Rhetorical Content and Historical Context in Exploring Differences: A Transformational Pedagogy
People and cultures removed in time and place provide a safe distance in the class room to address cultural issues of race, gender, and belief systems through indirect discourse. Literary works are rich in epiphanies about cultural gaps as a source of human disaster. My proposal is inspired by the special issue of PMLA: Literatures at Large (Publications of the Modern Language Association of America) on transnational pedagogy. I will address the need and strategies for engaging students in a balancing act that explores differences as an analytical requisite for interpretation and evaluation of literary texts. This balancing act takes on new challenges when literary critics do not write about their birth cultures, yet their voices favor a transformational pedagogy across cultural boundaries, bringing continuity and contiguity to universal themes of literature. They propose new possibilities for a backward glance as well as an avant-garde approach beyond the conventional boundaries, advocating a new sensitivity to cultural differences across geopolitical contexts and beyond cultural containment. I will use examples of short fiction and poetry to demonstrate how literary analysis offers "hybrid space" to "nomadic scholars" whose balancing act engages them in discovery and innovation across conventional barriers. A transformational pedagogy values differences in the learning process by taking a cognitive approach to literary analysis and by blending the old and new into meaningful content and contexts. Literary analysis shows that denial of differences is the cause of returning to the "Same" that promotes the pedagogy of "mono-literature" as a construct of power in the existential reality of differences. Conversely, appreciative inquiry into differences portrayed in literary works can show how ignorance about issues of race, gender, and culture can lead to human tragedy.
Keywords: Literary Analysis, Birth Cultures, Transnational Pedagogy, Appreciative Inquiry, Conventional Boundaries
Dr. Mabel Deane Khawaja
Associate Professor, English Department Hampton University Hampton, VA 23668, National Council of Teachers of English, Chair of Committee on International Concerns