Department of English

Ricky Shear


MA, Humanities Institute

PhD Candidate, Assistant Instructor

Contact

Interests


Empathy in literature, modernism, American literature, community-engaged learning, social justice pedagogy, civic professionalism, narrative theory, war literature, literature of the American West

Courses


E 314L • Goodreads-Wb

34378 • Fall 2020
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM
Internet; Synchronous
Wr

E 314L  l  10-GoodReads

 

Instructor:  Shear, R

Unique #:  34378

Semester:  Fall 2020

Cross-lists:  n/a

 

Prerequisites:  One of the following: E 303C (or 603A), RHE 306, 306Q, or T C 303C (or 603A).

 

Description:  For what and why do people fight and die? Can anything justify the mass death and destruction of war?  How do we make sense of the extremes of human experience produced by war, and how do those experiences inform our understanding of our own lives and societies?  Moreover, what does it mean to be an “American” at war?  How have the values, prejudices, and institutions of the U.S. defined American participation in war?  This course will invite students to wrestle with these questions as they engage with American war narratives that do the same.  We will put “classic” American war narratives, texts largely centered on white males, in dialog with American war narratives centered on BIPOC and female perspectives.  This dialogic approach will allow us to critically examine what it means for a text to be thought of as a “classic” and explore how considering non-white, non-male experiences is vital to understanding American participation in war.  Ultimately, we will consider how the historical contexts of 20th- and 21st-century wars shape our course texts and how these texts convey the ways that lives and values are revealed, destroyed, and transformed by war.

 

The primary aim of this course is to help students develop and improve the critical reading, writing, and thinking skills needed for success in upper-division courses in English and other disciplines.  They will also gain practice in using the Oxford English Dictionary and other online research tools and print resources that support studies in the humanities.  Students will learn basic information literacy skills and models for approaching literature with various historical, generic, and cultural contexts in mind.

 

This course contains a writing flag.  The writing assignments in this course are arranged procedurally with a focus on invention, development through instructor and peer feedback, and revision; they will constitute a major part of the final grade.

 

Tentative texts:  Not Only War, Victor Daly; the gangster we are all looking for, lê thi diem thúy; Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon; Catch-22, Joseph Heller.  Other short readings will be available on Canvas.

 

Requirements & Grading:  There will be a series of 3 short essays, the first of which must be revised and resubmitted.  Subsequent essays may also be revised and resubmitted by arrangement with the Instructor (75% of the final grade).  There will also be creative, collaborative projects, short quizzes and reaction papers, and required in-class participation (25% of the final grade).

E 310C • Lit/Community Engagement

34895 • Spring 2020
Meets MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM PAR 204
E

E 310C  l  Literature and Community Engagement

 

Instructor:  Shear, R

Unique #:  34895

Semester:  Spring 2020

Cross-lists:  n/a

 

Prerequisite:  none.

 

Description:  American Literature, Social Justice, and Empathy –

Can reading literature help us create a more just society?  Can reading literature enhance our ability to empathize with others?  Can practicing empathy help us create a more ethical and compassionate society?  This class will explore these questions by examining works of American literature about and/or written by people from marginalized and underrepresented groups.  At the same time students will engage in community-based learning by volunteering regularly at several non-profit organizations in Austin that offer services to people experiencing homelessness. We will reflect on our reading and our engagement with the Austin community in light of theories about literature, empathy, and social justice, all of which analyze what literature does and/or what kind of impact reading it can have on the world.  Our journey through 19thand 20thcentury American literature will offer a literary historical perspective of how people who are impoverished, enslaved, discriminated against, and/or otherwise oppressed have been represented and perceived and how American society has responded to those people.

 

Our time with our community partners will offer an opportunity to draw on class readings and discussions to engage with community members with a richer understanding of the ethics of empathy and social justice and an enhanced attentiveness to the affective and cognitive states, experiences, and personal narratives of those community members.  Students will support these organizations’ work to reduce homelessness in Austin while critically reflecting on how their encounters with social injustice in the Austin community and literature inform their personal values and ethical decision making.  Ultimately, the class will enable students to explore what happens when we intentionally bring our reading experience into our community and our community into our reading experience.

