Planning, Part II

Anne Dalke's picture

PLEASE POST AGAIN BY 5 P.M. ON WEDNESDAY, SO I'LL HAVE TIME TO SORT/THINK THROUGH OUR VARIOUS PROPOSALS...
since in class on Thursday we'll need to construct a shared syllabus that allows us to go on exploring the emergence of genre in ways that will continue to interest us all. I'm seeing below postings from froggies315 and dglasser that list multiple, multiple possibilities--for which yeah!...

...and want also to nudge us all to shape such lists into ordered, organized forms that recognize that there are 11 of us to be satisfied in this process. So, for example....

If we paired two weeks of "memoirs" (two different memoirs, in two different formats--a text, a film?) with two weeks of "speculative fiction" (two different examples of the genre--a play, an audio recording?), might we begin to see the blurredness of the boundaries separating "fact" and "fiction," "memory" and "imagination," "documentation" and "speculation"? Are those the primary questions that interest us now? If so, do we want to build a "bridge" between these two categories by reading some theory that looks @ such questions? (I'm thinking here of Patricia Hampl's essay, "Memory and Imagination." I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory. New York: Norton, 1999. 21-37--or any number of other texts we read in Facing the Facts: An Exploration of Non-fictional Prose).

(for ex):
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
(a documentary history; this story has also been told as a BBC documentary, an episode of Law and Order, and in a song--as well as multiple newspaper articles).

Kindred (a historical fiction, w/ time travel--so both reality-based and science-fiction-y; also picks up the themes of institutionalized racism that appear in Henrietta Lacks' story)

"Bloodchild" (a short story by the same author, totally sci-fi and very creepy!)

another scifi text, perhaps that we could listen to as an audiobook...?

a scifi movie to end....?

Comments

Ayla's picture

Last but not least

Class review:  I think the class should no longer have deadlines of 5 pm postings because I can't remember a time when I actually made one.  That being said, I agree that the board exercises should be ousted, but I am in favor of go arounds.  I like hearing what people are thinking about, and I like being the center of attention so I don't mind speaking.  When the topic of 'quiet people' was brought up in class, I suppose I felt like leamirella in that I was hurt or ashamed that I was talking too much.  I'm one of five kids in an Italian family, so you have to yell to be heard.  I bring that pretty much everywhere with me.  It's easy to be quiet and fade into the corners when I want to, and easy for me to be heard.  I wish everyone wanted to be heard as much as I do.  I think speaking up in class is just that - a desire to be heard.  (This is coming out cynical).  So, I feel at a loss because I can't just sit there and not say anything, but I don't think creating more opportunity for people to speak is going to make more people speak if they don't want to.  A small tension I've been having.

 I like the ideas that people hae already put forth.  I have to admit that I am not well read in these areas.  I really like the idea of spending 2 class days on a piece of writing.  Three seems too long, but maybe we can compromise at 2.5?  I also think we should wrap up with a movie, so I would like to choose a book to read towards the end of the semester that has a movie interpretation.  I like the Life of Henrietta Lax and Kindred the most.  I don't like the idea of studying time travel as a form of science fiction, however, because time travel is so different in each book and there are standard rules of time travel and non-standard rules, traps and loop holes, - there is no version of time travel that we won't be able to critique.  Maybe that's the point. 

 

Looking forward to this section!!!!

EGrumer's picture

Thoughts for blank classes

Above is the crazy diagram that I made in class yesterday, cleaned-up ever so slightly.  I tried to find examples of books and films that fit with more than one of the genres we had talked about exploring.  For the last genre on the list, I went with the name speculative/science fiction; some of the works I mentioned are not science fiction but fantasy, which fits under "speculative fiction" as an umbrella term.  I can, if anyone so wishes, give a break down of all ten books (plus films) that I mentioned. For now, however, I'm just going to list my three favorites.  Each story has been told in different formats, shifting in tone, plot, and genre, to some extent, as this happened.

The Princess Bride is a 1973 novel by William Goldman.  It utilizes a frame narrative, as a fictional version of Goldman struggles to abridge the book The Princess Bridge by S. Morgenstern.  Goldman's father used to read this book to a young Goldman but, as an adult himself, Goldman realizes that his father read aloud only the "good parts" of a dry Renaissance satire.  As he works on his version of the tale, Goldman undergoes a divorce and becomes increasingly cynical -- and yet, we are also treated to The Princess Bride.  And only the "good parts."  This story is a deliberatly anachronistic historical adventure epic with true love, dastardly villains, and a dash of fantasy.  The Princess Bride became a film in 1987.  The screenplay was also written by Goldman, and it is markedly different from the book, though also incredibly enjoyable.  The film has different frame story -- that of a grandfather reading to his sick grandson.  The story he reads is, of course, The Princes Bride.  This incarnation is a lot lighter and campier.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a 1978 novel by Douglas Adams.  Before that, it was a BBC radio show, in 1978, and it became both a BBC TV show, in 1981, and a Hollywood movie, in 2005.  Adams co-wrote the screenplay for the film, before his death.  Of all the books I mention, this one is the most science fictional of all.  And it's the funniest.  The story follows Arthur Dent, a perfectly ordinary Englishman who is lucky enough to escape the destruction of the Earth (demolished to make way for a brand new intergalactic highway).  Arthur reluctantly adventures away with his alien friend Ford Prefect, although the exact canon varies by format.  There are also four sequels.

