Evaluator: Gregory Ulmer, The Romantic Period
The focus was on noticing the rhetorical strategies, the style also, in the context of the historical reality of Thomas de Quincey, and of his era (references to Rousseau and Kant). A good connection was made with previous discussion/readings of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake. In short, the class was skillfully conducted. The one improvement would be to address more explicitly a frame for the discussion, to place it more explicitly as a model for a certain kind of disciplinary methodology, especially if this method could be related to the assignments, the papers that the students are writing. The insights and points regarding rhetorical strategies and devices, then could be passed from de Quincey, through the instructor to the students, calling attention to strategies of reading, selection of topics and the like. The course is ambitious and well designed. The guiding research idea concerns materialism, and the readings include Spinoza, and introductory book on his Ethics by Gilles Deleuze. In conversation before my visit, Mr. Whitson explained his approach, which is a kind of comparative method, providing the students with materials of intellectual history, history of ideas (Spinoza, Kant for example), to use as points of access to the poetry in its historical context. Mr. Whitson is an authentic intellectual, well read, with a good sense of how to ask a genuine question. Excellent, Award level performance.
Evaluator: Richard Brantley, Survey of British Literature
This survey of British literature was surprisingly organized around the idea of apocalypse, which allows Mr. Whitson to interrelate such disparate materials as Blake’s Urizen, on the one hand and Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, on the other. On November 3, he deftly placed Moore and Lloyd’s V for Vendetta in this larger context. He addressed a range of sophisticated issues, including Moore and Lloyd’s use of the visual (as well as verbal) tradition. Mr. Whitson was particularly effective in conveying just how the imagery in V for Vendetta illuminates the development of Evey’s character. Mr. Whitson was careful to clarify how this particular class period fit into the larger goals and context of the course. He was at his best, perhaps, in posing challenging questions.
Evaluator: Regina Martin, William Blake and Media
I was [...] impressed by how deeply students had engaged with Blake’s poetry. They regularly referred to specific poems, specific images, specific characters, and specific passages to support their arguments and to suggest new threads of inquiry. The thoroughness with which students have engaged with Blake’s poetry in the class is likely the result of Roger’s use of a class blog and Twitter. Roger created a blog in which students in all three of his sections engage in discussion about Blake, and again, the level and quality of participation on the blog is impressive. The post “Deism and Blake” (found here: http://media.blake2.org/archives/139) is one particularly good example of how intensely students are engaging with Blake’s poetry in a multi-modal environment. Within the text of the post, the author embeds images that contribute to his point as well as links to additional information. The post is categorized and searchable through a series of tags that allow students to identify threads of discussion throughout the blog. And the post is followed by an extensive string of comments in which students engage in lively debate about the post’s argument. Because students are regularly contributing to the blog, their understanding of Blake’s poetry expands beyond what they learn in the classroom, and this is evident in the ways students refer to class discussion in their blog and the way in which they referred to the blog as a source of ideas during the class discussion I witnessed.
Evaluator: James Paxson, Survey of American Literature
I don’t think I’ve encountered a set of webpages housing syllabi and support materials for a course more logically and carefully executed than those of Roger Whitson. Easy-to-use links plug the course and its regime into the very life of Whitson, who’s so generous as to furnish a complete personal schedule were his students willing to make him confer with them at any moment (and with said schedule, like the jottings of Jay Gatz in the blank leaves of his Hopalong Cassidy, noting even exercise allotments per day). The webpages and syllabus indicate that Whitson is absolutely dedicated to his students. His own teaching philosophy, presented in an elegant statement he’d furnished me, enfolds the subject matter of his teaching and his own ideological and political positions—which celebrate work, workers and real democratic thinking and access. The work of literary study he designates as a function of “the university.” Universality and totality of learning dominates his program: online files and massive amounts of links show how Whitson engages in making his students learn, and learn fiercely and continuously.
Evaluator: Kim Murray, Composition II
I observed Roger’s 1102 class on November 17, 2008 and enjoyed his rapport with students and his interesting approach to teaching rhetorical strategies used in ridicule, satire, and parody. Roger read excerpts from Monty Python, Marueen Dowd, David Sedaris and Arnold Schwarzenegger as examples. Students laughed at the sample visuals from Adbusters (in an ad called “reality” for men, a hairy fat man rather than chiseled hairless men was featured). My reaction to the class was positive, and I applaud the hard work Roger dedicates to his teaching. His final course evaluations were strong; no students rated him as poor or fair in any of the categories.
Selected Student Evaluations
Multimodal Comp: Comics and Graphic Novels (Average rating of overall effectiveness 4.2/5)
Multimodal Comp: Disability Studies (Overall effectiveness 4.9/5)
British Literature: 1780-1900 (Overall effectiveness: 4.64/5)
The Gothic in Literature, Film and Comic Books (Overall effectiveness: 4.31/5)
The Romantic Period (Overall effectiveness: 4.17/5)
William Blake and Media (Overall effectiveness: 4.00/5)
Romanticism and Popular Culture (Overall effectiveness: 4.11/5)
Survey of British Literature (Overall effectiveness: 4.22/5)
Introduction to College Writing (Overall effectiveness: 4.79/5)
Survey of American Literature (Overall effectiveness: 4.40/5)