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"the great sun has turned his face away"

Happy birthday to two wonderful people, estellye and orenya! I hope both of you have terrific days and fantastic years to come!


* SF Signal asked various "new guard" science fiction authors to define science fiction. Read the answers here (part 1) and here (part 2). (Thanks to kalquessa.)

* I have determined my upper-division seminar offerings for the Fall 2008 semester. (This semester I am teaching "Native American Identity in the U.S. Context" and "J.R.R. Tolkien in History, Political Thought, and Literature.") Both are new courses for me and for the university:

Worlds Gone Wrong: The Dystopian Tradition

Over the centuries, thinkers have used dystopias -- stories of worlds gone wrong, of worst-case scenarios -- to warn their contemporaries about what they viewed as dangerous trends in politics, economics, science, religion, and/or popular culture. This class will consider a variety of historical and current dystopias in literature, film, television, and music. Students will explore the specific conditions that inspired these dystopias, the general warnings inherent in them, and the broad trends in dystopias over time. Students also will generate and analyze their own dystopian visions and consider what they tell us about our understanding of and concerns for the world today.

Native American Film and Fiction

When Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday penned House Made of Dawn in 1968 (and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969), he inspired a new wave of contemporary Native American literature. Authors such as Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie, among others, have inherited his leadership role in contemporary Native literature, and they have used this medium to explore the historical experience and present-day realities of their people. Similarly, Cheyenne/Arapaho director and producer Chris Eyre, with his pathbreaking 1998 film Smoke Signals, ushered in a new era of Native American cinema. Today Native film flourishes through both major and independent productions; these movies capture the contemporary urban Native American experience as well as reservation life and historical memory. In this class, students will trace the development of modern Native American literature and film and analyze the artistic choices made in both in order to understand better the past and present of Native America.

Every winter,
When the great sun has turned his face away,
The earth goes down into a vale of grief,
And fasts, and weeps, and shrouds herself in sables,
Leaving her wedding-garlands to decay -
Then leaps in spring to his returning kisses.

- Charles Kingsley


Jan. 24th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, thanks so much for the refs. Have already skimmed around the links you provided.

And if you don't suggest that your students read the most enlightened material out there, A., you're not doing your job properly. ;)

You don't have to answer this if you don't want to: Do you find much resistance to the more confrontational material in the classes? I've taught theories of racialisation subjects in the past and there's always one or two in each class who declare issues over-blown and excessively dramatised. It's kind of interesting.
Jan. 28th, 2008 10:55 pm (UTC)
You're most welcome! Thank you for being interested. :)

As for your question, it depends on the semester. Usually there is some debate as to how much specific issues matter (not Native America in general, for example, but say the mascot issue), and so it's an interesting debate. I haven't really come across anyone who devalues the issue as a whole, but then again I've usually dealt with a small group who have self-selected the subject, so they are usually quite interested and invested in the topic from the start. Do you have any tried-and-true strategies for dealing with that kind of resistance? I think I'd have to regroup and really think about it - it sounds like a delicate situation to handle without alienating anyone.

Jan. 31st, 2008 12:28 am (UTC)
Unfortunately no tried-and-true strategies here. It depends so much on their level of resistance, and their reasons as well of course. One of the courses I used to teach was an introductory one that was compulsory before taking more subjects in a women's studies major. There was an attitude among a few (only about 3 across my classes, thank goodness) that material about 'Third World' or black/ethnic women wasn't pertinent to them. And it was also when you'd hear things like "Well, they have heaps of kids, don't they? And with a high infant mortality rate, they can't really love their kids the way we do [in the West]". Trying to deconstruct notions of race privilege and class is so hard at that entry level. By the end of the course, though, it felt like I'd gotten somewhere and the bonus was that others in the class, while violently disagreeing with these few peers, really appreciated the fact that I didn't dismiss their comments as ridiculous and that I'd tried to engage with them. I must admit that I found engaging and trying to broaden their perspectives very hard work, which is part of why I escaped into the land of research-only.