No, not It: The Terror From Beyond Space! or some reference to Cousin It, but Clara Bow’s 1927 romantic comedy that helped popularize the phrase, “the ‘it’ girl.” Today, students will turn in their first assignment, the scene description from One Week, and do a little reflective writing on the project, before moving on to what I hope will be a good discussion of a clip from the Bow film. I’ve created a series of screening questions that I’ll give to and discuss with students before hand, connecting some of them to key passages in The Modern Temper, from which they’ll continue to read. Then, we’ll watch the first part of the film, while students take notes, and we’ll begin to discuss questions of relevance and choice in making analytical observations with the goal of an argumentative essay in mind.
Composition 102 students today will be introduced to the first major assignment of the term, the scene description; I really like this project as an introduction to the class because it is not argument based but it does require close, precise description, concision, and a few other key elements designed to introduce students to writing analytically about literature and film. This term, I’m adding a new component to the assignment–students can use no instances of the verb “to be.” We’ll see how this works; if it does, I think students will be in an excellent position to recognize new and better ways to improve their writing later in the term.
Sadly, I’ve been less-than-dilligent about posting to this teaching blog–in part because of the chaos of my recent move, but also because this term has been busier in the classroom than most. My students seem to be slowing down a little, which isn’t surprising around this time of year; nonetheless, I think each group is coming along swimmingly.
Imagination, as someone is said to have noted, is more important than knowledge, and I can’t think of a better place to discover a critical sense of creativity than in the film class. This term, I’m working very hard on encouraging my first year students to test the waters–especially in terms of their own skills and abilities, but also in terms of their approach to research and coursework. Though I shouldn’t be, I’m often surprised when students freeze up or become shy in the face of a new idea or an unfamiliar task; it’s my hope that after this term, these first years will have acquired the academic self-confidence to play with new ideas, to dive into an assignment that asks one to learn new technologies, new skills, new ways of challenging themselves.
My DSC101 students completed the first essay project, and while many slightly missed the goals of the assignment–to organize their narrowed film analysis around a single point, generally the overall implicit or explicit meaning of Night of the Living Dead–I was happy to see most working hard on their ideas. (One student made her first trip to office hours in college with me!) I received a lot of responses that more resembled collections of observations than thesis-driven essays. And then again, this isn’t a writing class–though everyone should be simultaneously taking Composition 101. If I teach this course again, I’ll probably spend more time talking with the class about what they’re doing in Composition, just to help connect the dots.
We’re beginning work on the collaborative commentary project, and spirits seem to be picking up a little–I’m excited to see what everyone comes up with, and how the group dynamics pan out. The hardest thing about this project will be organization and staying on task.
I was very impressed with my Discover 101 students today, who seemed really to get into the film analysis portion of our class–we watched the first ten minutes of Night of the Living Dead, and used it as a springboard for discussing some of the basic concepts of film analysis, locating patterns, key elements in the film, variations in the established patterns, and the four levels of meaning we’ll be working with throughout the term.
Almost everyone spoke, and had good things to say; a small handful were quiet, so I’ll have to draw them out next class! In general, there was an initial leap toward the grandly symbolic, so another thing we’ll have to continue to focus on is concreteness and specificity. Next class we’ll talk more about narrative development, plot patterns and segmentation, characterization, cause and effect.
Tomorrow in Anatomy of a Film, I’m planning to show a clip from Night of the Living Dead that should work as a good springboard for a discussion of the key elements of film form, which students should have read. We’ll discuss conventions and prior experience; the way we register emotion within the film and in our own responses; the differences between referential, explicit, implicit, and symptomatic meaning; the concept of interpretation; the nature of evaluation; and especially the basic issues of function and motivation, similarity and repetition, difference and variation, development, and unity.
Farah will spend a bit of time at the beginning of class going over some issues of adjustment that the students might be facing, and I’ve also got to go over homework assignments as well as discuss the portfolio project. Should be a fun class–I’m hoping we’ll have time for it all!