This essay explores the use of HIV narratives in multi-level English courses to advance empathy-based, prescriptive learning models in English studies. Currently, this model uses the life writings of people with HIV and AIDS in English 112: “HIV and Research Writing” and English 596: “African American Autobiography,” courses which -- in terms of student advancement and theoretical intention -- exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, but which present parallel opportunities to integrate cross-disciplinary critical thinking with empathetic (and localized) community awareness. The ultimate goal is twofold: 1) to more thoughtfully theorize the centrality of interactive learning to a graduate education and, 2) to frame exposure to HIV narratives as a cross-disciplinary venue to think about, write about and talk about words as connected to activity. The narratives, while raising local community issues, become a location for students to speculate about the relevance of self-authored narrative to any number of disciplinary problems (gathering HIV statistics, medical ethics, or safe-sex advertising, for example). This model, tested in one course, produced a demonstrated impact on integrative student learning: in English 586 (Spring 2006), students, after reading Sonia Sanchez’s Does Your House Have Lions -- a book length poetic rendering of the author’s brother’s life and death with AIDS -- met with a woman living with HIV. In the end students were mobilized to infuse HIV/AIDS advocacy and service projects into their learning experience.
|Keywords:||HIV/AIDS, Teaching Pedagogy|
Associate Professor, Department of English, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
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