In Paradise with Contemplative Pedagogy: A Journey
Keywords:Religion, Contemplative Pedagogy, Deep Listening, Soundscapes, Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, Paradise
With Dante in Heaven: A Contemplative Journey is a course that I devised and taught in the Italian Studies Department at Vassar College in the spring of 2016. The course focused on Paradise, the third canticle of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri; it was cross-listed with the Department of Religion, and taught in English. Thirty students (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors) with different backgrounds and majors, enrolled in this course. During this course, I introduced the students to free-writing, deep listening exercises, yoga-based deep breathing exercises, and vocal improvisation. Students felt that the practices contributed to a feeling of relaxation, focus, and overall ease in the classroom, and that some of the exercises allowed them to overcome personal and academic obstacles in subjects other than the humanities.
This reflective paper describes the course design, the uses and outcomes of classroom exercises, and the relationship between the study of the primary text (referred to as the Comedy in the rest of this paper) and the development of the class’s learning environment. The students’ self-reported experiences demonstrate how contemplative pedagogy can model a new way of teaching and learning that honors students’ personal experiences and backgrounds when approaching a classic piece of literature.
Bach, D. & Alexander, J. (2015). Contemplative Approaches to Reading and Writing: Cultivating Choice, Connectedness, and Wholeheartedness in the Critical Humanities. The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry, 2(1), 17-36.
Barbezat, D. & Bush, M. (2014). Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods To Transform Teaching and Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Barolini, T. (1992). The Undivine Comedy. Detheologizing Dante. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Berila, B. (2016). Integrating Mindfulness Into Anti-Oppression Pedagogy. New York and London: Routledge.
Carpenter, E. & McLuhan, M. (1960). Explorations in Communications, Boston: Beacon Press.
Durling, R. M. & Martinez, R. L. (2011). The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. New York: Oxford University Press.
Heller, N. (2016, May). The Big Uneasy: What’s roiling the liberal-arts campus? The New Yorker, 48-57.
Monk, M. (1997). Notes on the Voice. In Jowitt, D. (Ed.), Meredith Monk. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Oliveros, P. (2005). Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.
Zajonc, A. (2009). Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry. When Knowing Becomes Love. Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Books.
Authors who publish with this journal sign a publishing agreement after their paper has been accepted. Through the agreement, authors transfer copyright to CMind, the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, the publisher of JOCI. Authors may enter into additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of their work (e.g., to publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal. Authors are also permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website), with acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal and retaining the formatting as published in JOCI.