So, the last week of classes is here–which means papers, projects, and presentations galore. In DSC101, my students successfully finished their commentary projects, and they are rightfully proud of their work. Not all the groups were able to sustain the analysis throughout the entire length of their films, perhaps because of time management and pre-planning pitfalls, but all really wrestled with their pieces and seem to have broken through the plate glass dividing summary from close reading. The Signal offered a rich opportunity for analysis, especially in its editorial orchestration of shots and experimental structure, and that commentary I felt was particularly successful. Another team working on Alien did an exceptional job looking at the development of key themes through cinematography and mise-en-scene, despite being composed of commuters who found it difficult to meet. The group working on Dawn of the Dead faced off with a couple of significant material hurdles, not least of which was only having three on the team–a couple groups encountered similar problems, which is prompting me to reconsider asking students to comment on the entire film. Perhaps a judicious excerpting of 20 minutes would be more useful, especially given the challenges posed by the act of selection itself–figuring out how to observe carefully and critically largely depends on being able to excerpt, to select, to look through a prism that you’ve ground and shaped, with reference to the whole. And perhaps my favorite film from the 1970s, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre gave that group a rich set of images and themes to explore–they did a particularly good job with their research (though a monograph isn’t a novel, Jared!). I’d insert a smiley-face there if I could….
I think the methods and practices we explored in this class–for research, for time management and pre-planning, working as part of a team, considering the project as a whole, proactively discovering and making use of the University resources–will carry over into other classes and coursework, and I’m curious to know whether that’s the case. Everyone here will be moving on to Composition 2 in the Spring–I’ve been trying to reinforce the idea that, even though we’re working in film this term, the segment they’ll cover on literary analysis should feel comfortable. After teaching this class, I more firmly believe that being able to think laterally is the skill-set most necessary for success in any discipline, but the difficulty is providing not just projects but also environments that enable students break out of traditional educational models. Who says you can’t do anything with an English major?
If I have the time, between two new preps next term, I”ll be presenting on the project and its results in the Spring, during our increasingly generative Teaching Toolbox sessions.