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Program in British Studies

'Reacting to the Past: How I Came to Love Teaching Edmund Burke'

Larry Carver, Liberal Arts Honors Program

Fri, September 3, 2010 | Tom Lea Rooms, HRC 3.206

3:00 PM

'Then don't use compulsion', I said to him, 'but let your

children's lessons take the form of play.  You will learn more

about their natural abilities that way.'

Socrates, The Republic

'Reacting to the Past' introduces students to major ideas using role-playing to replicate the historical context in which ideas acquire significance.  In 'Burke and Rousseau and the French Revolution' students prepare by reading history and works by Rousseau and Burke.  They are assigned roles, not least Burke himself but perhaps above all Rousseau.  The classroom becomes the National Assembly.  Students write and give speeches, scheming in and out of class to win.  This method of teaching has weaknesses as well as strengths, but it is a powerful pedagogy. 

Larry Carver is a Professor of English and Director of Liberal Arts Honors.  He has taught 'Reacting to the Past' since 2005.  In the English Department he teaches the Restoration as well as eighteenth century British poetry and drama.  He is an authority on the eighteenth-century Earl of Chesterfield, author of the famous letters to his son.  Some members of the British Studies seminar will remember Larry Carver bringing a previous lecture to a dramatic conclusion by quoting Dr. Johnson denouncing Chesterfield's letters as teaching 'the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing-master'. 

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