Before I enrolled in the master’s program at Auburn University, I taught British Literature and Earth Science at a small, rural school in Newberry, SC. My experiences in two such seemingly-disparate fields would prove to be integral elements to my approach to teaching, learning, research, and writing. In the fall of 2017, I began working toward a master’s degree here at Auburn University. I began studying Medieval and Early Modern British literature with a special interest in critical theory, as well as material and print culture. During my time here, I have looked at all my classes through a teacher’s eyes; I continue to study and improve upon my pedagogy, and I have been provided with a variety of opportunities to engage with student learners. As I reach the end of my time as a master's candidate, I have reflected upon the courses I have taken, projects I have embarked upon, and opportunities I have had. In many ways, this ePortfolio continues to be a living document. As I pursue my doctorate here at Auburn in the fall, I look forward to many more learning and teaching opportunities—many more projects, accomplishments, and ideas to add to my professional portfolio.
Designing the ePortfolio has given me an interesting perspective on my own teaching and learning. As we travel through it together, I hope to illustrate how I have grown as a teacher and a scholar, as well as to illustrate the trajectory I see my future teaching and scholarship taking. The overall aesthetic design of my ePortfolio is minimalistic in nature. The white background, typewriter-style font, ink swirls, and quill icons are intended to convey the overall impression of an author at work, while also representing one of my central interests here at Auburn—the instruments and media of writing.
The text of the opening page is intended to give the reader a general sense of who I am, both as an educator and scholar. It also communicates a foundational element of my research and teaching: that writers communicate their worlds with their texts—that "writing is rooted in how we experience the world, both cognitively and ideologically." I believe this statement encompasses my critical interests in epistemologies, cognitive science, and cosmography. Each of these interests can work together to provide a deeply-nuanced impression of the text, its author, and the author's world. As a teacher, I believe this statement also encompasses a foundational tenet of my teaching philosophy: that metacognition, reflection, and collaboration are all essential elements to improving student writing and critical thinking skills. When students spend time thinking about thinking, listening to other voices and viewpoints, and reflecting upon both, their experience of the world and agency within it becomes richer and more deeply-contoured.
My Curriculum Vitae is the first feature of my ePortfolio that we will visit, and, in it, I illustrate my sincere commitment to both research and pedagogy. From my conference presentations in the field of pedagogy, the reader will see a scholar who has devoted nearly 10 years to learning and thinking about teaching—further evidence of my conviction in the importance of reflection, metacognition, and collaboration. The CV also looks forward somewhat in time, to my upcoming presentation at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, a demonstration of my continuing contribution to the fields of Medieval and Early Modern Studies.
Also significant here is my research assistantship during the summer of 2018 with Dr. Craig Bertolet. During my work as research assistant to Dr. Bertolet, I traced the history of structures of thought through chronicles, maps, and cosmographical diagrams, I refined my understanding of how medieval scholars viewed the natural world and beyond, and I gained valuable experience in methods of research. In addition to assisting Dr. Bertolet with his own project, I also became acquainted with a text that I would like to continue to study in the future: the romance Beves of Hampton. The paper that I will be delivering at Kalamazoo focuses on this text, and it was the direct result of the research that I did with Dr. Bertolet, combined with my own interest in cognitive studies in literature, cosmology, and epistemology.
However, the interests that I mention here and in my introduction are the direct result of a formative moment—or set of moments—that I experienced during the first seminar class that I took at Auburn: Dr. Anna Bertolet's Visual Culture and Material Rhetoric in Shakespeare's England. During my first year as a master’s student at Auburn University, while reading for this class, I ran across a scene from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, in which the servant Pisanio addresses a letter, saying, "O damned paper, black as the ink that's on thee..." (Cymbeline 3.2.28). In this scene, the letters are homologized as the feodary for the action in a gesture that underscores the substitutive role of the letter for the deed and intent. As I progressed through that course, I began to understand that the written word in Early Modern England was inextricably bound up with both its material existences as well as the act of hearing and seeing these words. I saw that these acts of writing were directly informed by material properties and cultural knowledge, and these, in turn, carried implications for the meaning-making of viewers and readers.
To further explore this idea, I engaged in an independent research project, the goal of which was to recreate these inks and dyes and to learn the scientific (and, sometimes, seemingly-magical) processes that would turn wasp galls into black ink or sheets of copper into brilliant verdigris. I wanted to gain an understanding of how Medieval and Early Modern scientists, craftsman, and writers operated in a world replete with astrological interventions, invisible spirits, and mysterious chemical attributes, each of which might have the potential to imbue an ink with sympathetic, even magical properties.
As a scholar and researcher, I see part of my methodology as investigating the materiality of texts, scribes, writing practices and the discourses surrounding them. As I continue my scholarship, I look forward to developing an improved understanding of the scribal practices that contributed to each unique Medieval text. To this end, as I pursue my doctorate at Auburn, I look forward to continuing my work with Drs. Bertolet, Bertolet, and Freidman, as well as potentially engaging in other professional development opportunities along these same interests, notably the Rare Book School and Western Michigan University’s program, The Medieval Book.
