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University of Hartford

Intellectualism and its Discontents

A summer workshop conducted by Gerald Graff, 1999-2000 Harry Jack Gray Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities.

Recent controversies over the curriculum have tended to focus on the texts students should be reading--should we stick with the traditional classics or open the canon to minority writing and pop culture? Underlying the battles between dueling booklists is a conflict of educational philosophies and teaching methods--is the aim of education to inspire students to respect Western cultural traditions or to enable students to challenge those traditions? These questions are clearly important, but we sometimes get so caught up in debates over which books and ideas students should study that we forget that, for the vast majority of American students in high schools and colleges, the problem has always been books and ideas as such, regardless of which faction gets to draw up the syllabus. We get so caught up in conflicts between clashing versions of intellectual culture that we forget that the more fundamental problem for students is intellectual culture as such--which for lack of a better term I call "intellectualism."

In Beyond the Culture Wars, I argued that the best way to deal with the conflicts over the curriculum is to bring these conflicts into our classes themselves and use them to bridge the gap between "intellectualism" and the culture of students--in other words, "Teach the Conflicts." But how can we teach intellectual and cultural conflicts if students are outsiders to them and their vocabularies and not necessarily interested in them? I touched on this question in the book, but didn't confront it directly. This will be the focus of the summer workshop--to look at the various factors that have created the gap between student discourse and academic intellectual discourse and to discuss the curricular and pedagogical means by which that gap can be overcome.

Workshop dates: June 27-July 1 Place: Gray Conference Center

Gerald Graff received his B.A. in English from the University of Chicago, and his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Stanford. He taught at the University of New Mexico and at Northwestern University before assuming his current position as George M. Pullman Professor of English and Education at the University of Chicago, where he is also now Director and chief designer of a new interdisciplinary Master's Program in the Humanities.

Graff's teaching and research interests have been chiefly in literary theory, American literature, and more recently in educational philosophy and curricular reform. Major publications include, in addition to several edited volumes: Literature Against Itself (1979); Professing Literature: An Institutional History (1987); and Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education (1992), which became a Reader's Subscription Book Club selection and won both the 1992 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and the 1992-93 Frederic W. Ness Award of the Association of American Colleges. Currently Graff is publishing a volume (with Evan Carton) on American Criticism Since 1940, part of the new Cambridge History of Modern Literature.

In Beyond the Culture Wars, in many recent articles, appearing in popular as well as scholarly venues, and in numerous speaking engagements, Graff has taken a prominent and influential part in the highly politicized debate over the constitution and the teaching of the curriculum in American higher education. In 1991 he helped found Teachers for a Democratic Culture, an organization that is, as he put it, "aimed at combating conservative misrepresentations of recent changes in the curriculum and culture." The University of Hartford, with funding from the NEH and Harry Jack Gray grant for Teaching in the Humanities, is honored to provide a forum for discussion of his ideas and of their extension, as outlined in his workshop description, further into our educational practice. To apply for the workshop send a note or an e-mail expressing the reasons for your interest to: Candace Clements Art History-Cinema-Drama (Hillyer 423) University of Hartford West Hartford, CT 06117 e-mail: clements[]