Presenting in the McGraw Center’s “Profiles in Innovative Teaching” series on February 20, 2018, Elena Fratto, Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Tala Khanmalek, Postdoctoral Research Associate in American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies, described the design of their seminar Medical Story-Worlds. Their seminar examined the stories that are told about the body – and the stories the body itself tells.
As they explained, their course aimed to disrupt the dominant paradigms of interdisciplinary collaboration, in which members of different disciplines meet in neutral spaces – instead, their students and they traveled across campus to different instructional spaces, including a dance studio and a laboratory.
Gathered around a seminar table, dancing in a studio, or seated at a lab bench, their students could observe different forms of knowledge production about the body. Their classroom, then, became a “floating” rather than fixed space. Fratto and Khanmalek asked their students to read texts from different traditions and genres “alongside” one another, inviting their students to think across time, space, and place. In their close readings of the texts, students attended carefully to form as well as content. Their final projects demonstrated the richness of their intellectual experience, offering creative responses to critical questions raised by the course; for instance, one student used “redaction poetry” – in which words are redacted from published poems, changing their meaning – to reflect on hidden or obscured disabilities.
At the conclusion of their presentation, Fratto and Khanmalek opened up space for participants to think about what other topics would lend themselves to interdisciplinary study and cross-campus collaboration.