Ashley Rose Kelly

Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature

Ashley Rose KellyKenneth Burke’s “unending conversation” metaphor has always been a helpful pedagogical thought exercise for me. In The Philosophy of Literary Form, Burke asks his readers to imagine arriving late to a parlor. Immediately the reader must recognize that the ongoing conversations are also preceding conversations. With this realization, the misapprehension of discourse as discrete and linear is disrupted. “You listen for a while,” Burke writes, and once his reader has caught the thrust of the argument, they may join the conversation. On the periphery the newly found member of the conversation slowly wades in, timid at first, but eventually masters the vocabulary, common knowledge, and the decorum of the conversational space.

The unending conversation metaphor reminds us of the challenges students face when first encountering new scholarly conversations and traditions. Given the inter- and multi-disciplinary nature of my teaching this is an important reminder to myself. With this reminder, my pedagogical approach accounts for the novice, the reader on the periphery, struggling to join the conversation. The act of joining the conversation is what allows the reader—my students—to meaningfully advance themselves into both disciplinary discussions and larger civic conversations.

Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo

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