Given my interest in Early Modern and Medieval studies, I enrolled the following spring, in Dr. Craig Bertolet's seminar, Money and Material power in Late Medieval English Literature. During this class, I had the opportunity to encounter seminal texts from the Middle Ages, including one which would draw my focus for a long time afterward: The York Corpus Christi play cycles. This collection of dramatic works was fascinating to me for several reasons, most notably its insistence upon the dramatic manipulation of real time and real space. The paper is still a work in progress, as indicated by my reflective framing, but the essay allowed me an opportunity to explore two critical methodologies that I would like to work with in the future.
First, the plays' spatial and temporal organization made it an excellent candidate for applying the perspective of cognitive studies in literature, a field that I discovered in Dr. Don Wehrs’s Critical Theory course. I believe this field shows great promise in its application to Medieval and Early Modern texts. Secondly, the text also provides an opportunity for a unique look at how the modern field of Writing Studies can inform the methodologies of other disciplines. Writing Studies, a field I was introduced to in Dr. Lesh’s Spring 2018 seminar, Writing (Studies) in Public, provided a unique lens with which to understand how genre, intertextuality, and literacies worked within the plays to communicate textual meaning as well as to prescribe and delimit certain modes of behavior within that society. This project attempted to open up discussions of how topologies of human cognition are activated by texts to teach and reinforce behaviors and modes of operating within society. My work on these projects is not complete. The York Corpus Christi plays were and continue to be well worth exploring, from their projection of cosmology onto a uniquely urban ludic space to the glimpses they provide into what literacy sponsorship might have looked like in the Medieval era.
At Auburn, I have had the opportunity to conduct coordinated and independent research, as well as to develop and refine a cross-curricular methodology to Medieval and Early Modern studies that contributes to their deep and dynamic fields. As I continue into the doctoral program, I look forward to contributing to scholarship by applying my approach to courtly, demotic, and magisterial literature of the Medieval and Early Modern eras.
However, I see myself as a teaching—as well as a researching—scholar. My own love of and interest in teaching has led me to continue to pursue excellence in the field of pedagogy and to explore the pedagogical texts of the historical eras I study. I see my work as a researcher informing my teaching as I learn more about the ways that authors structured their texts to improve comprehension, organization, and artistic form. Conversely, I also see my teaching influencing my research as I continue to strive to understand the methods, writing tools, literacies, and epistemologies of teachers, authors, and audiences, both today and in the past.
As a teacher, I structure my classes around a workshop model, with the goal in mind that students' literacies, critical thinking skills, and writing abilities will have deeply-felt reverberations in their academic, personal, and professional lives. To this end, I believe the collaborative and reflective workshop model offers the best and most frequent opportunities for students to engage with themselves, their fellow classmates, and their own ideologies and assumptions.
I also work to ensure that, just as students encounter a variety of new voices and audiences during their time with me, students also are provided with a variety of voices and audiences for their own writing. The images on my teaching philosophy page demonstrate students working one-on-one with me as well as building their own understanding within collaborative discussion groups. The writing projects pictured here demonstrate my commitment to providing students with a variety of outlets to articulate, refine, and communicate their visions—from visual media (as in the case of Christopher's informative flyer) to hands-on journalism projects (as is the case with Ethan's close work with Auburn Athletics). For both myself and my students, I work to emphasize the importance of multivocality and multimodality in 20th century communications, while also fostering the development of responsible and ethical citizenship in the 21st century.
In both literature and composition, my lesson plans are designed with these and many other goals in mind. My first lesson plan is designed as part of a larger survey of Early British Literature. This lesson plan demonstrates my commitment to responsible pedagogy as well as my desire to see students build and scaffold their own understanding of texts. Here, small-group collaboration works with whole-group synthesis and skill development to create a multifaceted understanding of two 17th century texts. My second sample lesson plan was developed as part of a longer, imaginative course residing at the intersection of critical theory and speculative fiction. This course would use speculative fiction alongside seminal literary theorists to provide multiple avenues for the exploration, testing, and application of the work of theorists such as Aristotle, Levinas, and Kant. In this lesson, students work collaboratively to apply systems of ethical schema to events from Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers. While experimental in nature, this lesson plan demonstrates my commitment to pedagogical innovation and cross-disciplinary methodologies. My final lesson plan is designed as part of Auburn's Composition 1120 framework and is intended to facilitate students as they develop their skills in critical thinking, foundational rhetoric, and audience awareness. The lesson plan also demonstrates my commitment to problematizing the boundaries between institutional environments and so-called "real world" composition scenarios.
Each lesson plan I have presented today provides a glimpse into a classroom that is dynamic, collaborative, curious, multivocal, and, frankly, loud. My methodology for designing courses, units, and individual lessons stems from a commitment to professionalism that is balanced with kindness, enthusiasm, inquiry, and experimentation. As I continue my work here at Auburn, I look forward to many more opportunities to explore my teaching, learning, and research goals. And, in turn, I look forward to contributing to the curiosity, experimentation, and expression that are at the heart of the field of English. Thank you.