Roundtable Discussion on educational topics

Max Bickley – General Assignment Reporter

This past week, the third in a series of four roundtable discussions was held between faculty discussing the work of English Professor Elizabeth Kalbfliesch. Kalbfleisch’s presented work is the result of months of research, and has begun to piece itself together in the form of “A humanistic philosophy or more sophisticated pursuits?: The pre-history of the canon wars,” an introduction to her larger research and future book.

The main focus of Kalbfleisch’s research is into the history surrounding what was known as the “Canon Wars.” The Canon Wars were the period during the 80s and 90s where higher education was plagued by disputes of what literature should be taught, what should be considered the “canon texts” for curriculum in the United States. Namely, the dispute was over the upkeep of the traditionalist, humanist education found within the typical texts within a Western Civ. Curriculum, or a more liberal branching out of what should be considered canon within the works.

With that in tow, the round table was overseen by Professor Troy Paddock of the history department additional members of the roundtable consisted of both English and history faculty who sat-in and conversed with one another about the subject of Kalbfleisch’s work.

“I had this idea on the backburner for the past six to seven years, and for six to eight months I have been in the history and texts about programs across the country,” said Kalbfleisch. “Really what this is about is the relationship between the writing and reading pedagogy of the time.”

In the discussion the development in educational practices in the United States was brought up. Professor Steven Larocco of the English department remarked, that almost simultaneously, if not sequentially, the development of composition programs occurred along with the Canon Wars.

“It was about this time as well that composition programs were being developed and implemented,” said Larocco, “Cornell is one example. During this same time Cornell instituted a composition program, a mandatory writing instruction, for its freshman. They took exception to this because it was saying that such a prestigious university’s students needed to be taught how to write.”

During this discussion as well, one of the larger points brought up by Professor Marie Basile McDaniel was the matter of historical contextualization. The fact that, the work and research by Kalbfleisch is the analysis of literature in a historical context, shows the intrinsic connection between the two disciplines. This fact is also mirrored in Southern’s own curriculum as in the English Major two required classes are “ENG 323: American Literature through History” and “British Literature through History, I and II.”

In closing remarks of the round table, Professor Paddock noted that the purpose of these roundtables were not only to hear the work of another faculty, but to do something greater, “It really is great to have these round tables, because it helps us create a form of scholarly community between one another.”

Photo Credit: Max Bickley – General Assignment Reporter


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