An Associate Professor of English at the University of South Dakota, Benjamin D. Hagen is editor of Woolf Studies Annual and author of The Sensuous Pedagogies of Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence (Clemson UP, 2020). His research has appeared in the journals Age, Culture, Humanities; Modernism/Modernity; PMLA; Twentieth Century Literature; and Virginia Woolf Miscellany as well as book collections on Virginia Woolf, the Bloomsbury Group, and the life and work of Louise DeSalvo. He is at work on a new monograph, Finding Love in Literary Criticism and Theory.
Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan’s The Teaching Archive: A New History for Literary Study “declines to take up arms in the method wars” (9). But let’s not be fooled. This pacifism is not passive. This avoidance of “our metadiscourse” conditions an act of critical sabotage which defuses weapons of mass abstraction—i.e. formalism, historicism, ideology critique, postcritique, surface reading, distance reading, and so on (9). Buurma and Heffernan’s new history neither minds the gap nor suggests liberal, incremental readjustments. Rather, they make the claim—a revolutionary one—that what we “will watch,” “follow,” “see,” and “encounter” in the pages of their study “overturns,” “demolishes,” “scrambles,” “dispels,” and “dismisses” “nearly every major account of what the history of literary studies has been” (1, 6).
I had not heard of ProctorU software until October 1, 2020 when I noticed that several folks on Twitter, whom I follow for their thoughts on pedagogy, had retweeted and responded to the same upsetting TikTok video I had come across earlier that same day. The video shows a young woman, crying, explaining that she had just failed an online exam not because she had been unprepared but because her professor’s surveillance software flagged her as “talking” out loud while taking the exam.