Threshold Concepts in Literary Studies

  • Paul T. Corrigan Southeastern University
Keywords: Threshold Concepts, Literary Studies, Disciplinary Introspection, Expert Blind Spot, Commonsense, Lucille Clifton, English


This essay proposes a series of “threshold concepts” for literary studies: text, meaning, context, form, and reading. Each term carries both commonsense understandings and disciplinary understandings, which differ from each other drastically. The disciplinary understandings entail far “more” than the commonsense ones. Unless such differences are named and explained clearly, unacknowledged commonsense understandings may hinder students ability to learn equally unacknowledged disciplinary understandings. The naming and describing of such contrasting sets of understandings and of the differences between them is an act of disciplinary introspection—a scholarly and pedagogical act vital for understanding and teaching any complex body of knowledge. In addition to proposing threshold concepts for literary studies specifically, then, this essay encourages and offers a model for teacher-scholars in any discipline to undertake the same disciplinary work.

Author Biography

Paul T. Corrigan, Southeastern University
Paul T. Corrigan teaches writing and literature at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. In addition to literary scholarship and poetry, he has published on teaching and learning in Pedagogy, Profession, Reader, International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and other venues. He writes and edits the academic blog Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed. He lives in the Peace River Watershed, where he walks to work.


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How to Cite
Corrigan, P. T. (2019). Threshold Concepts in Literary Studies. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 7(1), 3-17.