Teaching Eighteenth-Century Literature in a Transgendered Classroom
This chapter reflects a series of conversations among three English professors at Mills College, a women’s liberal arts institution in Oakland, California. Teaching at Mills has challenged us to reconsider how we think about gender diversity in our classrooms, and this chapter is our attempt to share how these shifts in our thinking have led us to more inclusive pedagogies and new and generative readings of familiar texts. While Mills currently has male graduate students, it remains an undergraduate women’s college as it has been historically. The college is home to undergraduate students across a gendered spectrum, students who may identify as male or as gender variant. In this chapter, we share our mis-steps in response to our increasingly transgender classrooms, some of our inelegant solutions to them, and the attempts that we have made to work toward more aware and thoughtful pedagogies in our instructional practices and reading strategies. The chapter begins with an exploration of what we mean by “inclusive” pedagogies and, more specifically, “trans-aware” pedagogies; we then share our individual and institutional engagements with the trans-pedagogical project. While we each teach eighteenth-century literature, our specialties and focuses range from feminist eighteenth-century studies, to African-American literature, to queer poetics. In narrating some of our own classroom blunders, we hope to illustrate some noncontent, non-field-specific classroom strategies now used at Mills but adaptable to any campus. The chapter concludes with specific examples of, and musings on, the ways in which trans-awareness changed our students’ (and our own) readings of eighteenth-century texts and their contexts-from Charlotte Charke to Jupiter Hammon and Jane Austen.