New English Courses on Mindfulness and Contemplation

In the upcoming Spring 2018 semester, Dr. Karolyn Kinane will be teaching two new ENDI courses that have a focus on Contemplative and Mindful studies.
The Canon interviewed Dr. Kinane to learn more about these courses.

What are courses you will be teaching this spring?

I’ll be teaching two General Education courses this spring. One is Curiosity, Playfulness, and Creativity, which is a Creative Thought Direction course. The other is Curiosity, Perspective, and Shakespeare, which is a Past and Present Direction course.

How will you integrate Contemplation and Mindfulness with a subject like Shakespeare?  

I want us to practice engaging compassionately with texts so that we can have practice engaging compassionately with others. We can look to the past for ways to understand how to relieve suffering and to increase joy. Humans have been struggling with these questions for centuries, so we can engage with texts from the past such as Shakespeare to understand our relationship with revenge, with love, and with deception. Our reading habits are patterned in our relationships with other people, so reading Shakespeare can help us understand our values and relationship to humanity better.

How will Curiosity, Playfulness, and Creativity utilize the same practices?

There will be creative writing. But we’ll also be working on making a toolbox so that we can creatively engage with our lives in ways that break habitual patterns of thinking.

We often think, “I’ve always done the same thing over and over. How can I think differently about this?” This question resonates with Contemplative and Mindful practices. Just like we practice compassionate reading, we can practice creatively approaching an assignment, a fellow person, an issue, or a situation.  Thinking creatively is really just about breaking habitual patterns.  

These courses are scheduled to take place in Centre Lodge. Why use this space? That’s a different place for English classes.

First, I wanted a place that had lots of room, so that if we wanted do physical practices, we would have enough space. In the Bradford room, there is room to lay down if we want to lay down, and room to jump around if we want to jump around. Part of the creativity class is about playfulness, and so having a large space that can be shaped differently is important.

Secondly, using the Bradford room ties back to breaking habitual ways of thinking. I’ve been teaching in Rounds Hall for ten years, and students take lots of their classes there. By moving the class into a different space, we can come to think about things differently.

There are two other courses on Mindfulness and Contemplation. One is in the Communications discipline, and the other is in the Biology discipline. How are those classes connected to the ones you are teaching?

Contemplative and Mindful approaches can be applied to Scientific Inquiry in the same way they can be applied to Shakespeare. There are similar types of approaches that we use read a text, and to read the world. All four courses are interested in helping students come to know themselves better, so that they can be more creative, critical, and compassionate citizens of the world.

The English courses will meet with the Communications and Biology courses in a group gathering on Wednesdays. What will happen during this time?

We are calling that period an “incubator”, or an open lab experience. Students are going to help design what happens in that space. We’re leaving room for what we call “emergent outcomes”. We don’t really know yet whats going to emerge from our time together, but we know that something will, so there’s an act of faith that will happen.

What happens in the individual classes is the theory and the personal. What happens in the open lab space is the practice and the public. Our scientists, and our literary scholars, and our ethicists are going to talk about what they’re learning in their courses, and how that will serve them in the world.  We will ask, “how are we going to take these tools and really change our worlds?”

Is the goal to have students take all four classes during their time at PSU?

Taking one or two is fine, lovely, and great. What this is part of is a larger campus-wide movement to help students recognize the value and relevance of their general education.

People think of general education as just classes to get out of the way, and that their major is what’s most important. General education, however, is actually the one thing on campus that all faculty think is the most important. But students don’t always find them meaningful or relevant.

In the future, I envision that students can take these four classes, then take an INCO capstone where they synthesize the material. As part of the capstone, I’d like students to help create an open lab experience for new and upcoming courses. In a few years, I see these courses becoming a cohesive whole, like a micro-minor.

Are there any follow up courses for students who enjoyed the classes from the Spring semester?

Officially, there is a 4000 level course called Mysticism & Contemplation which is a Wellness Connection AND an Integration Connection, open to Juniors and Seniors.

I can imagine this course becoming the capstone to the four Gen. Ed. Contemplation and Mindfulness courses. Mysticism and Contemplation looks issues of spiritual, intellectual, and emotional wellness.

What other ways can students get involved in contemplative communities on campus outside of the contemplative courses?

There’s a brand new student organization called CAPE, which stands for Contemplative Action, and Purposeful Expression. For more information on CAPE, you can contact Joe Scala at

Course Descriptions and CRN’s:

Creative Thought (CTDI): Curiosity, Playfulness, and Creativity
CRN: 31505 – MWF 2:30pm-3:20pm, W 1:25-2:15pm

ENDI 1650 (4 credits): Using meditation, contemplation, writing, and reflection, students explore ways to approach work and life creatively. This writing-intensive course foregrounds playfulness, experimentation, and uselessness as key parts of the creative process. This course cultivates students’ curiosity, builds a sense of agency, and shows how creative enterprises can be a lasting and meaningful part of life.

Part & Present (PPDI): Curiosity, Perspective, and Shakespeare
CRN: 31503 – MWF 12:20pm-1:10pm, W 1:25pm-2:15pm

ENDI 1700 (4 credits): Using meditation, contemplation, reading, writing, performance, discussion, research, and reflection, students explore the relationships among the past and the present. Students use the work of Shakespeare and later adaptations to consider how and why we approach large themes differently over time, space, and other contexts. This course cultivates students’ curiosity, builds a sense of agency, encourages purposeful expression, and demonstrates the significance of how the past and present shape one another.

Scientific Inquiry (SIDI): Curiosity, Observation, and the Scientific Process
CRN: 31573 – T 9:30am-11:30am, W 1:25pm-2:15pm
CRN: 31574 – T 2:00pm-4:00pm, W 1:25pm-2:15pm

BIDI 1080 (3 Credits): This course focuses on the scientific process and how curiosity and focused observations comprise the cornerstone of rigorous hypotheses in biology. We will use repeated observations of biological phenomena to formulate hypotheses, design experiments and collect data with the goals of cultivating curiosity and appreciation for investigations of biological phenomena.

Self & Society (SSDI): Curiosity, Ethics, and the Public Good
CRN: 30942 – TR 12:30pm-1:45pm, W 1:25pm-2:15pm

CMDI 2300 (3 credits): Using meditation, contemplation, writing, and reflection, students explore ways to approach the public good as an engaged citizen taking meaningful action. Students learn about socially broad mindful movement as they relate to communication ethics, public advocacy and social justice.

Related Course:

Integration/Wellness Connection (WECO/INCO): Mysticism and Contemplation
CRN: 31485 – TR 2:00pm-3:40pm

EN 4040 (4 credits): Writings from religious traditions around the world describe ecstatic experiences of God, unification with transcendent reality, and ineffable pure conscious experiences. Explores contemplative and mystical writings from many contexts to interrogate cultural and personal concepts of spirituality. Using contemplative methods, students reflect critically and act creatively to develop their own sense of spiritual, intellectual, and emotional wellness. Not open to students who have earned credit for EN 4025. Spring of even years. Prerequisite(s): Junior status.


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