Beyond Reading Comprehension: Critical Literacies in a General Humanities Classroom

This site is dedicated to sharing materials for the 2016 Teaching and Learning Center’s Faculty Conference on Teaching Excellence.

Since its inception in the 1980s, the Intellectual Heritage Program defined itself as a classic Great Books program grounded in the Western tradition. Following its curriculum change in 2008, the IH Program has rededicated its mission to a central critical skill: reading. Its curricular revamp necessitated an abandonment of chronology and disciplinary information to the service of textual analysis. Reading lists were shortened and curated. Its long-standing writing-intensive designation was removed. Writing as a curricular piece in the courses flipped conventional approaches and the previous emphasis on compositional proficiency and product evolved to assignments where writing became a series of processes to develop more confident, independent and self-directed readers. As a consequence, reading became the mantle that now sets IH apart from and above the other foundational courses.

The skill of reading in the IH courses is understood as a set of multiple practices and beyond basic comprehension. In order to engage students in deep learning, they are invited to become conspirators in the process of textual intervention and interrogation. Here we hope to showcase a series of innovative assignments and practices that promote critical literacies:

  • Reading as text-making and re-making
  • Discovering historical contexts through student-led tasks
  • Mapping as ways of reading and text-making
  • Information literacy as contextualized, integrated and student-generated
  • Ethnography as a form of readerly consciousness