In addition to my grad seminar on Bodies & Rhetoric this semester, I am teaching in a new program set up by none other than yesterday's guest blogger, JM. The program, called The Odyssey Project, is a free college level humanities course offered to low income people in the community. Odyssey has been running in Chicago for a while now, and it has even expanded to a spanish-language version as well as another "bridge" course for those students who wanted more.
Here, the course is divided into five parts--literature, philosophy, art history, U.S. History, and critical thinking and writing. I'll be teaching philosophy on Tuesday evenings starting next Tuesday alongside my colleague Dale Bauer who will be teaching literature on Thursdays. But our first meeting as a big group (the four faculty members, the director, and the 28 students) is tonight. I'm pretty excited to meet the students--JM has been telling me about each of them. Many are single moms whose kids are getting old enough so that they feel like they can start thinking about returning to school. I am also excited about what it will be like to teach a class in which every member--to a person--took the initiative to sign up and did so out of curiosity or interest or in hopes of something like self expansion (I'm groping here for a term that is not self improvement).
Interestingly, expansion is just what the program is about--in the way that Odysseus himself developed new capacities as he expanded his travels beyond habitual routes. The Odyssey Project, too, is about expanding the university beyond itself into the community and therefore expanding the humanities beyond themselves. I'm pretty excited about expanding my teacherly self too. And nervous in that first day of school kind of way.