Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jessica's Reflection - Week 5 The “Sacred” and the "Erotic" in Feminist Pedagogy

In the interest of valuable class time, Sarah and I have decided to post our individual reflections on this week’s readings on the class blog. We will each be answering the following question, which we feel links together many of the themes from our readings: How has the power that the erotic has to move ideas from potentiality to actuality manifested in our teaching/learning/ being carers/experiences/actions? We encourage the rest of the class to join us in answering and reflecting upon this question.


In "Exploring the Ethic of Care," chapter four of No Angel in the Classroom, Bernice Malka Fisher provides an anecdote related to caring for students in the classroom that resonated with my understanding of the complexity of the place of the erotic in higher education. She describes being in her home late one night preoccupied with the fact that some of the students in her large
classroom have not been actively participating in group discussions. She senses that they want to talk, but do not know how. She is inspired to create flashcards out of poster board and black marker that can be used to signal a quieter student's desire to make a comment or provide an opinion.

Hunching over the poster boards, pen in hand, she becomes conscious of her bodymindspirt. Fisher recognizes her mixed feelings in that she is both excited about the method's potential to facilitate a more inclusive dialogue, and distraught in viewing this type of educational housework as menial, having no place in high education. When she becomes aware of these feelings, she becomes aware of the complexity of embracing a pedagogy of the erotic, which often has to exist in the face of an academic setting reluctant to see the value of Eros as a tool for education.

I find promise in Fisher's confession. She is aware of her ambivalence, but does not cower from it. The recognition of mixed feelings like these work to remind me that the influence of the institution, while manifest in my understanding of the authority I have as a graduate student and teaching assistant, do not have to dictate my actions. Fisher finds pleasure in the power that her flashcards have to move ideas from a state of potentiality to one of actuality in spite of what she knows to be the role of a "proper" professor. Ultimately, she finds pleasure in emotional housework whether on not she should.

Reflecting on Fisher's story, I become aware of how important the housework becomes. I wrote in my sentipensante journal Week Three about the pleasure I get from cleaning and the knowledge that I am creating a more comfortable, and therefore more practical and useful workspace for myself. Doing educational housework, even though it can challenge the prestige we associate with higher education, is about creating a similar kind of teaching space. This housework becomes a sort of caring that is inherent in a pedagogy of the erotic. To become aware of the pleasure of caring, though, we must interrogate our feelings and become aware of our bodymindspirit, even if it is late at night.

I chose this topic for my reflection as Sarah and I have spent many night time hours doing the emotional housework necessary to construct a thorough (and thought provoking) co-facilitation handout for Week 5. The erotic aspects of my teaching/learning involve taking pleasure in utilizing feminist critical analysis regardless of the credibility it is assigned by other academic disciplines. I will stay up all night if I have to!

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