Deadline for Submissions: March 1, 2023
The Margaret Fuller Society will sponsor a panel at the 2024 Modern Language Association Convention in Philadelphia, to be held 4-7 January 2024. Please send 250-word proposals (indicating AV needs), along with brief biographical statements, to Jana Argersinger, First Vice President, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions from graduate students are most welcome.
For conference details, click here (opens in new window).
Mutual Transformation: The Social Justice Classroom in the Nineteenth Century and Today
The Fuller Society’s Committee for Racial Justice invites paper proposals on social justice pedagogies past and present—from approaches developed in early schoolhouses to the strategies of teacher-scholars in today’s classrooms. The panel especially invites proposals that connect theory and practices of antiracist pedagogy so named to earlier theories and practices that have been labeled progressive, feminist, queer, social justice, or active learning. It is important to remember these progressive pedagogies as we work to transform American literary studies and make the university more equitable and just in support of social change.
Rather than dictating or lecturing in her 1839–1844 Boston Conversations, Margaret Fuller led open dialogues among women meant to empower them to think for themselves, practicing an early form of social justice pedagogy. Her purpose was to discover “what we [she and her pupils] may mutually mean.” Today, her forward-thinking feminist methods resonate with the progressive pedagogies of June Jordan and Felicia Rose Chavez, among others. Her model of “mutual meaning,” or co-learning, whereby participants arrive at conclusions through an open-ended process of self-discovery, anticipates Maria Montessori and John Dewey. But it is often forgotten that Fuller’s Conversations were themselves anticipated by conversational pedagogies in such associations for mutual “improvement” as the African-American Female Intelligence Society of Boston and the Female Literary Association of Philadelphia, where Sarah Douglass recommended that the group reading, conversation, and writing “be altogether directed to the subject of slavery.”
Much of today’s higher education descends from the nineteenth century—not from progressive educators but from the industrial revolution and eugenicists who made the modern university a training ground for factory workers through the passive “banking model” of education (in Paulo Freire’s terms). Cathy N. Davidson and Christina Katopodis, in their recent book The New College Classroom (Harvard UP, 2022), argue for the crucial role that active learning plays in structuring equity into our classrooms, going beyond inclusion to antiracist praxis. This panel takes up the book’s invitation to change by uplifting progressive pedagogues and calling for presentations that seek to transform us.
- Literary representations of learning
- Literary products of progressive or radical pedagogy
- Early historical examples of social justice pedagogies (e.g., African American literary associations, Boston Conversations, Hull House)
- Antiracist teaching, including course and/or assignment design inspired by Fuller (or her limitations) or by contemporary writing that helps us to be in dialogue with her
- Women’s education and issues of race
- Black Panther Party Liberation Schools
- Talks to teachers (e.g., William James, James Baldwin)
- Teaching diaries (e.g., Audre Lorde’s)
- Progressive pedagogical theories (from Elizabeth Peabody to Maria Montessori to bell hooks) put into practice
- Practical examples of lessons learned from the antiracist classroom
- Specific activities that have been particularly effective in structuring equity into a class
- Trauma-informed pedagogies of care
- Culturally responsive teaching methods
Note that while we, of course, welcome proposals that engage with Fuller’s work, Fuller need not be included for your proposal to be considered.