Thursday, November 13, 2014

Locating Sites of Regional Literature--A Sample Engagement for Teachers and Students

Below is a sample engagement I used with SE Michigan Secondary English Teachers to help them locate and name  some of the material resources and places available to support a curriculum and inquiry into Local Literature.  They are offered here for you to borrow and adapt for your own classroom.  Please share your efforts and results in the comments.

Engagement #1:  Locating Sites of Regional Literature
Over the next week your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to investigate some of your local resources available for ‘teaching local literature in a global age.’  Between now and next class meeting  you will visit four sites—one virtual, the others a bit more substantial—to trace what sorts of texts and materials remain accessible for 21st century readers interested in pursuing local literature.

Here’s what you need to do:

1)    Go to you school library with a copy of our list of suggested local literature.  How many does your library have?  

2)    Then, try to find physical copy of at least one of the texts (likely the one you’ve selected for your dialogue journal or literature circle readings, but it need not be).  If your school does not have a copy available, find out why.  (You may need to talk with your school librarian or media specialist or other faculty).  If your school does have a copy of the text, where is it located?  How many copies of the text are available?  What other texts are near this one?  Who else is there when you are searching for your book?  What are they doing?  If they are reading or browsing books, try to find out what they are reading (you may be direct or discreet, but don’t be creepy by stalking other patrons).  Make a note of all these things.  AND if you find a copy of the text, sit down somewhere to examine the book and to read the first page or two.  What is the most interesting, unusual, or compelling thing, passage, phrase, or word on the first page?  Whether you find a copy of the text here or not, then….

3) Go to your local PUBLIC library to find a copy of the text in #2.  Again, if your local library or branch does not have a copy of the text, find out why.  Is this a text that you can request through MeLCat?  If so, do so, if the library cannot provide a copy for you.  If the library does have a copy, then obtain a copy.  Note where the text is located within the library? What section is it in?  How many copies are available?  What other texts or materials are nearby?  As above, also take note of other patrons, especially in the section where you find your text.  AND if you find a copy of the text, sit down somewhere to examine the book and to read the first page or two.  Upon this reading and in light of your past experiences with the text and/or trying to find the text, what is the most interesting, unusual, or compelling thing, passage, phrase, or word on the first page? Then…

4)  Go to the nearest commercial bookstore in your community.  Does this store carry a copy of your text?  If not, why not?  Can you order the book for delivery there?  If so, what are the costs to you (time, money, resources) above the cost of the book? If the store does have a copy available, where is it located?  How many copies do they have and in what condition are they?   As above, notice the other patrons and their activity.  If you prefer to have your own copy of the book (rather than the library versions), purchase the text.    Again, sit down somewhere to examine the book and to read the first page or two.  NOW, what is the most interesting, unusual, or compelling thing, passage, phrase, or word on the first page?  If nothing changes with this reading, think about why that is and write about it.  

 5)    Bring your field notes and all copies of the book you have managed to secure to class.

MMLA Special Session: Seeking Local Knowledge in the Global City—A Research and Pedagogy Roundtable

Please join us and/or send us your comments and questions about the presentations below.  Our hope is to continue the conversation beyond the session and conference.  We're especially interested in hearing your own attempts to address the local/global tension in your curriculum and pedagogy.
Special Session Panel:  Thursday, November 13, 2014-- 4:00-5:30 Southfield 70 
Seeking Local Knowledge in the Global City—A Research and Pedagogy Roundtable

Organizer/Chair:  John A. Staunton ( , Associate Professor, English Education and American Literature, Eastern Michigan University; Co-Director for Teacher Research, Eastern Michigan Writing Project

Description and Rationale:  This special session seeks to bring together presentations highlighting the “regions of pedagogical practice” which may emerge when we seek to teach local and regional literature and cultural history in 21st-century classrooms.  In particular, the session seeks to investigate the ways in which inquiry into local histories, discourses, practices, and textual artifacts may help to build grounded sites for teaching and learning, both inside and outside traditional educational spaces.  Presentations for the session will represent a range of both pedagogical and curricular practices—ranging from the community and knowledge-building practices of 21st century cross-cultural advocacy to the recovery of alternate, forgotten, or ‘disappeared’ histories and texts that can remap and sustain contemporary discourses of gender, race, and class in the post-industrial Midwest.  Each will explore in its way the diverse teaching/learning situations and diverse historical and literary content/contexts that will offer case studies of a ‘locally-embedded pedagogy,’ which is simultaneously engaged with larger questions of teaching and learning in a global age.   


1)      Robin Lucy (, Associate Professor of African American Literature, Eastern Michigan University.

“Intentional Communities and Pedagogical Practice”
As an African Americanist, I am increasingly interested in locating moments of inter-racial and class solidarity in my scholarship and teaching.  In examining an intentional community, inter-racial housing project built at Willow Run (site of the plant responsible for constructing the B-24 bomber) during World War II -- a period of heightened racial tension and violence in Michigan cities and industrial workplaces -- I will explore the implications of the history of this site for both my pedagogy and theory of African American writing of the era. 

2)      Charles Cunningham (, Associate Professor of English. 
“Teaching Literature in Context:  Southeast Michigan”  

In 2011, a group of interdisciplinary university faculty participated in a seminar to reflect on our positions as college educators in southeast Michigan, trying to ground our teaching and service within the context of the large, public comprehensive university to the specificity of a place and its history.   I will discuss my contribution to the seminar, which was to examine the possibilities and challenges, especially in light of the material and textual resources informing that situated history, for that grounding in the literature classroom.

3)      Lori Burlingame (,  Associate Professor of English, Eastern Michigan University. 

“Deconstructing Native American Mascots: A Local History

     This paper explores the history of the struggle to end the use of Native American mascots and logos at educational institutions in Southeastern Michigan, with particular emphasis on the work of the Native American Student Organization, for which I am the faculty adviser, at Eastern Michigan University.  Although there is still some controversy surrounding this issue, in 1991, Eastern Michigan University changed its mascot from the Hurons to the Eagles at the request of the Native American Student Organization.  This local history will be grounded in a more global or national discussion of the reasons for Native communities' objections to the use of Native American logos and mascots in sports and the impact that such appropriations have on Native peoples.  Finally, this paper will touch briefly on the intersections between the mascot issue and the Native American literature classroom through references to the works of Spokane/Coeur d'Alene writer Sherman Alexie, who employs biting humor to provide powerful social critiques of stereotypical representations of Native peoples, including sports mascots.  Discussion of this issue in the classroom can help to facilitate greater cross-cultural understanding and more positive cross-cultural relationships.

4)      John A. Staunton (, Associate Professor English, Eastern Michigan University

“Teaching/Learning Local Literature in a Global Age”
The presentation shares the results of what happened when a group of SE Michigan teachers pursued a curriculum and inquiry into teaching local literature with their students.  The historical and contemporary literature by and about people from Michigan is especially suited to this inquiry.  Richly diverse in its genres and subject matter—from the early frontier fictions of the “Old North West,” to the exurban tales of the out-sourced and unemployed, to the religious, ethnic, and cultural divisions (and fusions) amid the decaying metropolises—the literature of Michigan offers students and teachers a way to consider both 1) the interconnections of local/regionalist literary texts, literary performances, and their classroom practice and 2) the tensions and contacts between local practices (whether literary, performative, or pedagogical) and more ‘global’ discourses (of the literary, the aesthetic, or teaching/learning) which seek to frame, assess, or circumscribe those practices.