Literature, Service Learning, and the Engaged Humanities
March 21-24, 2013. Boston, MA.
As Gregory Jay points out in The Engaged Humanities, there are material and institutional barriers that discourage academics in the humanities from developing community-based programs, but there are also intellectual habits and non-collaborative traditions that interfere as well. Service learning is an excellent way to engage students and faculty in humanities-based community programming and to encourage us all to think more deeply about the value and significance of the humanities in society. Notably, though service learning has been gaining institutional support in recent years sometimes in the form of institutional mandates the humanities seem less quick to embrace this turn than the social sciences and the arts.
Furthermore, it is in the composition classroom where English programs most frequently intersect with service learning, as for decades writing pedagogies have emphasized civic engagement as a central component of a liberal arts education and writing as a direct means of civic engagement and service learning. The incorporation of civic engagement in the literary curriculum through the creation of public humanities events, participation in community humanities programming, and community-based service learning projects can be a means of revitalizing the humanities in our institutions, re-casting the value of the literary studies in relation to institutional missions, and developing new forms of student-centered learning and meaningful research.
This roundtable will bring together teacher-scholars to discuss practical strategies for community partnership development and course/project design as well as some of the surprises, challenges, and lessons learned through engaged humanities and service learning endeavors. It will also examine obstacles to meaningful engagement and open up some of the connections between the practical challenges of this work and broader philosophical issues of engaged pedagogies, the ethics of reciprocity, and the conflicting objectives within higher education today.
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