In the ten years since the Modern Language Association published their report, “Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World” (2007) dissatisfaction with the “two-tiered configuration” of US foreign language departments has become increasingly vocal. While the target of the criticism is often the curriculum, it has often been noted that programmatic bifurcations mirror institutional hierarchies, e.g. status differences between specialists in literary and cultural studies and experts in applied linguistics and language pedagogy (e.g. Maxim et al;, 2013Allen & Maxim, 2012).Curricular models which reimagine the desired learning outcomes of collegiate foreign language programs in terms of design awareness (Kern, 2000), “textual thinking” (e.g. Maxim, 2009),and even “literary thinking” (e.g. Richardson, 2016) seem to call for scholars who work at least at some level across literary studies and applied linguistics—a trend that is evidenced in recent job postings in the modern language humanities fields; however, the translation of the transdisciplinary work of these scholars into recognizable research tracks within existing institutional is often ad hoc and at times precarious.
This paper looks at the two-tiered structure of collegiate modern language departments from the perspective of the transdisciplinary shape shifters who maneuver within them—scholars working between applied linguistics and literary studies. These individuals must negotiate the methodologies and the institutional positions available to them—in many instances, the latter is what has prompted them to work between fields in the first place. A key consideration of this paper will be the lived experience of doing transdisciplinary work in contexts that are characterized by disciplinary hierarchies, and thus the primary sources will be interviews conducted with individuals at various career levels from doctoral students on up and autoethnographic reflections from the presenter.
Allen, Heather Willis & Maxim, Hiram, eds. 2012. Educating the Future Foreign Language Professoriate for the 21st Century. 2011 AAUSC Volume. Boston: Heinle Cengage.
Kern, Richard. 2000. Literacy and Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Maxim, Hiram, et al. 2013. “Overcoming curricular bifurcation: A departmental approach to curriculum reform.” Die Unterrichtspraxis, 46: 1-26.
MLA Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages. 2007. “Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World.” Profession, 234-235
Richardson, Diane. 2016. Toward a Pedagogy of Ambiguity: Incorporating and Assessing Ambiguity in a Multiliteracies-Based Curriculum (unpublished dissertation). University of Arizona, Tucson.