I think it will be challenging to sum up the things we looked at, talked about, and completed in this class in a few typed-up paragraphs, but I'm going to try. One of my favorite things about this class was that it allowed all of us to step outside of our comfort zones. I think I can safely say we're all accustomed to writing essays and research papers as a means of analyzing texts instead of creating playlists, podcasts, and visuals. I took Dan’s Contemporary Fiction class last summer and really enjoyed the change of pace the class offered. We did similar assignments – a playlist, a podcast, and a collage. There were variations in our assignments however; the podcast was completed in class and was a group assignment and instead of a video mash-up, we were given the option of a video essay where we included youtube clips from a certain movie and analyzed them as we went along. I went back to that website and looked at my work from that time period and it’s pretty amazing how much better I’ve gotten at the different programs and using them well. In retrospect, my collage assignment from that semester was ridiculously awful... But, I think that is part of a larger theme in this class: learning to adapt and improve just like we all did by revising our projects.
Especially right now the world is becoming increasingly technologically-savvy and because of that, we have more tools at our disposal. I think that's one of the reasons this class is so important -we need to really look at English studies and figure out firstly what falls under that umbrella (or at least attempt to define it) and then, learn to modify the way we look at things in that category so that we keep up with all the new advances while still preserving the great qualities of English studies. I think it's important to avoid looking at this situation in terms of black and white. It's not that English studies will become obsolete if it doesn't incorporate technology into every class room; nor does it mean that English studies will thrive while remaining exactly the same. I think there is some sort of compromise to be made: making space for alternative assignments that incorporate technology while still sticking to traditional methods like reading books and discussing texts in the classroom.
One thing I found particularly interesting about this class was the way that ideas were recycled and expanded upon to create new outcomes. I know I definitely took ideas- from layouts to comments- from many of you to create the things I posted on our blog. I think this applies to English studies on a larger scale because understanding texts and different pieces of literature is, at this point, one big compilation of many different ideas and points of views. There is definitely something to be said about a collective effort to create a final draft of any assignment. A lot of times, I think we look at the re-working of other people's ideas in a negative light and we have to err on the side of caution when it comes to copyright infringement and making sure to cite those who influenced us. While it's definitely important to give credit to those who inspired an idea, I think there's space for a different point of view about this sort of thing. Personally, I really like the thought of ideas constantly being recycled and renewed and I think there is something really nice about that never-quite-final mixture.
My favorite part of the class was reading No Country for Old Men and then watching the movie. I really liked seeing how the Coehn brothers interpreted the film versus the way I imagined it playing out in my head. I also liked viewing a text in two distinctly different mediums rather than just the traditional way of reading the book and then discussing it in class. I had read the novel before for fun but I enjoyed re-reading, analyzing, and getting inside the character's heads (especially Chigurgh because he was so complex). I thought No Country was a fantastic book and reading it was a nice interlude in-between all of the computer work.
I chose to do my playlist based on Paulo Coehlo's heroine, Maria, in his most recent novel Eleven Minutes . I thought Maria was a good candidate because her character development was very complex and interesting. From the beginning of the novel to the end, she transitions from an idealistic young woman, to a prostitute, and ultimately into a happy wife and mother. I chose to do my playlist in the form of a narrative progression divided into sections based on what defined Maria at a particular point in the novel. I think this kind of format made the overall playlist cohesive while not being strictly a summation of the plot development. Additionally, the power of love and relationships are two important thematic elements of the novel so I tried to weave them throughout the playlist and consider both in my song choices.
The bulk of what changed from the first edition to the second edition of the playlist was the format. I expanded on the content and corrected grammatical errors, but mostly I just played around with different ways of formatting the assignment so that it was visually appealing without being too crowded with images and youtube clips.
I found the playlist assignment to be pretty challenging, but after I re-learned how to make things work using html text and the different tags, I really enjoyed completing this assignment. My favorite part was trying to figure out which songs to include. Like we talked about in class, it was definitely challenging trying to separate the songs I wanted to include because I like them with the songs that would best fit the character I chose. After a little bit of editing my song selection, I think I made choices that fall somewhere in the middle of the two.
The most difficult part of this assignment for me was working and re-working the layout so that it flowed well. The content was more or less like writing an essay or a character analysis, but inserting images and arranging the format was difficult at first. I researched on the web and finally figured out how to do tables and rows correctly and use them to make my playlist look the way I wanted it to.
