Interdisciplinary Possibilities in Undergraduate English
Thomas, Robert W.
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In the past two decades there has been a massive proliferation of college English courses. The addition of more three hour courses has tended to compartmentalize and isolate knowledge. There are many justifications for developing English curriculum in the context of an interdisciplinary humanities program. Interdisciplinarity implies a student-centered curriculum. Furthermore, it demands a broader variety of teaching techniques. Interdisciplinary experiments have generated excitement among faculty and students who have been involved in programs. The time is here when English departments can profit by developing interdisciplinary programs. Interdisciplinary humanities programs which have wide appeal, measured success and unique characteristics which could be replicated or could serve as model programs for English departments are discussed and analyzed. The programs discussed in Chapter II were selected from a wide geographic range and from widely diverse kinds of colleges and universities. In Chapter III there is a focus upon five interdisciplinary humanities programs in Iowa institutions, which the writer visited. Interviews were held with persons knowledgeable about the programs. The results of a survey of administrators, English chairpersons, and college English majors concerning their attitudes about college English and interdisciplinarity are included and analyzed in Chapter III. Interdisciplinary humanities programs lead to better, faculty-student cooperation. Teachers demonstrate enthusiasm for interdisciplinary teaching, and they have opportunities to work with colleagues from different disciplines in a productive atmosphere. Students in interdisciplinary programs are more involved and have more opportunities to develop their creative potential. The characteristics of an exemplary program are developed and may be used to create an undergraduate English Course or to evaluate an existing course. The exemplary program stresses that curriculum should be planned from a broad concept. Further, it should rely upon more than a single medium of expression. The choice of material should elicit self-expression. Students should help plan the program. The program stresses faculty cooperation and advocates cross-listing of courses. The techniques which are most applicable to teaching an interdisciplinary humanities course are inquiry and the application of a humanistic method. An ideal humanities course should place priorities upon teaching values.
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