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Why would you read this? *Education in a visual culture

Gordon Frazier MacLachlan, University of Massachusetts Amherst


My dissertation addresses the future of academics, intellectuals, and education itself in terms of the effectiveness of our attempts to carry out one of the few responsibilities we agree on: to teach students the critical skills necessary to negotiate humanely and intelligently the decisions of their culture-soaked everyday lives. Examination of the rhetorics of our criticism, teaching, and omnipresent visual media plays a fundamental role in my assessments of the usefulness and relevance of our work.^ The first chapter advocates a realignment of critical priorities through a practical and populist approach to intellectual history. I then focus in the second chapter on teaching strategies and styles, identifying the classroom as a crucial arena for philosophical inquiry, personal expression and interpretation, and explorations of the empowering responsibilities of critical thinking and citizenship. My third chapter proposes a common critical and pedagogical grounding in ethics and rhetoric, jettisoning the phantom notion of "disinterestedness" in favor of an honest, solid defense of liberal democratic education.^ In the fourth chapter I prescribe a Brechtian aesthetic for our time, advancing chapter three's identification of the crucial roles of pleasure and entertainment in the learning process, and articulating my investment in, to use Roland Barthes's superb phrase, "the thrill of meaning." In the final chapter I offer a curricular vision, focusing on postmodern and metafictional texts which surprise, subvert, and entertain, while foregrounding formal disruption and the blurring of identities and serving as models of constructedness, strategy, and co-created meanings. Our students must be given the skills to read, and thus write, the broadest range of cultural texts.^ This dissertation affirms the need for balance in the profession: to balance the creation of knowledge with a more democratic dissemination of knowledge; to balance a valuing of distinctions and difference with a blurring of borders and categories to produce a more fruitful concept of what we have in common; to balance an aesthetics of affirmation with an aesthetics of disturbance; and to balance the diverse but often incompatible proliferation of epistemologies with a Rortian call for "agreements." ^

Subject Area

American studies|Educational philosophy

Recommended Citation

MacLachlan, Gordon Frazier, "Why would you read this? *Education in a visual culture" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9737556.