I chose to do my podcast on Bob Dylan and how he can be seen as a literary figure. I looked at both the lyrics and instrumentation of two of his songs to show how this holds true.
The podcast assignment was by far the hardest for me to complete mostly because I had so much trouble figuring out how to use the audacity software. I kept having to re-do different sections, especially the portions where I am talking. Half the time, I wasn't even recording myself. I think part of the issue was that I didn't use a microphone and just relied on my computer to pick up my voice which made my first draft a little grainy. After I got one of Dan's microphones, the quality of my podcast improved a lot. I also changed it so that songs were inserted into the podcast while I was talking occasionally which made the whole thing flow better. Also, I didn't use a script at all for the second podcast. There still may be a few too many "uhms" and "likes" but I think it sounds a lot more natural and cohesive.
Technological-ineptness aside, I think the premise of this assignment is really neat. It helps to have the material you are discussing readily available to insert into the assignment itself - something similar to a quotation from a secondary source in an analytical paper, just manifested differently. Also, the medium of voice/radio was different from anything I've ever done individually for an assignment, which I liked since I'm a pretty big radio fan. I also found a lot of great Bob Dylan material on youtube and in the BBC archives that I never would have looked for otherwise.
I chose to do my collage based on the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I saw the movie while it was in theaters and immediately put it in my top ten list. It's a beautiful movie about love, aging, memory, among many other things. I may be a little biased because the day after I saw it, I went to Louisiana for New Years celebrations and fell in love with New Orleans, which was where the movie was shot.
I chose Dali's piece The Persistence of Memory as my background because it explicitly embodies some of the more obvious themes of the movie like time distortion and aging. Also, I picked Brad Pitt's face from the movie poster as my central image because I think it's a really vivid portrait and, of course, he plays the main character in the movie. On the right, I included a road with different silhouette shapes walking on it towards a drawing of a building on Bourbon Street. I like this particular picture because it shows several elements of traditional architecture in New Orleans: colorful tones, open balconies, and hanging plants. This is my favorite part of the collage because it demonstrates a more subtle theme of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: a return to New Orleans. The movie speaks about hurricane Katrina and the damage it did to the city in a really implicit way. In keeping with this, I made the New Orleans building a little opaque to give the impression that the rebuilding of New Orleans is still in the formative stages and the return to pre-hurricane Katrina New Orleans is not concrete yet, it is still simply a vision.
I only made a few subtle changes to the second edition of my collage because I was pretty happy with what I came up with for the first draft. The upper-right hand corner was a little choppy in the first edition so I played around on gimp and found the setting that puts certain images in a circular shape. I thought doing this made everything blend better in that part of the collage. I also thought it fit well with the little girl silhouette and her open arms - it almost looks like she is holding the picture of New Orleans in her hands. I also adjusted the opacity in a few different layers to make a few of the images more vibrant.
The collage assignment was definitely my favorite. I loved figuring out how to manipulate different images so that they fit together in a way that voiced my overall messages about the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (time distortion, aging, rebuilding New Orleans, etc.) Again, being new to the gimp software was initially challenging, but once I got familiar with it, things went a lot smoother.
I think everyone did a really nice job with this assignment. I particularly liked looking at everyone's individual interpretations of their topics and the revisions they made throughout the semester. I liked how the assignment itself was pretty open-ended which resulted in a wide range of final products.
For the Video Assignment I decided to do a remix of the movie Garden State. The film is typically considered a comedy but there are some darker thematic elements (ie: psychological instability, death, etc.) that I thought would translate well into a mash-up of the movie as a murder mystery. I wanted to create a trailer that shows the movie as less of a quirky romantic comedy and more of something that would fall under a suspense/ thriller category. I used the Cam Studio program to record clips from a generic trailer of the movie as well as a mash-up of the film that had already been made and mix the two together. I included captions to help get my idea across and included different audio clips like a heartbeat in the beginning and added the famous movie theme song - both of which created an eerie effect that added to the overall idea of the movie as a thriller.
Although I definitely don't think it turned out exactly the way I had hoped (the quality is a little questionable and the sound is a bit off) I'm more or less happy with the result. If I had time to revise, I would re-record the music so that it sounds better and I would figure out how to make the visual less choppy and learn how to align the audio with the film since it skips in a few places.
Link to Video: