Experience and Education: Pragmatism in the English Studies Classroom


Pedagogy & Professional / Rhetoric & Composition

Matthew Overstreet (University of Pittsburgh)

Cornel West has called pragmatism America’s only indigenous intellectual tradition. Concerned with what works in the way of belief, it is a forward-looking and provocative mode of philosophic inquiry. Pragmatism has also long been associated with progressive education. First articulated by William James, a long-time Harvard professor, the tradition reached its zenith in the work of John Dewey, whose educational treatises such as Democracy and Education, continue to influence pedagogy.

In honor of this long-standing connection, this panel seeks to bring together scholars and teachers who utilize pragmatist thought in their English studies classrooms. This includes those who apply the work of James or Dewey, either to texts or classrooms, and those who use pragmatist thought to shape broader pedagogical or theoretical projects. Teachers of literature, writing and rhetoric/composition are welcome, as our those interested in other lines of pragmatist inquiry—the semiotics of C.S. Peirce, the neo-pragmatism of Richard Rorty or Stanley Fish, or the “prophetic pragmatism” of Cornel West, for example.

This panel seeks to bring together scholars and teachers who utilize the philosophical tradition of American Pragmatism in teaching literature, writing, digital media, cultural criticism or rhetoric and composition.