Empathic Teaching: Education For Life

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Overview

During the past decade, Jeffrey Berman has published widelyon the pedagogy of personal writing. In "Diaries to an English Professor" (1994), he explored the ways in which undergraduate students can use psychoanalytic diaries to deal with conflicted issues in their lives. "Surviving Literary Suicide" (1999) investigated how graduate students respond to novels and poems that portray and sometimes glorify self-inflicted death. And in "Risky Writing" (2002), Berman considered the ways teachers can encourage college students to write safely on a wide range of subjects often deemed too personal or too dangerous for the classroom, from grieving the loss of friend to confronting sexual abuse.

"Empathic Teaching" builds on that earlier work by showing how a pedagogy based on understanding the other can transform the experience of learning. Berman begins with a discussion of several well-known stories and films featuring literature instructors who exert a formative influence on their students, including "Good-bye, Mr. Chips," "The Blackboard Jungle," "Up the Down Staircase," and "Dead Poets Society." He then goes on to examine the pedagogical importance of empathy, trauma, and forgiveness in helping students cope with the ordinary and extraordinary challenges of everyday life. Subsequent chapters are devoted to an analysis of actual student writing—powerful, insightful, authentic essays about lived experience that reveal both intellectual and emotional growth.

In the book's final chapter, Berman considers the risks and benefits of empathic teaching, demonstrating how teachers can play a therapeutic role in the classroom without being therapists. Teachers who are regarded as trusting, supportive, and dependable, he argues, become attachment figures, influencing students to be more sensitive to and connected with their classmates' lives. Or, as Berman succinctly puts it, empathic teaching leads to empathic learning, an education for life.

"An extraordinarily absorbing and important piece of work. Jeffrey Berman is elaborating a vision of what it means to be an English professor today that is at once radically original and eminently practical. His previous books on personal writing have garnered widespread notice, and I am confident that this most recent breakthrough will attract even more readers and raise the cumulative impact of his oeuvre to a higher power."— Peter L. Rudnytsky, editor of "American Imago" and author of "Reading Psychoanalysis: Freud, Rank, Ferenczi, Groddeck"

JEFFREY BERMAN is professor of English at the University of Albany. His books include "Risky Writing: Self-Disclosure and Self-Transformation in the Classroom," "Surviving Literary Suicide," and "Diaries to an English Professor: Pain and Growth in the Classroom," all published by the University of Massachusetts Press.

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Editorial Reviews

College English Association Forum
Readers must decide whether or not they feel qualified or are willing to invite such trauma into their classrooms. Thanks to Berman's extensive research and student writing examples that decision should not be difficult to make.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558494688
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
  • Publication date: 12/29/2004
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction : making a difference in students' lives 1
1 "Schoolmastering's so different, so important" : fictional and filmic literature teachers 36
2 Empathy, trauma, and forgiveness : classroom implications 95
3 Family snapshots 1 : letters to and from parents 138
4 Family snapshots 2 : empathy and its vicissitudes 205
5 "The age of melancholy" : bearing witness to depression 284
6 Risky teaching : on being called a pervert, a predator, and a natural therapist 354
Student writers 397
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