Please be courteous with the information and ideas you find here. The ideas are to be shared, but please credit the original author.
A quick look at the definition of the word “radical” will uncover the common usage, and the one that I think Irish novelist Colum McCann means when he calls for a certain kind of empathy, one that is “very different from the usual or traditional” or an empathy that is “advocating extreme measures for a change.” Perhaps, even, the concept of radical empathy might be related to the informal or slang use of the word that means “excellent or cool.” But the primary definition of radical that is lesser known, that might give us another way of thinking about what happened in the life writing courses I’ve taken and taught, is a kind of radical that is “of, relating to, or proceeding from a root.” This definition of radical refers to something that is of or growing from the root of a plant (like a radical tuber) or “growing from the base of a stem, from a rootlike stem, or from a stem that does not rise above the ground.” In this usage, radical means “basic” or relating to or affecting the basic nature or most important features of something. An empathy that is radical, then, is something from which things grow—it is essential, the most important feature. This is the “feature” that creates the kind of educational experiences that changes things. This is the kind of experience I want to give my own students, an experience that was radical because of its roots in the practice and pedagogy of empathy. Click here to continue reading.
"In the essay “What He Took,” Kelly Grey Carlisle writes that her mother, on the way to a clinic to get tested for pregnancy, “stopped to look through the dusty window” at a “painted Virgin of Guadalupe, small candles, gasses and vials, metal implements.” The store’s sign was in Spanish, which her mother didn’t know, but still “she recognized the Virgin of Guadalupe” because she lived in Los Angeles. Carlisle probably knows that her mother didn’t speak Spanish through research, but there is no way she could have known that her mother stopped to look in a shop window. She uses speculation, I tell my students, or plausible imagination, to fill in missing details. Kelly Grey Carlisle’s “What He Took” offers an example of imagination at use in nonfiction and shows students that not all creative nonfiction has to be solely about the self, that there are many ways to explore knowing and imagination is part of that." Click here to continue reading.
My aim, then, in this bibliographic essay—as the first part of a bigger qualitative project on the teaching of CNF—is to look back so we can move forward with conversations regarding what and how we can and should teach college students at various levels about CNF writing in the future. I cover key texts on the teaching of CNF mostly found in well-known publications with high circulations—namely College English, Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture, and Creative Nonfiction—and/or are written by major figures who champion CNF from a composition studies or creative writing standpoint. I place CNF pedagogical scholarship within a historical context and synthesize the rationales each published author explores in relation to why they teach CNF and/or what they emphasize with their students about the genre, exposing gaps and opening up spaces for innovation that contributors to Assay and elsewhere can continue to fill. I am guided by the notion that there is much we can learn from studying the various rationales for teaching CNF writing across creative writing and composition studies, the subject positions these CNF teachers assume in relation to their writing and teaching, and the teaching methodologies that these CNF teachers utilize. Click here to continue reading.