Sunday, November 11, 2007

which can you identify?

this week in AMS 301: practice of american studies: public stories, we began a discussion of memes. what are the atoms of culture that we can identify in a capitalist, post-industrial, consumer-oriented society?

first i showed a slide of three examples of local flora. the students had to pass these elements of the landscape in order to get into our classroom building. one tree routinely scrapes against our classroom window.

i queried: who can identify these? one student confidently responded, two are deciduous and one is coniferous. the other students marveled at her vocabulary. but who could name them? some could reach deep and came up with a tentative, maple? no one could come up with names for the others, but the same woman who observed the difference between deciduous and coniferous noted that the is a branch from the offending interloping tree. (well done! she earned the tip of the hat for the day).

then we turned our attention to heidi cody's piece from 2000.

two of the 26 icons were tough: the H and the X seemed a little elusive, but we nailed them down in quick order in a few moments.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

shadow box show in king library

As part of our collective thinking about various forms of storytelling, the students in AMS 301 began to think inside the box; and outside the box, and around and over and under the box as well.
I present a images of what hangs in King Library as I type.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

storytelling in southwestern ohio

One of the two classes I am working with (on? for?) this term is a brand new course , Public Stories.

This past week has been an eventful period for the students. On Saturday, we trundled to Chillicothe, Ohio for the annual Southern Ohio Storytelling Festival. We heard professional and novice tellers share many stories; most were personal accounts, but at least one was a re-telling of an African folktale, or it was a parable set in Africa? The professionals included Tim Tingle, Bill Lepp, and Barbara McBride-Smith. We also watched and listened to local people take the stage during the Story Swap. (I took a chance to recount "Ho Ho Ho?," the one about my father as Santa at Langston Terrace.) It was a good outing for the students...we met at the Oxford Farmers' Market early in the morning and made away two hours across the state by university van.

Yesterday, the students of 301 joined people everywhere in remembering the sixth anniversary of September 11. Inspired by The September Project, we collaborated with librarians on campus and staged a makeshift living room in front of the campus' main library, King. So much more to type on this, but here's a snapshot of what we were up to and some of the local press coverage.

I have much much much more reflecting to do on why and how this pair of projects worked this term, but I need to run off to yet another lecture.

... to be continued ...

Here's how some of the local press covered the event.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

more on graphic novels this term

We had our first conversation on The P.L.A.I.N Janes and I was pleased with the range of remarks and observations. In my estimation, one of the really great points that came out in conversation was that Miami students defy and interrogate stereotypes.

We began with an exchange about first impressions and initial reactions to the book. The round concluded with one of the men stating that he had never read a graphic novel before followed directly by one of the women explaining that this is the main genre that she reads. I so liked it that this pair of observations is counter to the received wisdom that comics and graphic novels are the purview of men.

As I worried over this volume this summer, the esteemed Shelley Pasnik tipped me off to Wally Wood's 22 Panels that Always Work. I used it in class today and introduced my new friend Ben Day and other comics conventions that Scott McCloud enumerates in Understanding Comics. I also relied on the resources at Teaching Comics.

graphic novels

today's sartorial selection directly references our subject matter.

Monday, August 27, 2007

after week one

So far so good with the new students in AMS 101 and AMS 301.

The storytelling session in AMS 301 proved to be a loud exchange. Often I forget that I am working with people. I concoct lesson plans in silence and imagine their execution to be in silence also. When the students broke into pairs to workshop each other's shortlist, they made noise.

Um. Sigh. Of course, they would speak to each other. I was generally impressed with their willingness to engage the assignment. That is, they came with lists and they seemed eager and okay about sharing them. Then, there were several who were earnestly seeking to improve their list -- to work with the sound, to make it more playful, to heighten the drama. I look forward to their revised lists due in-class tomorrow.

In 101, the pin-up went well and, rather unexpectedly, students quoted from Dolores Hayden's Redesigning the American Dream to explain their spatial analysis. (The syllabus suggested that they begin the Hayden text, but I did not fully expect students to dive right in). Well done! Interestingly, something like 11 students designated the entire house to private space.; 36 delineated public and private spaces within the home (and a handful marked liminal spaces). In the past, I may have had one or two in the entire lot take the whole house to be private. I need to think harder about what and whether this means anything.

This week in AMS 301: graphic novels. It's a limb that I am climbing out on here to work with this, but armed with web sites and references from Bob Bolin, I am game.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

day after the first day of class

This afternoon, I meet the students in AMS 101 and AMS 301 for the second time.

AMS 301 is a course officially entitled: Practice of American Studies. This version this term is devoted to storytelling; it is called Public Stories.

To get us writing, revising, listening to each other and telling, I assigned a Shortlist. I have ripped this idea from the very smart people at Transom. For this first story and because there is an odd number enrolled in the course, I wrote a list too. Mine is as follows:

Springbrook (bright, cheery yellow, sunshine)

Lufthansa Flight (jumbled)

Sofitel Madrid Plaza de Espana (very dark and big)

NH Deusto Francisco MaciĆ”, 9 (stiff)

Childhood canopy bed (without the canopy)

Neahtawanta Inn (pink, warm, polyester)

Woodley Park Guest House (quiet)

Atlanta Marriott Downtwon Spring Street (dark, thick)

Mindy + Mary’s (fluorescent, French, with Harry and Maggie)

Brown leather couch (narrow, sticky)

Karen’s (with Twig olive, stiff and sweaty)

Hampton Inn (across from McDonald’s Hustler Superstore and near Big Butter Jesus)

Reese Avery’s above Mel’s Canine Learning Institute (high and bright)

Places I Slept (for >2 Hours) This Summer

I am eager to see how the story emerges as I revise it with them this afternoon. I am also very very eager to hear theirs.

In AMS 101 today, we are doing two things:
  1. pin-up that features a spatial analysis of private and public space in the floorplan of a Levitt Brothers House circa 1949.
  2. artifact anaylis that requires the students to analyze objects that we will study over the course of this semester. The items include: bottles of water (Fiji, Dasani, Miami University) bottles of pop (Coca Cola and Diet Coca Cola); blue jeans, and baby clothes.
And I think that we are also to talk about How to Read for this Course. My rap on this has been informed by the hand-out that Professor David Chioni Moore crafted for his students at Macalester University. (One of my mentors first put me onto this hand-out).