Ramazani, Department of English
I conceive what I do in the classroom in two complementary aims: I try to make available and accessible to students an ever-shifting, contested body of humanistic thought; and I try to foster their critical thinking about this humanistic inheritance. By semester's end, I want my students to have an intimate knowledge of a regional, historical, or generic collection of literary texts, and to have an enhanced ability to interpret the multitude of other "texts" that they will meet in coming years, including information, art, and their own life-narratives.
In my view, literature is well-suited, though not exclusively so, to teaching an array of transferable skills. In teaching literature, I am also trying to advance the abilities of my students to analyze and evaluate ideas. I try to help them learn how to ask rich and significant questions and how to work toward answering them imaginatively and methodically. Once students leave the university setting, such intellectual skills will bear on the quality of their work. Their communication skills will also be important for their future. So I try to improve the abilities of my students to make effective use of written and spoken language; to communicate thoughtfully and precisely; to explain complex ideas and facts; to listen carefully; and to express their own thoughts and reformulate the thoughts of others. Students need to learn to work in collaboration with one another since most go on to jobs where they work in teams and groups. In my view, structured debates, small group analysis, reciprocal critique, and other such cooperative devices can also help students to learn more because these methods encourage students to take active responsibility for their own educations. One of my greatest joys is to see the classroom become a vibrant intellectual community, with students and professor dynamically engaged in the animated exchange and discovery of ideas.
While I would like my teaching to help students lead full and productive working lives, I also try to teach students ways of thinking and being that may bear little on the marketplace, but that have long been prized by our own and other civilizations. The ability to meditate quietly on an aesthetic, ethical, or spiritual conundrum may not always help a politician, lawyer, doctor, or businessperson "get ahead," but such "life skills" as meditation, introspection, and profound reflection are no less valuable for that. I want to help deepen the sensitivity of my students to the complex affective life of poems, plays, and novels, even if an awareness of subtle shades of feeling and thinking may not reap dividends in the crash and din of professional work. In brief, the complex inner being of a literary work-rich, subtle, unpredictable-is conducive to heightening students' abilities to experience awe and wonder, to ponder insoluble dilemmas, to thrill at beauty, to sympathize with others, to explore their own and other cultures, and to reflect intelligently on the constant if ever-changing realities of love, war, sex, nationality, politics, art, grief, and death.
Finally, my teaching has always been tied to my research. Whether or not the subject of my research bears directly on my teaching, the deep, careful, detailed thinking through of ideas that is demanded by original writing prevents classroom performance, I hope, from degenerating into the stale rehearsal of received opinions. I believe that a professor's involvement with research can enable him or her to present and to engage clearly formulated, profoundly felt ideas. A professor's fresh thinking can help spur students into their own acts of intellectual self-creation. While research can help to enrich and deepen a professor's teaching, teaching can have a similar effect on research. Students have often forced me to rethink my own views, to clarify my intellectual commitments, and to throw out far-fetched notions. For such profoundly mutual learning, I am always grateful.