The Orchid Thief is a 1998 work of nonfiction by Susan Orlean.  It deal with orchid hunting, particularly the effors of a man named John Laroche to steal a rare orchid from the Florida Everglades.  It inspired the 2002 film Adaptation.  Rather than a straight adaptation, Adaptation focuses on the attempts of its screenwriter Charlie Kaufman to turn the book into a movie.  Kaufman and his fictional twin brother, Donald, appear, both played by Nicolas Cage.  Susan Orlean, played by Meryl Streep, and John Laroche, played by Chris Cooper, also star, but in wholly fictional contexts within the metafictional world of the movie.

leamirella's picture

PLAN OF ATTACK.

Changes to the course itself:

What really struck me from our discussions last class was how the quieter students weren't being given opportunitites to speak. As a student that likes to talk, I realized that perhaps I could tone that down a bit to help create an environment that is perhaps a little less "intimidating" or difficult to speak up in. (That's my personal goal.)

I really like our rich discussions and I think that it would be a great idea to have a larger timeframe to discuss the texts that we've read. I agree with kobieta that it is difficult to follow the conversations that happen on Serendip so perhaps we can incorporate them a little bit more?

I really like the Serendip postings as a way to get new ideas across. Additionally, I do like that our prompts are somewhat open-ended as this drives us to push our queries further.

I also really love the fact that Anne posts notes prior to the class so I can come in with a sense of what we will discuss. This definitely allows me to put my thoughts together and figure out what points I really want to bring up.

Moving Forward

I'm not too particular about the order in which we do the texts and quite frankly, I'm very open to reading (or watching!) anything. However, I have read through some of the descriptions of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and it seems as though there will be at least something in that book that everybody will enjoy.

Additionally, I really like froggies315's suggestion of approaching the text from whatever medium you decide to. I think that this would open up discussion about how we get the "story" and why we chose a certain method over another. This would really be interesting when considering genre and when looking at Henrietta Lacks, this might be an interesting approach to the text.

I quite like the idea of science fiction. Admittedly, that genre is not one that I would originally turn to but I do want to explore Farenheit 451 as a book and a film. I'm curious as to our discussion about the relationship between the two mediums and how the movement between book and film may affect genre. I'm also really (and I mean really, I've had an unhealthy relationship slash obsession with this text) interested in looking at War Of The Worlds. I want to go through the original text by H.G. Wells, the radio broadcast by Orson Welles and perhaps the film? (The one with Tom Cruise in it) Rather than take it apart like a literary text, I think that it might be fruitful to explore how the narrative migrates through these different forms in relation to the form (or "genre") that it is projected through.

leamirella's picture

PLAN OF ATTACK.

Changes to the course itself:

What really struck me from our discussions last class was how the quieter students weren't being given opportunitites to speak. As a student that likes to talk, I realized that perhaps I could tone that down a bit to help create an environment that is perhaps a little less "intimidating" or difficult to speak up in. (That's my personal goal.)

I really like our rich discussions and I think that it would be a great idea to have a larger timeframe to discuss the texts that we've read. I agree with kobieta that it is difficult to follow the conversations that happen on Serendip so perhaps we can incorporate them a little bit more?

I really like the Serendip postings as a way to get new ideas across. Additionally, I do like that our prompts are somewhat open-ended as this drives us to push our queries further.

I also really love the fact that Anne posts notes prior to the class so I can come in with a sense of what we will discuss. This definitely allows me to put my thoughts together and figure out what points I really want to bring up.

Moving Forward

I'm not too particular about the order in which we do the texts and quite frankly, I'm very open to reading (or watching!) anything. However, I have read through some of the descriptions of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and it seems as though there will be at least something in that book that everybody will enjoy.

Additionally, I really like froggies315's suggestion of approaching the text from whatever medium you decide to. I think that this would open up discussion about how we get the "story" and why we chose a certain method over another. This would really be interesting when considering genre and when looking at Henrietta Lacks, this might be an interesting approach to the text.

