This article argues that professors of American literature should focus on a pedagogy of “wakefulness” that encourages connections between different writers and texts, between the past and the present, and especially between the classroom and the world beyond. The goal of this pedagogy is to encourage active citizenry in engaging the material conditions of the current moment. This is especially valuable at nonelite institutions, such as mine, where students are not as aware of how knowledge is contingent and contested. Ultimately, this approach privileges metacognition and transferring learning from the course to action as a citizen. This pedagogy ultimately fosters a liberal education that explicitly links private study with public concerns and that encourages students to see themselves as potential agents of change in a neoliberal state that identifies them merely as consumers or tools of production.

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