My teaching, mentoring, and service are animated by the recognition that differences of race, gender, sexuality, ability, opportunity, and background are an indispensable component of the classroom and the college community. Specifically, the research that grows out of my classroom practice reflects my commitment to the idea that diversity, equity, and inclusion are on-going processes that assignment design, assessment strategies, and departmental service must foster to engender a socially just culture within and beyond the university.
My book project on pathological eating in nineteenth-century literature took shape in response to a reckoning in nineteenth-century studies. From the Bigger 6 collective and the advent of Black Romanticism in studies of early nineteenth-century literary culture to the demand that scholars in the field “undiscipline” Victorian studies, nineteenth-century British literature, which has been too white for too long, must now be understood as enmeshed in the global networks of the transatlantic slave trade and British imperialism. In this respect, even when nineteenth-century texts seem to elide these trade networks, scholars of the period must uncover and reveal the ways that British literature depends on the traffic in brown and black bodies. In this way, Morbid Cravings reads canonical texts like Jane Austen’s Persuasion or Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights as embedded in global systems that depend on expansion, exploitation, and extraction imperatives. The examination of “eating disorders” in these texts, then, explores the ways characters’ expressions of desire, such as Mrs. Musgrove’s “large fat sighings” or Heathcliff’s insatiable hunger, encode appetites that depend on the circulation of goods and people. While Mrs. Musgrove’s appetites are supported by colonial conquest, Heathcliff, a racialized character, responds to the abuse he suffers as a result of his racialization through an appetite that cannot be sated. In this way, Morbid Cravings rethinks nineteenth-century literature in terms of the systems of racial and cultural supremacy that undergird it, “undisciplining” familiar texts by revealing the ways in which their appetites are embedded in histories of oppression.
Situating the book project in these terms inspired me to rethink a class on British Romanticism. As Paul Youngquist and Frances Botkin demonstrate, Romantic culture and the aesthetics to which it gives rise depend on what Paul Gilroy calls the Black Atlantic, or the system of trade in which black bodies were shipped from Africa to the Americas to extract raw materials that were then shipped back to Britain, creating an Anglo African identity defined by the hybridity of transatlantic movement and trade. The course uses the Black Atlantic as a lens through which British Romanticism might be reinterpreted, decentralizing the major Romantic authors to emphasize how texts such as Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, The History of Mary Prince, and The Woman of Colour offer counternarratives to Romantic self-reflexivity and imagination. At the same time, students consider Mary Wollstonecraft’s feminist writings, Hannah More’s abolitionist poetry, William Blake’s revolutionary prophecies, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s lectures on the slave trade, and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s radical poetics, studying the ways in which these Romantic texts critique the injustices to which Anglo African and Afro Caribbean writers of the period give voice. In this respect, students learn to understand Romanticism as a response to the exigencies of a revolutionary historical moment that helped to bring an end to the slave trade in Britain and engender a radical Black politics that still survives to this day.
In my classroom, students learn to value diversity by working collaboratively. In lieu of quizzes, students work on collaborative writing assignments. Rather than assessing individual reading comprehension, these assignments assess how well students craft written answers through conversations with one another. These assignments generate student-led discussions in which they work to include each student’s perspective in their written answers. In this way, students learn to write collectively, incorporating evidence, analysis, and arguments from all members of the class. After the class session, each student reflects individually on the process, describing his, her, or their contribution. Importantly, as Asao Inoue demonstrates, labor-based grading fosters an inclusive learning environment where student writing is assessed in relation to the work each student does as they develop writing processes. As part of my labor-based assessment strategy, students earn a grade for the writing activities through the process of reflecting on how their contributions enabled the group to generate it. As a result, students learn that diversity is a value that requires collaborative skills, listening and learning to value perspectives that may be different from their own. Currently, I am analyzing my findings from this collaborative assignment for an article about collaborative learning and antiracist assessment.
Just as labor-based grading creates more equality in the assessment of student writing, my work on the Assessment Committee at Georgia Tech is motivated by a commitment to antiracism. This spring, I led a series of workshops to help design a Student Learning Outcome dedicated to antiracism, which fellows will pilot next fall. In addition to gathering survey data from colleagues, I collated and presented the findings to the assessment committee and led a drafting workshop as we collaboratively generated outcome language. The outcome focuses on integrating student learning about their own writing processes with the idea that antiracism is an ongoing process in which students recognize their own position within systems of power as well as how these systems are embedded in historical injustices.
Just as labor-based grading creates more equality in the assessment of student writing, my work on the Assessment Committee at Georgia Tech was motivated by a commitment to antiracism. Last spring, I led a series of workshops to help design a Student Learning Outcome dedicated to antiracism. In addition to gathering survey data from colleagues, I collated and presented the findings to the assessment committee and led a drafting workshop as we collaboratively generated outcome language. The outcome focuses on integrating student learning about their own writing processes with the idea that antiracism is an ongoing process in which students learn to recognize their own position within systems of power as well as how these systems are embedded in both historical and modern injustices. Currently, the outcome appears as part of a Literature and Medicine course in which students study how nineteenth-century British literature encodes racist ideologies that are still present in medical practice today. Specifically, students learn to recognize how slavery and imperialism undergird the origins of the modern racial health gap. One assignment asks students to identify and analyze the close association of medical science and scientific racism, linking representations of “Beast Folk” in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau to contemporaneous racial pseudoscience. In turn, students contextualize the historical racism of medical science in relation to contemporary forms of injustice in medical practice. In this way, students not only recognize racism in these important historical contexts but learn that racial justice depends on challenging the systems of knowledge to which these contexts gave rise.