I quite like the idea of science fiction. Admittedly, that genre is not one that I would originally turn to but I do want to explore Farenheit 451 as a book and a film. I'm curious as to our discussion about the relationship between the two mediums and how the movement between book and film may affect genre. I'm also really (and I mean really, I've had an unhealthy relationship slash obsession with this text) interested in looking at War Of The Worlds. I want to go through the original text by H.G. Wells, the radio broadcast by Orson Welles and perhaps the film? (The one with Tom Cruise in it) Rather than take it apart like a literary text, I think that it might be fruitful to explore how the narrative migrates through these different forms in relation to the form (or "genre") that it is projected through.

vspaeth's picture

9 Remaining days.

Format of the class:

I agree with what everyone said as far as the way the class is ran.  I would rather not have go arounds because even with the option to pass I would feel...a certain separation from the rest of the class.  Almost like I was at a lower level. 

Content of the class:

I really like the idea of integrating the different genres into the remaining classes.  I feel like there are a lot of boundries between the different forms we want to look at that could be seen as almost blurring.  I honestly don't have any suggestions but I think all the books that have been suggested sound really interesting. 

One thing I would like to add, however, is that if we're going to be looking at a variety of genres I would like either a day or a bit of time on a few days dedicated to connecting some of the ideas we're getting from our studies.  I know one of the things we talked about in class was how it's hard to make connections between the topics at times.  If we are going to explore these few different topics (which I would really like to do) I just want to make sure we can draw connections between them.

 

I hope this post is helpful...sorry it's late!

sterrab's picture

Proposed syllabus

Yesterday’s class discussion on the form of the course provided constructive feedback and I do think we should try to implement as many of the proposed changes to the remainder of the course.

The course FORM:

-Slow down the pace of the course:  

We should maybe provide at least 3 days for one particular book, that way we can dig deeper in the deconstructing of the genre form. Emphasis on the analysis of the genre form instead of content from various texts.

-Limit blackboard exercises:

Release the pressure from “permanently” displaying thoughts/ideas on the board and rather contribute to an entire class discussion.

-Have quieter members in class speak up more often:

Not to allow for unnecessary. forced, vocalized thoughts, I do agree that the quieter students (me included) should try to speak out their thoughts whenever possible.

___________________

Narrowing down our genre topic to creative nonfiction and speculative fiction together has been a successful group effort. I unfortunately have not read much in the creative nonfiction and speculative fiction genres but I did that find the books mentioned in class would capture the sought design of the class.

Proposed SYLLABUS:

Books

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

This book was repeatedly mentioned in class yesterday and I think that it would be a good start to the creative nonfiction genre.

Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee (excerpt TBD)

This book subtitled “A Biography of Cancer” narrates the history of cancer as well as its patients life stories. It could be incorporated in class discussion as we discuss The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Kindred, Octavia Butler

A time-travel of an Afircan-American woman back in antebellum Maryland from 1976 California. It will allow to explore "time-travel" as a science fiction genre theme and the formation of the speculative genre.

The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean

A story based on the investigation of a 1994 arrest of orchid thieves. It would be engaging to explore the reconstruction of an event in the past and the hazy line between the real/credible and unreal.

Film

Law & Order: “Immortal” episode

A fictionalized version of Henrietta Lack’s story. It will be interesting to examine how Lacks’ story is transformed from her “real” life story to Skloot’s book to film.

Adaptation, film by Spike Jonze

The adaptation of Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief in film.

 

T, March 27: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Th March 29: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Excerpt of Emperor of All Maladies to be included in class discussion.

T, April 3: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Watch Law & Order episode “Immortal”.

------------

Th, April 5: Kindred.

T, April 10: Kindred.

Th, April 12: Kindred.

----------------

T, April 17: The Orchid Thief

Th, April 19The Orchid Thief. Film Adaptation.

T, April 24The Orchid Thief

 

 

kobieta's picture

Mid Semester Evaluation Revisited

Things that can change for the rest of the semester:

  1. writing on the board - it would be cool to keep doing this, but maybe give us five minutes first to have an initial reaction or opinion, then make us write on the board. This way, it's still a level playing field, without putting us too much on the spot.
  2. blog posts - I think the only real solution for me is to find time after I post to read everyone else's; some sort of participation on other threads besides your own would be cool, too.
  3. I actually liked guests, but I'm not sure how we can fit guests in with the agendas we are all proposing.

Plans for the 9 remaining days:

Sad to say, I don't really know much about science fiction or memoirs. I don't know what kinds of content these genres demand, nor do I know of many books that are classified as science fiction or memoir. But I had a chance to talk to my previous high school English teacher, who happened to teach a Sci-Fi class, and came up with some suggestions which combine, as much as possible, all three things we were interested in: science fiction, memoirs,and adaptations/other forms and media.

Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien would I guess classify as a sort of speculative fiction. It is a novel written in three different "frames" that are not necessarily in chronological order. It blurs the line between the imagination of the character and the reality of the book, so that the reader doesn't fully understand what is going on until the end of the book. It doesn't really fit into the memoir category unless you count the fact that the book was written based on O'Brien's own experiences with war. And, although filming has not even started yet, Hollywood is planning on creating a movie adaptation of the novel.

I am Legend by Richard Matheson is apparently a science fiction classic; I really don't know since I have never read it. However, from what I know of it, it's not really a memoir, but it has been adapted into a movie. It would be cool to identify what makes this novel a science fiction and then how that is translated into a movie.


I guess my suggestion is using the nine days of classes to read both books and then watching the movie adaptation of I am Legend. We can attempt to define these genres and what makes them unique from each other. At the same time, we can also compare the over laps between these two genres, and how these specific "qualities" are translated into the screen.

I think that I am having trouble developing a plan because, as I have mentioned, these are not genres I am familiar with. Exploring the genres alone would be very enlightening for me!

froggies315's picture

thoughts on universal design and reading load

I was thinking about how a lot of reading might be too much for me to take on in the second part of the semester.  But, it also feels important to me to do one book a week because I use the long stretch of time between thurs-tues to process the week and prepare for the next week.  I wouldn’t like having to switch books between Tuesday and Thursday.  Also, two weeks for one book seems like a lot of time discussing the same thing.  

So I spent some time thinking and a decided that there are lots of ways to get a story.  Here’s a list I made, it isn’t complete:

1. you can read the book
2. you can read sparknotes
3. you can listen to an interview with the author
4. you can read a review of the book
5. you can remember the story from the last time you read the book
6. you can have a conversation with someone who knows the story
7. ….

So what if, instead of assigning a book to read, we assign a story to get for each week?  Then we can each figure out for ourselves how we want to get that story.  This might be cool because:

1. Nobody needs to feel the stress of having to read x amount of pages by the next class
2. Stories change when they’re told in different mediums, maybe the same story switches genres as it switches mediums?  That seems like it could be an interesting conversation. 

KT's picture

Emerging Plans

Follow-up on what we might want to keep and change as a group:

I think we should eliminate the board exercises and small group discussions (more fun to have the whole group).

I don’t think we should do any “go around the room” exercises, makes you feel pressured to say something (even if you can opt-out) and I’d rather see us contribute when we want to versus when we have to – more interesting.

I’d like maybe three days of discussion for each book. 

When we’re reading online material (blogs etc) or part of a book or something where we’re diving into less familiar reading territory (like we did with Digital Humanities material), I would like more guidance.

I like the Serendip posts and assignments the way that they are.  It would be good for us to make an effort to post our own thoughts and additionally respond to someone else, but if its assigned it might start to feel tedious. 

I like that Anne puts together the posts on Tuesdays for us to discuss – like others, I find that I read who’s posted before me but not after, so it’s interesting to see what comes of everything on Tuesday after Anne assembles it into something coherent.

 

Moving Forward:

I like Anne’s idea of reading the books to illuminate how we think about the boundaries of the genre.  Our discussion in class along those lines was very interesting.  I also like the idea of exploring the theory behind those questions, so I think including that material would be good as well, but mostly I’d like to spend our time reading and discussing books. If we spend 3 days discussing a book, these could be brief readings that we do between days 2 and 3 - after we've made our initial observations.

I’m not really into the alternate media suggestions, for some reason that doesn’t seem as fruitful to me in terms of what we might take away from it (I’m just not convinced at this point).  Books seem much richer to me.

In terms of content:

Books 1 and 2:  I like the suggestion of The Immortal Life of H. Lacks. I haven’t read it, but it seems like there are many themes (science, history, ethics, racism) that can help us as we explore content and boundaries.  There should be something in it for everyone. As already suggested in class and in Anne's post, Kindred sounds good too as a follow-up.

Book 3:

I like the sci-fi suggestion as we try to get a grip on that genre.  Aside from Time Traveler’s Wife, I haven’t read much recently in this category so I think that others will have better suggestions, but I’ll toss out the idea of reading a collection of short stories.  This type of volume could help our discussion along in terms of how we want to view the genre.  Also, what do we think about the short story versus the full length (are there more gutters in the short story – more for us to bring on our own?).  Here’s a link to one such compilation.

Book 4:

I’ll also vote yes for memoirs.  I found very highly reviewed one called Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (Journalist - Beijing Bureau Chief for LA Times).  It features the stories of 6 defectors whom she interviewed.  Apparently their lives were so vastly strange and different from what we experience that many of the reviewers refer to the state that they described as “Orwellian.”  Might be interesting to see how an alternate (odd?) place on earth (North Korea) compares to alternate worlds in sci fi.  What's normal?  Also, it’s like Persepolis in that it puts human faces to our generic stereotypes of people that we don’t know much about.  Might be interesting to see how the graphic narrative format compares to this one too.  

 

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