and actors understand and actualize freedom.