Saturday, May 31, 2008

From literature to collaboration and beyond

How can literature be taught as a collaborative subject? I mean this question in several ways:
1. How can students and instructors collaborate in the literature classroom? (For instance, collaborative in-class writing assignments.)
2. How can students and instructors become self-aware of collaborative learning already happening around the subject literature? (E.g., a chalkboard full of words, diagrams, and sketches contributed by students and instructor alike over the course of a single class.)
3. What literary texts explicitly foreground collaboration—either as writing process, subject of study, or compositional style?
4. How might collaborative essays achieve unique aims around the subject of literature? What new forms of knowledge can come from collaborating around literature?

These are very general questions, prompted in part by my reading of Roland Barthes's "The Death of the Author" and Michel Foucault's "What is an Author?" in a graduate seminar I took at Montana State University taught by Professor Linda Karell on collaboration and authorship. I am now wondering whether it might be effective to dispel myths of the singular Author in an introductory literature course. This Author would be at once the literary genius, the student, and the literature professor. What would a literature class with no Authors look like? Maybe I should experiment on this blog; what would a blog posting without Authorship look like? I am capitalizing the "A" in author to signal the monolithic urge around authorial intention—as if human beings are ever so singularly minded. Wallace Stevens said it interestingly: "I was of three minds, / Like a tree / In which there are three blackbirds."