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    Core Concepts
    For the Social Pedagogies Group, I am focusing on the “Literature for the North Woods” projects from my Skidmore College English course, “Literature and the Environment.” The goal of the projects is for students to “connect our reading and study of Nature Writing and Environmental Literature to our natural surroundings [Skidmore College’s North Woods] and to find creative ways in which the literature we are reading can enhance our experience of going into the North Woods . . ..  The challenge of the project is to translate or transpose literary ideas to new media for our contemporary audience and situation.”

    Since the student projects radically differ from a 5-7-page paper typically required in a literature class, it is helpful to articulate the core concepts informing the project.   The fundamental core concept underlying the project is understanding the unique purpose or role of literature.   Given the environmental focus of the course, it is important for students to understand and appreciate the distinct contributions that literature (poetry, fiction, and nonfiction) brings to Environmental Studies.   But more generally, the core concept I am after in the project is the purpose of literature.  While this is a complex questions with multiple responses range from the aesthetic to the political, in this introductory level course, the concept of defamiliarization from Russian Formalism best expresses the core concept I am after.   Literature exists to break/wake readers from habitual responses and perceptions and awaken them so that they can see the subject in a new light.   Essential, literature takes a subject out of the familiar context in which we have seen it and defamiliarizes it, makes it strange to us, so that we experience it anew.  It is my hope that through the projects, the students will focus on the features that the reading(s) awakened them too and use that as a starting point to create their projects.

    The second core concept—more accurately labeled a core value—underlying this work is the role of literature.  Often within an academic context, literary texts can be isolated as objects of analysis while their connect to the lived world can be obscured or eclipsed.   The project allows students to learn that literature in not a luxury or a decoration to the human experience but an important lens through which we perceive and understand our world.

    Finally, the last core concept embedded in the project is meaning, more specifically, how we make meaning specifically by translating or transposing ideas from one context into another.   By establishing this new relationship—between readings and the forest around the campus—the projects become meaningful not only to the students but also to their large audience

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