How long have you been at UOW/teaching this degree?
Since its inception in March 2020.
What is your area of interest?
I work in the field of philosophical psychology and, relatedly, ethics and aesthetics. More specifically, I specialize in the philosophy of emotion, practical reasoning, the philosophy of psychoanalysis and social psychology.
What have you enjoyed most about teaching the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation?
I love the capacity to teach a curriculum that is not strictly discipline specific. We can read philosophical texts about art that are not necessarily by philosophers, but also by writers and poets, art critics, even architects! In that manner, we are never lost in a narrow academic discourse with all its implicit presuppositions. Instead, we can reach clarity on the very questions that drive discussions about art in the university and beyond. For example, we don’t just learn received interpretations of masterpieces, but rather question the very nature of interpretation, learning how to approach works of art on our own. I use “we” here, because I often feel that I am learning together with the students, that we are investigating these questions together. The openness of the great conversation of Western art, architecture and literature to all is one of the pedagogical joys of teaching this course.
What do you think sets UOW’s Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation apart from other courses?
First, the curriculum cuts across a few disciplines and consists of many extremely powerful – indeed timeless – masterpieces, many of which are simply not available in other courses. These are the kinds of artworks and books that change who you are, and that permeate the way you cope intellectually and emotionally with life’s challenges. Secondly, there’s the incredible opportunity to learn in small, focused discussion groups, where students can explore and test their thoughts and questions in a supportive, curious and collaborative environment. We don’t just have Q&A. The small group format allows us to have conversations that follow and develop various themes. Students don’t just turn to the teacher for clarification, we investigate the material and engage in close readings of the primary texts together. Students learn as much from each other as from the lecturer. The tutorials also give students the chance to develop the skill to speak in public, to think spontaneously, and to give and receive fruitful feedback.
Is there anything about the course or the students that has surprised you?
I was surprised by the varied forms of teaching and learning that we offer in this course. In addition to lectures and the small group tutorials, we have seminars for the larger group and interactive online activities which I have never seen before – it was quite an adventure to prepare them! Our small-scale school also permits us to have regular one-on-one consultations with many students; and with other colleagues. The level of care for each student and the different modes of engagement with the staff and the material are just extraordinary.
I have also been surprised by the students’ motivation and capacity to learn from feedback. It’s been so rewarding to see them improve their writing and critical skills throughout their first year (I teach first years).
What type of student would you recommend a Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation to?
You need to be up for a challenge and a hard worker, curious and intellectually ambitious. This kind of education will benefit all students, no matter what their other field of study is.
What career opportunities are available for students upon graduating?
This degree gives you critical thinking and writing skills, as well as precious skills to present, to listen, speak up and respond in discussion. These kinds of capacities, together with a mind furnished with references to the great works of the West as well as practice in engaging with non-Western traditions, will shine through in any career path; and in any job interview. I wouldn’t want to list careers here and thereby limit the options. But it seems to me that students like ours will find themselves in leadership roles wherever they go.