Teaching and Learning in the Humanities
The humanities as a college discipline is currently facing serious challenges from both campus administrators and American politicians on the state and federal levels. As curricula are more and more geared toward career placement and profitable salaries after graduation, courses in the humanities are being questioned regarding their “usefulness” in the twenty-first century American college curriculum. In his Teaching and Learning in the Humanities, Peter Sotiriou, composition scholar and college English teacher, presents a cogent argument for the proper and necessary role of the humanities in college course work. Relying on Hans-Georg Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics, particularly as delineated in his magnum opus Truth and Method, Sotiriou explores Gadamer’s key philosophical concepts which speak to humanities learning and teaching: the human sciences, play, imitation, tradition, authority, and, most importantly, reading as a phenomenological event. In a thorough-going fashion, Sotiriou explores these concepts as philosophical terms with a keen eye to their classroom applications. In doing so, he answers central questions humanities teachers ask: What texts should I use? How should I select them? What writing prompts are appropriate? How should lectures and classroom discussions be orchestrated? How do humanities texts differ from those students who read and study in the natural and technical sciences? In answering these questions, in their theoretical and practical contexts, Sotiriou demonstrates how the humanities discipline--what Gadamer considers the human sciences-- requires a different kind of learning than one finds in the natural and technical sciences. Finally, and significantly, Sotiriou’s Teaching and Learning in the Humanities provides a cogent response to, and critique of, the encroachment of neoliberal educational programs into humanities learning and teaching, where profit and loss, online teaching, and technology have become the economically and politically persuasive alternatives to classroom conversation and dialogue. Teaching and Learning in the Humanities is an important and insightful study for humanities students, teachers, and scholars who are interrogated by college administrators and state and federal politicians asking how and whether English, art, philosophy, and history courses are still necessary in order to prepare college students for the challenges they will encounter in the twenty-first century.