Dr. Kathryn Ludwig is an Assistant Teaching Professor of English and the Ball Brothers Honors College Faculty Fellow. She earned her MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago and her PhD from Purdue University, where she studied contemporary American literature with a secondary concentration in Jewish philosophy. Her scholarship deals with religion in contemporary American literature and postsecular theory, in particular. Her publications appear in such journals as Religion and Literature, Humanities, Christianity and Literature, and Religion and the Arts. Prior to her graduate studies, she worked in arts promotion, most notably in public relations for the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Currently, she resides with her husband and children on their family’s farm in east-central Indiana.
What led you to apply for the Honors Faculty Fellowship?
I am interested in the Honors College’s interdisciplinary model, which aligns with my own multidisciplinary interests. The Honors Faculty Fellowship is an exciting opportunity to grow my teaching and scholarship through interaction with Honors College students and faculty. I have had the pleasure of working with several Honors College students, all of whom demonstrated a deep investment in collaborative learning.
What project are you putting forth for the fellowship?
My book project explores a central paradox of reading religious fiction: (1) the role of story in providing access to the experiences of cultural others and (2) the reality that our ideological commitments and aversions situate us and impede our ethical engagement with the Other. For the Honors Faculty Fellowship, I propose a project with similar concerns, chiefly, confronting obstacles to truly engaging otherness and understanding the role of texts in constructing and reinforcing identities. This is a project that will benefit greatly from discussion with students and community members. It is my hope that by considering the investments that inform our thinking, we may develop our capacity to engage difference.
You’ll be teaching an HONR 199 class and an HONR 390 class during your time as a faculty fellow. Can you tell us a little bit about those classes?
The HONR199 class will focus on the idea of “the American Dream” as it shows up in contemporary American cultural texts. We will consider how the idea has served to inspire but also to obscure injustices through a myth of equal opportunity for all. We will track the perpetuation of American Dream ideology in literature, art, and film. We will also consider the role of thinking critically about cultural texts (especially those that appear to be “just entertainment”) to our development as responsible citizens.
Through an immersive learning experience, the HONR390 class will consider the capacity for story (as opposed to propositional discourse) to foster inter-religious dialogue. In partnership with the Maring-Hunt Public Library, as well as several community religious groups, we will read contemporary works of literature that narrate the lived experience of characters from diverse religious backgrounds. Students will facilitate community book club discussions and create book club reading guides for chosen works that may be distributed to libraries and reading groups in the hopes of supporting appreciation for religious diversity in communities.
How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
Because I believe that the study of texts holds the potential to affect students’ patterns of meaning-making for a lifetime, my purpose in teaching is not merely to impart knowledge, but to mentor students in becoming learners. Consequently, my approach to teaching is founded in relation and differentiation. For example, I rely heavily on dialogue in my classes, yet I recognize that many students experience barriers to this form of class participation. Through multimodal teaching, I can engage students in a variety of ways. In addition to class discussion, a typical class may incorporate visual presentation (of my own making or of students’), small-group collaboration, or individual reflective writing. I frequently seek student feedback regarding what classroom practices are most beneficial and I tailor my instruction to each learning community. For me, meaningful teaching demands attentiveness and reciprocity.