Beyond WAC and Cultural Studies: The Politics of Teaching a Cross-Disciplinary, Technology-Based Course

Over the past decade, the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) and Cultural Studies movements have laid the groundwork for inter-disciplinary studies that have crossed previously uncrossable institutional boundaries in higher education. Yet, universities have been slow to challenge the industrial ideology of departmental specialization that governs academic work. In most cases, cultural studies programs have imported research from the social and hard sciences--thereby enriching literary analysis-- but have not generally drawn students to their courses from other disciplines. WAC programs have imported writing into their courses--divesting English departments as sole arbiters of writing in the institution-- but work exclusively with their own students within these newly formed writing intensive classes. While there has been some interdisciplinary information exchange among faculty and some intra-disciplinary change, century-old academic boundaries have remained fixed and basically unchallenged.

The recent emergence of the World Wide Wed and other production technologies offer, perhaps for the first time, a real challenge to these seemingly sacred disciplinary boundaries. By shifting the focus from the study of production to the production process itself, our courses have crossed over departmental boundaries. Our courses in literary production have drawn students from a wide range of disciplines, forced other departments and the university to re-examine their assumptions about interdisciplinary work, and challenged us to examine our own disciplinary constraints. This presentation will examine how courses like The Pacific Review and Literary Production build on the work of WAC and cultural studies by challenging disciplinary teaching. But, we are looking at the learning process from a radically different perspective from the compartmentalization of knowledge. Rather than assuming that students will assimilate the various strands of disciplinary knowledge in the process of taking separate classes, we begin by asking students what expertise they bring to the class and how they can incorporate their expertise into the overall project for the course. This presentation will examine the impact of this inversion on reified academic boundaries. I will recount our planning strategies, at all levels of the university--from team teaching to lab-sharing. I will look particularly at the ways these courses have helped us, our Dean, and our college to rethink the roles we all play in our institution.

Presenter: Jeffrey R. Galin


Target Audience: Intermediate

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