*Originally published in A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students (Rebus Community, Ed. Elizabeth Mays) OER, OPEN PEDAGOGY, AND THE EARLY AMERICAN LITERATURE SURVEY At the start of each semester, I write a simple maxim on the board for discussion: “all people are equally intelligent.” The underlying claim, in a paraphrased line from radical philosopher Jacques Rancière, is that any measurable differences in “intelligence” have more to do with access than with intellect. So, before course themes, content, objectives, or outcomes, I insist upon equality as a first principle and a constant practice. Then, as a group, we deliberate: what does “equal” mean in this context? How about “intelligent”? Is the claim true? How does it call upon us[…]

Last month (in March), I was asked to be interviewed for a feature in the graduation issue of Graceland’s alumni magazine, the Horizons. They needed 500 words, so, as is my habit, I gave them 1500. Below is the full, unedited version. Now that the semester (and year two on the tenure track) is wrapping up, I’m delighted to have been forced to take time out for reflection on teaching at Graceland. How long have you been teaching at Graceland, and tell me a bit about how you came to be here? This is my second year at Graceland and, thus far, I think I’ve avoided the dreaded “sophomore slump.” The Humanities Division hired me on in the spring of 2015,[…]

Among the most potent archetypes in modern American culture is the English major cum budding novelist scriptwriter turned hipster barista. A guaranteed (if lazy) punchline, that a humanities degree ensures a middling career in the food service industry is a truism served up hottest by opportunistic politicians across the spectrum. (Here’s a right-wing governor, here’s a conservative presidential candidate, oh, and here’s the president of hope and change.) Despite the discipline’s best attempts to dispel the myth of the “impractical” English major, career marketability remains a constant source of anxiety within the walls of the academy itself. The most popular majors in U.S. colleges, big and small, remain those fields with ready professional tracks–Business, Psychology, Nursing, Education, Criminal Justice–and there’s good reason for it, even if, as Natalia Cecire tweeted recently, the rationale might sometimes[…]