 

Possible Texts/Readings: A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Frederick Douglass; Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe; “Life in the Iron Mills,” Rebecca Harding Davis; Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser; Native Son, Richard Wright; The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck; The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison; Tracks, Louise Erdrich; Empathy and the Novel, Suzanne Keen; Literature and Social Justice: Protest Novels, Cognitive Politics, and Schema Criticism, Mark Bracher.

 

Requirements & Grading:  Write two analytical summaries of discussions of empathy, social justice, and/or literature in news media, academic articles, or another non-literary source (300-500 words each)—10%; Write an essay that analyzes the representation of social injustice and/or underrepresented/marginalized groups in literary texts (4-5 pages)—20%; Write an essay that reflects on your community-based learning experience and makes connections between that experience and course texts (4-5 pages)—20%; Write biweekly discussion posts on Canvas that reflect course readings and/or your community-based learning experience (150-300 words each)—20%; Weekly or biweekly attendance and participation at the community site—20%; Attendance and participation in class—10%.

E 310C • Lit/Community Engagement

34314 • Fall 2019
Meets MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM CMA 5.190
E

E 310C  l  Literature and Community Engagement

 

Instructor:  Shear, R

Unique #:  34314

Semester:  Fall 2019

Cross-lists:  n/a

 

Prerequisite:  none

 

Description:  American Literature, Social Justice, and Empathy –

How can we effectively work towards creating a more just society?  Can studying literature help us create a more just society?  Can studying literature enhance our ability to empathize with others?  Can practicing empathy lead to a greater concern for others’ well-being and enhance our ability to take altruistic action?  This class will explore these questions by examining works of American literature that represent and in some cases are written by people from marginalized and underrepresented groups while engaging in community-based learning by volunteering regularly at Caritas of Austin, an organization that offers comprehensive services to people experiencing homelessness with the aim of ending homelessness in Austin. We will reflect on these texts and our engagement with the Austin community in light of theories about literature, empathy, and social justice, all of which analyze what literature does and/or what kind of impact reading it can have on the world.  Our journey through texts from several centuries of American literature will offer a literary historical perspective of how people who are impoverished, enslaved, discriminated against, and/or otherwise oppressed have been represented and perceived and how American society has marginalized and responded to those people.

 

Our time at Caritas of Austin will offer an opportunity to draw on class readings and discussions to engage with community members with a richer understanding of the ethics of empathy and social justice and an enhanced attentiveness to the affective states and cognitive states, experiences, and personal narratives of those community members.  Students will support Caritas’s work to reduce homelessness in Austin while critically reflecting on how their encounters with social injustice in the Austin community and literature inform their personal values and ethical decision making.  Engaging in community-based learning at Caritas will also offer us opportunities to learn how professionals at non-profits offering services to those who are homeless strive to contribute to a more just society and how those on the social margin understand themselves and American society.

 

Possible Texts/Readings:  A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Frederick Douglass; Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe; “Life in the Iron Mills,” Rebecca Harding Davis; Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser; Native Son, Richard Wright; The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck; The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison; Tracks, Louise Erdrich; Empathy and the Novel, Suzanne Keen; Literature and Social Justice: Protest Novels, Cognitive Politics, and Schema Criticism, Mark Bracher; “Literature as Equipment for Living,” Kenneth Burke.

 

Requirements & Grading:  Write two analytical summaries of discussions of empathy, social justice, and/or literature in news media, academic articles, or another non-literary source (300-500 words each)—10%; Write an essay that analyzes the representation of social injustice and/or underrepresented/marginalized groups in literary texts (4-5 pages)—20%; Write an essay that reflects on your community-based learning experience and makes connections between that experience and course texts (4-5 pages)—20%; Write weekly discussion posts on Canvas that reflect course readings and/or your community-based learning experience (150-300 words each)—25%; Weekly or biweekly attendance and participation at the community site—15%; Attendance and participation in class—10%.

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