Critical Approaches to Tradition and Innovation in Graduate Humanities Education (Panel)


Pedagogy & Professional / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Samantha Sorensen (Lehigh University)

Joanna Grim (Lehigh University)

As part of the continued conversation about the “crisis in the humanities,” publications such as the Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed feature essays about the challenges facing graduate programs and students. Simultaneously, declines in funding and enrollment have led many humanities departments to encourage graduate student instructors to use innovative pedagogies in their undergraduate courses. Certainly, innovations such as multimodal teaching and learning can be enriching for undergraduate students and graduate teachers alike. Yet, such pedagogies remain undervalued in the graduate classroom. In this context, graduate humanities students feel pulled between tradition and innovation and unsure about the meaning and value of their degrees.

We seek to intervene in discussions of the many crises in humanities graduate education by critically reassessing the pedagogical traditions and innovations of various disciplines. This session will extend Leonard Cassuto’s observation in a special issue of Pedagogy that “[e]verything that happens in graduate school is a form of teaching” (15). How do professors model both beneficial and problematic pedagogies in the graduate humanities classroom? What pedagogical practices “count” as traditional or innovative? What traditions should be continued or retired? What new traditions should be adopted?

As English graduate students, literature inspires us to reimagine the possibilities for graduate humanities pedagogies. We seek papers from graduate students and faculty in any humanities field that reassess curricula, praxis, degree requirements, and more. Papers may address such topics as:

- Inequities and barriers to access such as structural racism, sexism, ableism, classism, and colonialism

- Standards and assessments, including “normal progress”

- Cognitive difference and graduate education in the humanities

- Mental health and its relationship with graduate humanities pedagogies

- Representations of traditional or reimagined pedagogies in fiction

- Assumptions about the goal of graduate humanities education

- The academic job market

In a special issue of Pedagogy, Leonard Cassuto observes that “[e]verything that happens in graduate school is a form of teaching” (15). However, discussions of the use and usefulness of innovative pedagogies in higher education are often limited to the undergraduate classroom. This panel will focus on a critical reassessment of graduate humanities education. What practices “count” as traditional or innovative? What beneficial and problematic pedagogies do professors model in the graduate classroom? What practices should be continued, retired, or adopted? Can reevaluating graduate pedagogies, curricula, praxis, and degree requirements simultaneously address issues of retention and the job market?