Friday, January 25, 2013

Remixing in Teaching

As many of us settle back into another semester, I thought I would share some of my thoughts about one aspect of my own work this semester. I am especially excited to be back to teaching this semester--I've been working as an administrative assistant for the past three semesters--and am having a great time planning and teaching my class so far. Particularly interesting for me is that I'm teaching a class--a combination of emphases on literature and composition for first-year honors students--that is part of a collaborative effort between myself, another graduate student, and my advisor: we have crafted a collective, shared syllabus (content and scheduling), and each of us will teach our own independent class based on it, collaborating as we go.

The topic we chose is "The Bible and Some Medieval and Renaissance Adaptations." Here is the general course description that we wrote:
We will examine major biblical traditions set alongside adaptations in medieval and renaissance English literature. Adaptation will be a major lens with which to understand the Bible and its importance in Western culture. Pairings will include Judith with the Old English Judith, Genesis with Milton’s Paradise Lost and Beowulf, apocalypses with Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, and the Psalms with C├Ždmon’s Hymn and early modern religious poetry.
So we've decided to focus on the overall influence of the Bible, using the lens of adaptation to understand how this happens across a spectrum of early English literature, and even more generally across culture even up to the present.

For the first few classes, we want to establish the lens of adaptation, so we are reading the introduction and first two chapters of Julie Sanders's Adaptation and Appropriation (London: Routledge, 2006; repr. 2010), a great introduction to the subject. This is, of course, a topic that I'm very excited about and interested in, and I'm having a great time working with it so far.

In preparing for the next class, I am also planning to bring in some other ways of thinking about cultural adaptation. One of the greatest resources that I've been wanting to incorporate into my teaching for a while is Kirby Ferguson's Everything Is a Remix, a four-part online video documentary about the many ways that our own culture is filled with adaptations. Starting off next class, I plan to show the first two parts (about 20 minutes total run-time) to jump-start our conversation. From there, we will talk about the Bible as an adaptation in itself, the long history of adaptation in Western literature, and onward to the rest of the semester.

Needless to say, I am very much enjoying being back to teaching.

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