"The Art of Relations:" Working Towards Companion Pedagogy

Milby, Richard, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Rody, Caroline, English, University of Virginia

What do our friends have to teach us about art? What can they teach us about ourselves? What, indeed, does teaching have to do with friendship at all? The purpose of this thesis is to redirect, reshape, and restore critical attention to this oft overlooked relationship. Friendship, as opposed to other forms of love, is often sidelined by critical voices, perhaps as representing a too mundane, habitual, or tenuous relationship to warrant sustained critical study. It is possible, too, that our own friends often go unacknowledged for the insight and influence they exert with respect to our evaluation of art and literature. And yet, friendship is a powerful, difficult, and fluid relationship that is more than worthy of our attention.

Through a brief study of classical and modern understandings of friendship, through interpretative readings of a growing number of contemporary novels that feature models of modern friendship, and through a concerted effort to see the language of friendship as a necessary condition for democratic pedagogy within the classroom, we can begin to come closer to a vision of how to discuss that which is around us all the time but is not often remarked upon. Indeed, I believe that such a study can help us see that reading, writing, and scholarship is a radically social and relational endeavor and therefore useful to any meaningful approach to the classroom. Through what I am calling, 'companion pedagogy,' we can see how moods, methods, and models of friendship can restructure hierarchical pedagogical practices to better reflect democratic classroom spaces. This paper will explore how a study of friendship can offer civic, personal, and pedagogical methods of collaboration and dialogue across difference. It will look at the models available to us to confront and better understand the types of relationships we experience daily, the small interactions that craft our picture of the world and our selves. And it will open the door for further reflection on the actual practice of civically-minded friendship and companionship in the classroom.

MA (Master of Arts)
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