We (Josh Berlyne and Fabienne Collignon) are, respectively, a student and member of staff at the University of Sheffield, involved in LIT271 (Radical Theory), a 2nd year undergraduate module, and driven by a desire to re-imagine the university as a site of philosophical speculation and unceasing critical thinking. We received an ‘Inside Knowledge’ Fellowship from the University of Sheffield for Spring term 2017; further info can be found here.
Josh Berlyne studied a BA History and Philosophy in Sheffield at undergraduate level, and is currently studying on the MA Political Theory course. This experience of teaching and learning practices in other departments will enrich our project; in particular, we are interested to use the experience of online examinations for PHI216 (Feminism) and oral examinations for PHI336 (Kant), using Josh’s contact with students and lecturers in the department to inform the discussion of the LIT204 assessment. Importantly, Josh also has knowledge of the School of English, having taken LIT271 Radical Theory as an unrestricted module in Spring 2015. He has a strong commitment to student engagement and to transforming higher education, as an organiser for the Free University of Sheffield and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, two groups which campaign for free, democratic and liberated higher education. He has organised “Soup Seminars”, bringing together students, lecturers, graduates and those who had never been to university to discuss the urgent social and political issues of the day, over a bowl of free soup. In his final year, Josh undertook a Philosophical Project on the “Value of Higher Education”. His essay – ‘What is democratic academic labour in the context of higher education?’ – has been published in the Autumn 2016 edition of PhilonoUS, Sheffield’s undergraduate philosophy journal. He was awarded the Peter H. Nidditch prize for Philosophy in 2016. He intends to write his MA thesis on critical approaches to education.
Fabienne Collignon has been transforming pedagogy for teaching critical theory at Sheffield since her appointment in 2012. She has been convening LIT204 (Critical and Literary Theory) since 2013 and LIT271 (Radical Theory, a new optional module) since 2015, and, on the back of the development of the theory curriculum, was the winner of an Inspiration & Co. Award in 2014. Her convenorships of these modules implement a research-engaged curriculum and encourage the functioning of students as researchers, one of the School’s key L&T strategies. For LIT271, there is no set syllabus; the structure of the module (each scholar reacts to presentations by others, suggesting reading material, responding to propositions put forward by the speaker), means that class contributions are not solicited by a ‘teacher’, nor are they addressed to such a figure, but genuinely occur in terms of a duty to each other—the duty to listen, to bear upon the crises of the other(s). LIT204, a core module, is conceptualised as going ‘beyond’: beyond set texts, to encourage further independent research, beyond the class, into the polis. In her teaching practice, then, Fabienne seeks to overhaul the relationship between ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ in order to create a space in which we are all researchers and is, as such, committed to transforming the university into a space of active collaboration.