Saturday, September 27, 2008

Teaching Diversity Session

Attending a session on teaching diversity. Cynthia Ho from UNC Asheville is talking about her pre-modern women's writers class, in which she realized that she had been teaching literature like this without deeply teaching diversity. She had submitted the class for UNCA's "diversity intensive" requirement, but had been told that the course, as originally planned, did not meet the diversity requirements. As she reconfigured the class to more overtly and significantly address the ways in which these women writers were both privileged and oppressed, the ways in which these texts provide entre into the lives of Others, the ways in which power worked in the lives of these women and in the lives of the students. She reworked a nominally diverse class to become a richly diverse course.

Discussion brought up the importance of "multipositional" theory.

Bob Strong from St. Edward's University is talking about teaching diversity to non-diverse classes. ST. E has a clear rationale for diversity education; nice touch. Some great texts / resources: Race--the Power of an Illusion; The Genographic Project from National Geographic, American's Stone Age Explorers. Uses Guarding the Golden Door to help with the history of immigration and its impact on American attitudes toward race. Lerner's The Creation of the Patriarchy and other gender sources. The Power Dead-Even Rule: gender cultures and means of communication. Assignments: roots paper, socialization paper, application paper. Good tight course by the looks of the presentation.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gen Ed Conference Notes

I am attending the annual Assoc. of General and Liberal Studies Conference, and attended a session on low stakes writing. Reminded me how much more I get out of conferences when I blog them, and for all the reasons Richard Burke identified--makes me engage with the material, helps me retail, make connections to my own interests,etc.

In addition to Burke's fine presentation--a really great overview of low-stakes writing activities for courses throughout Gen Ed and across the curriculum--I attended a 3 hour session on the educated citizen and public health. One course the presenter, Dick Riegleman, recommends, is a Global Health course, and one of the themes emerging at almost every session is that students are engaged by education with a global component.

A Dean from WPI reported on what their students do globally, but what really caught my attention in his presentation was a first-year experience course(s) they are using, with titles like "Feed the World," "Power the World," "Make the World" etc.. Seems like an interesting possibility for thinking about first-year english classes, if not first-year experience classes.

Saw a presentation about engaging students in diversity issues; what really stuck out was a fascinating course on Gender and Globalization. Nice mix of readings, film, projects.

Currently attending a session on "Leadership for Change." The course is taught under a management prefix, but the course is writing and information literacy intensive. Looks a bit like our first-year course on steroids; not as much emphasis on working on a variety of genres, styles, audiences, etc.. More like a strong inquiry class, as would the the "Feed the World" type courses. Three books used in the course: We Make Change, Fearless Change, Change or Die. The writing included: a measurable goal, an elevator speech, progress reports, final presentation, final paper with reflection and self-evaluation, team work and collaboration. Could also work as English 320, our Bus. and Professional Writing class.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Winnipeg: MyStory.

I've anxiously been waiting for a chance to see Guy Maddin's new film, "My Winnipeg" because:

a) I am, more or less, a Winnipeger (and I as I found out, that means I will always be a Winnipeger).
b) I was pretty sure that the piece would be a brilliant instantiation of Ulmer's "mystory" genre, even though Maddin, I am sure, has never heard of Ulmer. It fulfilled my expectations on this count, more or less.

The film glides effortlessly through Ulmer's popcycle:
1. Community family -- the community history dominates the film,
2. followed closely by Maddin's mother as a dominating figure (Family)
3. Entertainment -- hockey, surprise surprise, plays a central role, but so does a fictionalized television show ("Ledgeman") and other entertainment institutions.
4. Discipline--the whole premise of the film is that Maddin, the filmmaker, is trying to figure out why he cannot leave Winnipeg, so he re-enacts and films key moments from his life circa 1963. Key line: he says, "Maybe I can film my way out."

My "disappointment" is that Maddin isn't able to film his way out, or, if he is, the solution is "Citizen Girl" who is able to solve all of Winnipeg's problems, rid the city of its ghosts, which brings Maddin the narrator to a realization: what's a city without its ghosts? Maybe that is a good enough insight; I guess I was hoping for a bit more. Endings are so very, very difficult, especially for us indecisive Canadians. I suppose he is saying / using Winnipeg is / as a Chora, not a Topoi, just as Michael Moore seems to use Flint Michigan as chora.

Other high points: really, really rich pyscho-sexual imagery, as with all of Maddin's films. The key image: Winnipeg's "Forks" --where the Red River and Assiniboine River meet, which, in fact, is much more like a Y than a fork. The question driving the film: Y Winnipeg?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Eric McLuhan, "Concerning Media Ecology."

My new/old issue of Explorations in Media Ecology arrived the other day, and Eric McLuhan's "Concerning Media Ecology" arrived just in time to give me a tetrad on terrorism to work with.

Obsolesces: order, law, planning, security, borders, nations, armies.
Retrieves: chaos, nomadic warrior, guerrilla, vigilante,
Enhances: Dread, paranoia, fear, uncertainty
Flips: War.

He also offers a "effect of terrorism" tetrad:

O: ignorance, insouciance, complacency, confidence
R: vulnerability
E: Fear, caution, vigilance
F: exotic evil, banal indifference

The first tetrad works for me; second one seems like it needs tweaking. Terrorism obsolesced the post-cold war calm, global bridge-building, peace, love and understanding; seems to have retrieved a kind of 19th century xenophobia, othering, distrust. E and F are closer to my perceptions of what's going on.

The article as a whole makes the larger claim that we are living through a renaissance more profound than THE renaissance, and it keeps pushing forward the McLuhan descriptions of our world as being both re-tribalized and re-nomadisized (I'm making the second word up). Erik uses mobile technologies to support the nomadic nature of 21st century life, but I kept wondering about the anchoring habits and technologies of America: home theater systems, second homes, vehicles as homes. People can be nomadic (perhaps are forced to be nomadic) but they want all their stuff with them at all times, don't they?

Other provocative ideas in this essay; good issue of EME.

Monday, September 01, 2008

War and Peace in the Global Village: My "Good Reads" review.

War and Peace In the Global Village War and Peace In the Global Village by Marshall McLuhan

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm still puzzling over this book, but after three or four times threw it, and considerable readings of the secondary scholarship, I am finally starting to make sense of it. I think it might have been McLuhan's attempt at his great attempt at a synthesizing work in the artistic mode, as he tries to write with Finnegans Wake, rather than about it. My reading notes can be found here:

View all my reviews.