As part of our editors’ (questionably successful) attempt to bring something new and/or interesting to our community every once in a while, Kristen has read this year’s award winner, Jews in Medieval England: Teaching Representations of the Other. Check out her comments here!
Kristen W. –
Jews in Medieval England: Teaching Representations of the Other, edited by Miriamne Ara Krummel (University of Dayton) and Tison Pugh (University of Central Florida) won this year’s Teaching Literature Book Award, an international award presented by English faculty of ISU for the best book for the teaching of literature at the collegiate level.
The collection explores actionable methods for bringing critical discussions of otherness, as specifically experienced by Jews in Medieval England, into the literature classroom. It intentionally interrogates motivations behind the design of literature courses, attaching pedagogy to praxis. In doing so, this collection moves to show how the classroom can be a space for students to connect the history of Othering to their own current realities.
As someone who is just starting to teach, and is trying to find a way to attach my own moral preoccupations to teaching as practice, I find this potential intriguing and the collection provides models of various productive approaches. I am especially impressed with the explicit interdisciplinary elements of the texts and with how it negotiates teaching literature as a lens for such a wide range of disciplines. Throughout, there is a clear attention being paid to providing students with both procedural knowledge as well as conceptual knowledge, giving them the tools to explain both how and why Othering is enacted in texts and (as an extension) in reality. Though literature is not my focus, this dualist approach (which very much seems to be grounded in rhetoric and composition) makes the ideas accessible to me and others from various disciplines.
The texts addressed within the collection are also impressive; the cannon is represented – but not unquestionably – as is some (re)discovered diamonds. Further, the text isn’t limited to narratives as the collection explicitly includes images and performances. While analysis is obviously central to the various approaches, even more interesting is the repeated idea of student driven production and performance (drawing, acting, and other methods are discussed at various points).
I highly recommend educators (both experienced and newbs like me) pick this up. Jews in Medieval England: Teaching Representations of the Other not only provides a model for how to approach the concept of Othering in the classroom, it reminds us why doing so matters.