Gillian Paku wins award for innovative course design

SUNY Geneseo Assistant Professor of English Gillian Paku has been named a winner of the Innovative Course Design Competition organized by the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies for her course “Authorial Identity: What’s in a Name?”

Established in 1969, ASECS is an interdisciplinary group dedicated to the advancement of scholarship in all aspects of the period stretching from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century.

The organization’s award for innovative course design comes with a $500 honorarium and an invitation to present at the Society’s annual meeting.

In recognizing Professor Paku’s achievement, the selection committee observed:

This course takes a difficult topic – authorial identity – and makes it accessible and interesting without sacrificing any conceptual clarity or rigor. Indeed, its course objectives – with their attendant interest in the meta-analysis of authorship and canonicity – are remarkably ambitious. Laurence Sterne’s work is difficult to decipher and yet Paku succeeds in using Tristram Shandy to actually render a more recent postmodern text more accessible to students by the end of the semester. This is a serious and innovative accomplishment. Along the way, the use of Skype is perfectly tuned to the course goals and allows the living post-modern author (Plascencia) to ‘perform’ in ways that can be discussed and deconstructed after the fact. In a major authors course, the identity and intentions of the author are always foregrounded, but students inevitably seem to wonder if they’ve accessed the “real” Sterne or the “real” Dryden or the “real” Milton. Paku’s arrangement for an interview with a living author allows students to experience “authentic” contact that will shape their understanding of how well the written works capture the essence and intents of their creator. The use of puppets (and indeed muppets) is also conceptually sound and pedagogically useful. These are not gimmicks.

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