David Stewart
Teaching
 

I teach in several areas of American cultural studies with emphasis on the early Republic through the Civil War. I also offer courses in film and writing. Graduate seminars I teach include Narrating the Republic and Approaches to Popular Culture, and History and Film. All combine a variety of methods and materials with the aim to develop broad understanding of selected topics in the social and cultural history of the United States. Undergraduate courses I offer include the American Literature Survey, senior electives American Social Fictions and History and Film, and an oral training course, Film English, which uses films as the basis for small group discussions. Again, the textual content is mixed, combining primary materials with secondary readings, history, films, and visual images.

Teaching in Taiwan has sped me along two paths that suit me and to which I am committed. The first is best stated as a belief, namely that teaching is for students. In an environment of rapid change, deregulation, and (sometimes) missionary hubris, it is easy to forget the more mundane needs teachers serve. These are important for students who when they leave school will enter a labor market that has begun the slide from a developing to what economists like to call a “mature” economy. In general terms, this means embracing trends in English studies away from traditional literary canons, while continuing to focus on skills that prepare English majors for careers in a wide range of professions served by liberal arts education, from teaching and administration to public service, law, journalism, business, as well as careers in academe. These skills include writing, close reading, critical and creative thinking, and the development of an historical imagination.
 
My second commitment is to interdisciplinarity. As I suggested, students who take my classes encounter a variety of materials and approaches in addition to those usually associated with literature. These are used to explore problems of race, class, and gender in the United States. Nationalism is a key category, as is citizenship, democracy, and mass culture. You will learn to use terms like representation, rhetoric, cultural work, identity, and pleasure. I place a high premium on participation. Students are expected to be present and prepared. Every class is an oral training class, and group presentations are designed to enable those who find it difficult speaking publicly to take part in class discussion. Writing assignments range from in-class quizzes, to response essays and term papers. In these, I look for formal competence, but also creativity and lateral thinking, especially in treating the always elusive links between texts and their histories.