Prof. Sarigianides and Nicole Godard ’15 present talk at NEATE workshop

Prof. Sarigianides and Nicole Godard ’15 present talk at NEATE workshop

Sophia Tatiana Sarigianides, Ph.D., professor of English, and alumna Nicole Godard ’15 presented “Beyond Marxism: Class Performance, Cultural Capital, and Class Analysis in the ELA Classroom,” Feb. 6 during an online New England Association of Teachers of English workshop. Their presentation focused on how social class is addressed in middle-and-high school classroom discussions of literature.

While English Language Arts (ELA) teachers typically develop curricula that address issues of race and gender but not class, those attending the presentation learned key concepts about class from a cultural or affective approach, including class performance, class-based injury, and cultural capital. Together, teachers practiced applying these concepts to passages from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, while considering how this approach to class analysis yields richer and deeper literary understanding.

“Overwhelmingly, as with my own instruction of in-service and pre-service English teachers, ELA teachers offer a class-blind approach to literature analysis in middle and high schools,” Sarigianides explained. “Discussion and content focus tends to leave social class out as a relevant topic. If it does get discussed, it is usually through a Marxist literary analysis that focuses on who does and does not have power, money, and resources.”

While a Marxist approach explains much about how class difference exists and persists, according to Sarigianides, it does not offer a full picture of social class.

“A complement to Marxist understandings of social class is cultural or affective explanations of how class works,” she said. “In the words of Julie Lindquist, author of the well-known article, ‘Class Affects, Classroom Affectations: Working through the Paradoxes of Strategic Empathy,’ ‘We understand class as a problem of distribution of resources, but we experience it affectively, as an emotional process.’

“This attention to the affective experiences of class-based injuries, class-based identity performances as a way to avoid or heal injury, and the significance of cultural capital can make all the difference in helping to make the topic—and experiences—of class difference relevant and meaningful to students and to literary analysis,” added Sarigianides.

Godard is ELA director of curriculum and instruction at Hampden Charter School of Science in Chicopee. She is pursuing a master’s degree in English at Westfield State.