National Teaching Fellow 2011
A poet and critic, Dr Carol Watts co-directs the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre, and teaches in the Department of English and Humanities at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Her teaching is known for its dynamism and creativity across a wide interdisciplinary range.
‘Impassioned, informed, provocative and enjoyable’, as one student remarked. ‘Totally eye-opening’.
Carol’s work over the last twenty years at Birkbeck has been characterised by a strong commitment to exploring the possibilities of collaboration. At the heart of her pedagogy is a belief in the transformative potential of what students can do together, beyond expected outcomes. It has led to what she sees as a ‘mobile creative pragmatics’ in her teaching, in which students are encouraged to grab the process of learning for themselves, and risk new directions, rather than being located solely as client receivers of knowledge. In keeping with Birkbeck‘s ethos, the aim is to open up extraordinary potential in people’s lives.
Since 2006 Carol has developed the unique Voiceworks collaborative programme with colleagues from the Poetics Centre, the Composition and Vocal Studies Departments at Guildhall Conservatoire, and Wigmore Hall, the international venue for song repertoire. Birkbeck poets and Guildhall composers and singers improvise and exchange over a period of six months to create songs, performed each May. As one student describes, Voiceworks offers ‘the possibility of inspiring innovation; the opportunity for those involved to do something they may never have before; and the gift of a world-class stage to young artists’. Many of the creative teams have continued to produce new work in venues across the UK and internationally.
In 2010-11 Carol initiated and led an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project to create a digital platform, voiceworks.org.uk, to document and curate this collaborative practice and research. She is continuing to explore its generative possibilities, establishing a Voiceworks Prize for schools with Wigmore Learning. Carol believes cross-arts learning of the kind investigated by Voiceworks is a new and evolving field that digital technologies and networks are also transforming, and the willingness to be a learner oneself is essential.
Reader in Literature and Poetics
Birkbeck, University of London