Philosophy

 

To teach well today a fascination with the esoteric is necessary because higher education should be a space in which students can disrobe the “known” to bare the unknown, to flirt with phobia and, of course, to touch the untouchable.  As a humanistic instructor, I take this as my first obligation: to be able to provide a safe space which is big enough to accommodate the esoteric things that my students (and I) want to explore.  By prompting students to connect learning to their personal histories I strive to show them how everything interesting is intimately allied to intellectual pursuit.  A primary interest of mine is to encourage students to be present bodies in their educational journeys.  Historically one of the most abstruse sites of query – not less because students have been encouraged to separate their minds from their bodies in academia, and particularly in the virtual classroom – the human body is the most esoteric subject for many students; as a result, it has proven an extremely effective educational platform for exploration in a variety of topics that I’ve taught, including: standardized testing in grade school, the role of sound in urban settings, the politics of growing up, photography’s influence on utopian philosophy, nineteenth-century “zombies” in post-colonial discourse, the role of doppelgangers in world fiction, and academic essay writing (to only name a few). Prompting students to reconsider themselves – as bodies with unique experiences and interests – in their favorite intellectual pursuits allows me to teach in the way that comes most naturally to me.  As a “humanistic” instructor I share my appetite for the thinking body by being in my body and inviting students to occupy their own. We each bring useful ways of reading and understanding texts to the table that foster critical thinking and creative approaches to writing in the academic genre. Valuing ourselves as academics puts people at the center of academia and continues to challenge the boundaries of education, the potential of the individual, and the possibilities for our future.  Although not every student embraces my ethos or my approach, I can say with certainty that most students leave my courses feeling as if they understand much more clearly how to merge their unique passions with their academic interests. Together, we create intellectual pleasure in the classroom. For me, pleasure has been the most esoteric thing about academia.  In my first years as a student, and then as an instructor, I struggled to find a way to “please” myself as an academic.  Pleasing the ego, pleasing my advisors, and pleasing the status quo were techniques which I was taught and learned well.  But I have always been an adventurous pupil and continued to crave the shrill sensation, the numbing private excitement, the loud throb of uncertainty that I always embraced. At first, there seemed to be a very small space for these feelings in academia. Today I understand that, for me, pleasure is the driving force of wisdom – and that academia has the capacity to hold and foster such desire.  I want my students to feel like university is a positive experience for their exploration: of self, of subject and, especially, of the esoteric that brings the two together.

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