Three English professors have received a $47,520 grant from the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) for “Expanding Collaboration Initiative on World Literature: Phase Two,” a joint project with three Kenyon College faculty. The project is being funded through the GLCA’s Expanding Collaboration Initiative, a professional development program made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that supports collaborative curricular initiatives involving faculty and key professional staff who share common academic interests.
The Oberlin faculty receiving the grant are Anuradha Dingwaney Needham, Donald R. Longman Professor of English; Danielle Skeehan, assistant professor of English; and Harrod Suarez, assistant professor of English and comparative American studies. The Kenyon College faculty are Travis Landry, associate professor of Spanish; Jesse Matz, William P. Rice professor of English and literature, and Pashmina Murthy, assistant professor of English.
The purpose of the project is to elaborate a more nuanced and deeper understanding of what it means to study world literature today in the context of a liberal arts college setting and to make scholarship more inclusive of underrepresented, predominantly non-European traditions.
“What currently counts as world literature tends to privilege European texts. Our emphasis is not so much on rejecting European texts as on foregrounding non-European ones,” Needham says. “As a result our discussions have emphasized a different body of theory that doesn’t necessarily turn up under world literature. We want to make the argument that it belongs there.”
The professors received a $13,016 grant, also from the GLCA Expanding Collaboration Initiative, for the first phase of the project. In phase one, the professors launched a hybrid course in which Kenyon students enrolled in Reading World Literature (taught by Landry and Matz) and Oberlin students enrolled in Globalization and Diaspora (taught by Suarez) in spring 2015 collaborated by contributing to a blog and participating in discussions that engaged them in thinking about elements of world literature.
The professors will use the grant awarded for phase two to create two additional offerings of collaborative hybrid courses in spring 2016 and 2017 with additional features to integrate collaboration more fully. They will also write a scholarly article (tentatively titled “Performing Provincialism in a Cosmopolitan World”) and convene a Consortial Meeting on World Literatures that will include participants from GLCA institutions and outside scholars and writers working in world literature today. Needham says the group hopes attendees will feel inspired to write essays post-meeting, which they will collect and publish in an edited collection.
In an email to Needham, Director of Program Development at GLCA Gregory Wegner had this to say about the project: “This is a project that shows considerable promise in its continuing steps to create a GLCA consortial community to think together about the implications of world literature, to infuse one another’s thinking as scholars and teachers, and to take advantage of opportunities to collaborate in the teaching of world literature classes on GLCA college campuses.”
The success of phase two will be evaluated through a variety of means, including written feedback and informal discussions. Needham says she does not anticipate the project will require additional phases at this time.
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