Tori's Final Portfolio!
Welcome to my Final Portfolio for English 366, "Literature and the Other Arts". As you might be thinking, this course has not been what one may call a "typical" course in English studies. Even as an English major, when I think of an English course I think of papers on literary analysis and reading fiction. Yet this course changed my perception on the idea of English studies, and truly gave me a better understanding of the skills and knowledge I have acquired as an English major.
We began the course with a discussion of what it means to be a student of English, and read the essay "A Fortunate Fall" by Robert Scholes. Scholes focused on four distinct elements of the discipline of English studies: theory, history, production, and consumption. I won't deny the fact that I was at first confused by this idea, in particular with the idea that production meant more than the stereotypical English assignment of writing papers. Luckily for me, our first assignment in this course provided a better understanding.
Our first assignment was to create a playlist, and I drew inspiration from Leo Tolstoy's infamous femme fatale, Anna Karenina. Every time I read the novel Anna Karenina, I find some piece of additional information about Anna's character that draws me in to the story even more. The playlist was a very enjoyable project, and allowed me to think about the novel in a way that producing a paper would not. I was able to read the text differently, and in turn "read" the music I chose in a way I had not before- I really listened to the lyrics and tone of the pieces in the same way that I might read a novel. Looking back over my work, my first edit of the playlist was very much a "rough draft" compared to my later compositions. I was also just getting used to HTML coding, so the layout was poor. On my second edit of the playlist, I did a much better job with not just the layout, but describing the link between the music and Anna Karenina. I re-read certain sections of the novel and really listened to the lyrics of the songs and was able to formulate much stronger connections between the literature and the "other art" of music.
The playlist project was also an excellent introduction to finding a link between the world of literature and other forms of art, and providing me with the knowledge that English studies can go beyond the realm of a traditional essay. In many ways, though, creating the playlist was similar to how I might go about writing a paper. I had to read back through the text, focus on certain passages to analyze, and establish connections within the material. Yet with the object of creating a playlist in mind, I felt I was given more freedom with my ideas than if I had just been writing a paper, and I found myself trying to envision not only the message the author was trying to convey, but also how a character might be feeling internally, regarding a situation or event.
The second assignment we were asked to complete was the podcast, a project that I found to be quite frustrating in the initial stages. I downloaded the Audacity software to my MacBook, began the recording process, yet the software shutdown and would not let me open the files I had worked on for many hours. I then decided to use the Garage Band software that came with my MacBook. This was a real learning experience, I had never used the program before, as I had recently purchased my computer, but I was able to quickly begin recording and editing. One of the most rewarding aspects out of the podcast project was how much information I was able to learn about the editing software on my computer, and I have since used it for other courses.
For the podcast project, I chose to discuss the band the Foo Fighters and focus on one of their most discussed songs (and my favorite), Everlong. I really enjoyed researching the band and the song, and definitely gained a greater appreciation for their music. For example, in the song there is a part where you can hear the lead singer, Dave Grohl, whispering but it is impossible to hear what he is saying. After doing research, I learned that it was actually a meshing of three distinct tracks. My first edit of the podcast needed a large amount of revision, so I chose to completely re-record for the second edit. The first edit had too much discussion of how the song was interesting, but not enough actual analysis. I did more research for the second edit, found a really interesting interview of Dave Grohl discussing Everlong, and was able to do a much better job make the transition between my words, the interviews, and the music flow more smoothly.
Similar to the playlist project, working on a podcast was in many ways similar to writing a literary analysis on paper. I had to focus on both the tone and the lyrics, and think about the message that the band was attempting to get across to the listeners, much like how English students often have to think about the message an author is trying to convey to a reader. This project also caused me to think back to Robert Scholes, and his essay mentioning consumption. For many people, reading a paper is a lot less enjoyable than listening to something, and I feel like a podcast is a much better way to convey information to a contemporary audience. Podcasts are something you can listen to on your way to work or class, and with a world where almost everyone owns an ipod, analyzing a text of some form via podcast is a way for English studies to be more frequently enjoyed and consumed by modern society.
After completing the podcast, I was asked to create a collage. A few months ago, I read the novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, and fell in love with the story. When I read the book, I was able to really envision certain scenes, particularly because the author, Audrey Niffenegger, did such an amazing job of telling the story. I thought it would be a fun challenge to recreate the story onto a collage.
The collage project was by far the most challenging for me to complete. Getting used to creating layers and using the various tools of the Gimp software hindered my ability to recreate the collage I envisioned in my head onto my computer. The first edit of the collage was a very frustrating project. Yet for the second edit, I was able to solve many of the aesthetic problems that others had mentioned and replace certain images to create a collage that was a stronger representation of the themes of the novel that I was attempting to depict.
This project was much different from the previous two, as I didn't feel like I was analyzing as much as I was creating a unique reproduction of the work as a whole. The actual creation process, in particular the theoretical aspect of the collage project, provided me with a chance to approach English studies in a way distinct from any other course or project. Unlike with the past productions, the college had no words (something English students rely frequently rely on), and I was forced to really go out of my "comfort zone", so to speak, and take a risk. The end result, though, was positive- I now can find connections between visual art and literature. In particular with book jackets, as only recently have I started going to bookstores and really looking at a jacket and seeing if some sort of symbolism exists between the story itself and what is on the outside.
Our final class project-creating a video- brought together the connections between music, visual art, and the English skills I have acquired in not just English 366, but in my four years as an English student at UNC. I created a satirical movie trailer of of Napoleon Dynamite to the music of the overplayed, pump-you-up song Remember the Name by Fort Minor. This was a very enjoyable project to create. Although it was challenging to find the exact clips from the movie that I needed to match to the lyrics of the song, and it impossible to find high-quality video, the end result was both funny and gratifying. I realized I had learned a lot over this past semester. I had learned about analyzing song lyrics, how to create visual art to convey a certain theme, about the connection between music and text, and was able to tie everything together for the trailer. I also felt much more comfortable working with software on my computer than I was previously, and did not have nearly as many technical problems for this project as I had for others.
We did many other things in class, as well, including reading the novel No Country for Old Men, a novel that I both enjoyed and was disturbed by. Another important class topic was the Teagle Report, that discussed the future of English studies and focused on the importance of combining English with foreign language studies. I agreed with many aspects of Teagle Report, and wrote a response. One aspect of the course that I found to be particularly helpful was the feedback that we were asked to provide to other classmates' work, and at the bottom of the page I posted a few examples of some of my responses. Revising something is often much more successful when you have someone else's prospective, and I know that the revisions I did were much better thanks to the feedback of others than if I had only had my own point of view.
I hope you, dear Reader come away from reading this with a new perspective towards English studies. Perhaps now you realize that studying English is more than just reading novels and writing papers, the theory, history, production, and consumption that go into it can have unique results from many different types of media, such as a playlist, a podcast, or even a movie trailer. And, if you are a student confused about what to major in, although I might be a bit biased, I highly recommend choosing English.
A few of my comments can be found...
and here is where I discussed my favorite photographer
& here as well.