What does a Romantic Classroom Look Like?

Reflections, questions, & forum for response.

The dawn of another academic year always comes with a slew of first year Teaching Assistants. Graduate students must now stand up in front of the classroom and, if any of them are like me, spend more time reflecting on their own learning processes than ever before in their academic life. Like so many gradate TAs I don’t have the option to choose which courses or syllabus to teach, but rather am assigned courses that vary between English Composition 100 and Intro to Literature. I’m not complaining as each opportunity provides the space to learn a new topic that otherwise might have slipped my academic history.

Those keen to a Romantic sensibility are also faced with a learning goal that isn’t on any syllabus or university course description. That’s to say, how to stay and encourage Romantic theoria (thinking), poiesis (making) while simultaneously ensuring students know the ABC’s of college composition and literature? I am not asking “How do I teach Romantic Poetry in a composition course?” There are a multitude of wonderful and detailed resources from my fellow NASSR bloggers and beyond listed below this post that address that question.

A year ago before I started tearing if someone asked what I prioritized in my classroom I wouldn’t have even blinked before stating thoughtful reflection, creative expression, and making. However, the fifteen week semester results in just enough lesson plans to ensure formal course obligations, i.e. essays, quizzes, content lectures, are carried out. What I’ve been asking myself is what types of pedagogical strategies can be used in any into to English class that abides by university prescribed “learning outcomes” while still showing the students the artificial boundaries of these “outcomes.” This isn’t to criticize higher education—that’s a whole other blog post.

Instead it’s a tension between the formal reality of academic settings, learning outcomes, required skill sets, against the vitally important space for student center making and doing that no shorthand learning outcome can project.

All I’m saying is hashing an old but still pertinent debate (e.g., critical pedagogy and project-based-learning). The very functioning and purpose of intro to composition and literature courses is consistently challenged between composition and rhetoric scholars across discourses of the political, ethical, and social implications.

With no end or answer in sight for these debates here’s my inquiry:

What practices and methodologies can novice TAs do in their classrooms everyday, within another agent’s schedule, to support non-product based thinking, making, and doing?

I do in fact believe such a classroom is possible, but how does one start? Here are some brief answers of my own but I intend this post to doubly serve as an open-ended prompt. I encourage fellow bloggers and potential guest bloggers to reply with pedagogical strategies, resources, and/or any answers of their own to this: What does and what can the “Romantic classroom” look like? We can create our own pedagogy resource guide for first time instructors.

I myself am naive to implementing digital humanities within the classroom. However, the appeal and malleability of digital media projects, to both students and universities, is filled with potential for instructive but creative projects. The material composition of digital projects versus a printed paper bolsters projects as process.

In addition, the work of the Romantics themselves (both British period and beyond) serves as template examples for students. Without turning into a lecture or poetry course, Blake’s elaborate and wide-ranging practices are a nice touchstone.

If available on your campus introducing students to visit to the Public Humanities center or to a representative of the public humanities seems an apt resource for all students as they field their way through the humanities, either by choice or requirement. Public humanities practices don’t concern themselves with “outcomes and/or products” but instead a more tangible learning experience.

Both the graduate NASSR blog and NASSR affiliated Romantic Circles resource offer a multitude of innovative and thoughtful ways to teach Romantic Period poetry, literature, and art.

Online Resources

Romantic Circles Pedagogy Commons

NASSR Grad Blog Pedagogy Tag

Here are some recent and noteworthy pedagogy posts from my fellow bloggers:

Progressive Pedagogy NASSR 16 Panel

Periodization and Teaching

An Approach to Close Reading