Interview with Professor Melissa Raphael about her Presentation: ‘Using Visual Art in Teaching and Learning’

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For the Lightning Presentation section of the event, Melissa is presenting a session entitled: Using Visual Art in Teaching and Learning. I asked her about the session.

Q1: Who are you / what do you do?

A1: I’m Melissa Raphael, Professor of Jewish Theology here at the University of Gloucestershire. I also teach on the Masters in Applied Rabbinics at Leo Baeck College, London, and at the University of Chichester. Most of my books and articles are in the areas of feminist theology and the theology of art. I am currently bringing those two interests together in a book for Routledge called Religion, Feminism and Idoloclasm: Being and Becoming in the Women’s Liberation Movement.

Q2: What are you going to tell us about at the Festival of Learning?

A2: I’m going to start with a 2009 artwork by a feminist artist whose subject matter anticipates the current emerging market for robotic sex dolls. I’ll briefly outline how this kind of image can be used to think ethically with students about sexual relationships in ways that develop not just theoretical knowledge and argument also but imagination, empathy and intuition. I don’t want this presentation to suggest that visual images should replace reading or concepts but that they can be a far better way of opening and facilitating a lively, unpredictable class discussion than a chunk of text the students probably haven’t read or an abstract principle outlined in bullet-points on a slide. I’ll want to celebrate the way that images, at least temporarily, disprivilege the role and status of the lecturer and build the verbal confidence of students who may be disinclined to articulate an argument but who are more than happy to share their reaction to a painting or photograph.

Q3: Which other Lightning Presentation or Paper from the programme are you most looking forward to (and, if you know, why)?

A3: I’m sure the Festival will be more than the sum of its parts. What I think I’ll find most helpful will be the inter-disciplinary connections that emerge between the presentations. In particular, I’m really interested to hear Arran because he always has original and constructive things to say on environment and education; Abigail who is going to push boundaries in the area of pedagogy and visual culture, and Sabina, Hannah and Ros who will share insights into nurturing inclusivity in the contemporary university. These topics intersect with my own interests and concerns as an educator.

Q4: If people only remember one thing from your talk/session/paper – a single sentence – what should that be?

A4: Many of us will already be familiar with the basic principles of visual learning so I think you’ll find that the presentation will prove its own point: the main thing people will remember won’t the words I chose, but the image. (It’s not the one below!)

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