Literary Study, Measurement, and the Sublime

Not exactly about the eighteenth century, but this project on Literary Study, Measurement, and the Sublime: Disciplinary Assessment, edited by me and Donna Heiland, has several excellent contributions from eighteenth-century scholars (Dave Mazella, Lucinda Cole, Kirsten Saxton; Donna is herself author of a book on the gothic).  Free for downloading!  There will be a hardcopy in the Spring. 


What happens when the disciplines make themselves heard in the discussions of learning outcomes assessment that are ubiquitous in higher education today? What do disciplinary perspectives and methodologies have to bring to the table? This volume engages these questions from the perspective of literary study, with essays by education leaders, faculty from English and foreign language departments, and assessment experts that offer a wide range of perspectives. Together, these essays take a pulse of a discipline. They explore what is at stake in the work of assessment in the literature classroom, what we stand to gain, what we fear to lose, and whether current assessment methods can even capture the outcomes we care about most: the complex, subtle, seemingly ineffable heart of learning. They also implicitly invite teachers and scholars in other disciplines to come to the table, and carry the discussion further.

The essays in this volume are divided into four sections that focus on:

  • Outcomes assessment in the context of current national discussions of higher education and the work being done by various professional organizations.
  • Approaches to assessing “sublime learning” (that is, learning that can seem unassessable) and creativity.
  • The question of what outcomes assessment can measure in the literature classroom, as well as the theoretical and political implications of doing so.
  • Case studies and templates for the assessment of literature programs, with related discussions of the assessment of writing and foreign language acquisition.

One response to “Literary Study, Measurement, and the Sublime

  1. Dave Mazella

    Thanks, Laura, for putting this volume together (and letting me contribute). I’d love to hear more about the discussion at Miami at some point.

    One quick observation: I think the moment that we acknowledge, as assessment scholar Trudy Banta has, that all learning is multidimensional, then projects like this become necessary. Literary studies (and whatever else that takes place in English departments nowadays, like creative writing, comp/rhetoric, linguistics, etc.) need to articulate what they contribute to that complex project of learning going on in their departments and programs. In my opinion, acknowledging that multidimensionality should lead to an awareness of the multidisciplinary nature of learning in higher education. But figuring out ways to bridge the historical traditions, discourses, and argumentative practices that define disciplines is by no means a simple project. Your collection is a step in that direction.