CREATING AN UNREASONABLE COLLEGE [a 4 wk online pedagogy lab with Orchid Tierney – Saturdays at 3E/1P/9NZ, starting 2/5]

image from the public domain]

Samuel Butler’s belief in the power of experiential and participatory modes of pedagogy was largely at odds with the standards of Victorian education. “Don’t learn to do,” he wrote in his notebooks, “but learn in doing.” Butler held that traditional instruction produced little more than conformity and obedience. Yet by embracing trial and error, a student would be better equipped to respond to life’s inevitable emergencies. In Butler’s satirical novel, Erewhon, “Colleges of Unreason” focused on teaching students the potentialities that emerged in response to a set of “utterly strange and impossible contingencies.” The college curriculum was entirely irrational and speculative, a parallel to Butler’s perception of Victorian academics that were meant to churn out socialized drones with little capacity to critically evaluate the world’s nuances. 

While Butler’s “Colleges of Unreason”  are a clear dig against British education of the time, the idea of an irrational institution holds promise of imagining a speculative learning environment. After all, should education be entirely useful and rational? Is there space to produce experiential learning through non-conformity, trial and error, and irrational actions? Can an unreasonable college be a political, ethical, and decolonized space that dismantles corporatized, market-based liberal arts education? Over four weeks, participants will meet for two-hour discussion-oriented sessions to explore the pedagogies of  unreason from a number of perspectives and draws on writings by Adrienne Riche, Samuel Butler, bell hooks, KUNCI Study Forum, among others.

These sessions are not workshops but experimental labs were each participant will bring their own insights and experiences to the virtual table.

Materials can be found at:

Orchid Tierney is an Aotearoa-New Zealand writer, currently living in Gambier, Ohio, where she teaches at Kenyon College. She is the author of a year of misreading the wildcats (Operating System, 2019) and Earsay (TrollThread 2016), and chapbooks ocean plastic (BlazeVOX 2019), blue doors (Belladonna* Press), Gallipoli Diaries (GaussPDF 2017), the world in small parts (Dancing Girl Press, 2012), and Brachiaction (Gumtree, 2012). Other poems, reviews, and scholarship have appeared in Jacket2, Journal of Modern Literature, and Western Humanities Review, among others. She is currently writing a monograph on waste management and poetry and teaches topics on climate change and ecopoetics.


Liminal Lab is committed to providing a source of income for our collaborators and facilitators in an increasingly precarious time for culture workers and educators. However, no one will ever be turned away for lack of funds. We ask that those who can pay the suggested price, and/or help cover the cost of scholarship slots in each of our programs by sponsoring other participants.

Our workshop and program pricing seeks to make transparent the sort of “market value” that might be assessed for these sorts of offerings in other institutional settings, knowing that we are all still grappling with negotiating our relationship to the value of things in non-monetary terms. We also rely on the support of those participants and community members who believe in these programs in order to allow us to keep running them. 

Compare the below to the cost for a similar accredited program in a university setting (where most of the $$$ goes to institutional bloat):  $950  — we show you this so we can begin to think about wtf is happening in our institutions, where both students and faculty get the short end of the stick.
At a standard “Market Rate,” at arts orgs: $300*
Recommended Sliding Scale: $30-50/session → $120-200 for the series
Precarity Pricing: $10-20/session
Barter / Volunteer / No Cost Option Available
Sponsorship: You may sponsor low or no fee participants in this program with a donation of any size.*if you have the funds to afford the “Market Rate,” we encourage you to support this facilitator by donating at that level, which will also support other students in this course who are unable to pay.

Note: All proceeds from this workshop are being donated by the facilitator to the OS/Liminal Lab to support our programs, as well as to support precarious creative practitioners and community members. 


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to make a donation to support low and no cost participation in our programs for others!

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