Posts Tagged ‘filmclip’

Reflecting on the Human

by   |  11.26.09  |  221-Restoration/18th Century

    Much of Swift’s satire in Gulliver’s Travels comes from a captain’s log describing a foreign land to his countrymen or describing his own country to a foreigner. Either way we as readers are forced to view ourselves from a different perspective. In Book 2 after hearing a relation of the “State of Europe” with its senators, soldiers, priests, lawyers, and judges, the 70 foot king of Brobdingnag can only look down on Gulliver and his countrymen, dismissing them as a “pernicious race of little odious vermin” much like the Lilliputians in Book 1.

    Gene Rodenberry must surely have read Swift since similar descriptions or critiques occasionally appear in episodes of Star Trek. Whenever Kirk or Picard attempt to explain some typically human behavior to a Vulcan, an android, or an alien ambassador, the audience is forced briefly to reconsider its own view of the world.

    The heirs of Gene Rodenberry have occasionally used the human body to consider the essential features of humanity. Each series has provided rational foils like the Vulcan Spock or the android Data as mirrors through which to reflect the most basic elements of a human being: body and mind, passion and reason. In the following clip from Star Trek: Voyager, Lieutenant Torres has been sent to repair an alien ship inhabited only by a pathological hologram who may have disposed of the ship’s human crew.

    Star Trek, Revulsion clip

    Though many of the political and social targets of Book 4 have been treated earlier in the novel, one subject new to Book 4 is the satire of the human body. In passages like those in chapters 5 and 6, the Houyhnhnms provide an ironic study of the human form which focuses not on its beauty but on its deficiencies. What does Swift have to say about this “biological cage of flesh and bone and blood”?

Gulliver’s Trek Exercise

    Since, if Swift had lived in our own time, he surely would have sent Gulliver traveling through space, boldly going where no yahoo had gone before, choose some aspect of life in our country or on our planet that an alien observer would find amusing or repulsive (possibilities might include love, democracy, social clubs, church, movies, weapons of mass destruction, or kissing).

    Before moving on, write a 1 or 2 paragraph description of a topic taken from politics, religion, or society for some member of a more civilized culture and bring your work to class.

    I’ve included two imaginative examples from past students below, but feel free to take your own post into uncharted territory.

    We Call It “Democracy” – Student Example

    On Matters of Transportation – Student Example

Rescuing the Human

    Scott Derrickson’s 2008 Day the Earth Stood Still offers a recent revision of the alien visitor motif. The hyper-reasonable Klaatu has come to save the earth from the human race. These scenes share several parallels with the judgments of the representatives of pure reason in Gulliver’s Travels though they add a clear acknowledgement of humanity’s dual nature, as the greatest threat and hope of the future.

    Judgment Day clip

Restoration and 18th Century Timeline

by   |  11.04.09  |  221-Restoration/18th Century

    Before class, spend a few minutes reviewing the Breaking News timeline. This interactive timeline will introduce you to figures and events in the news during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Taking notes as you read about the different monarchs and religious groups may help you keep the important names and dates straight. 

    Breaking News Intro

    Once you’ve viewed the Breaking News introductory film, explore the Flash timeline below.

    Breaking New timeline

    Breaking News transcript

Restoration Reading Exercise

    Though new playwrights like Dryden and Congreve captivated new theater audiences after the Restoration and great poems like Milton’s Paradise Lost and Pope’s Rape of the Lock appeared in print over the next half century, the period’s most unexpected literary achievement was the rise of a new reading audience for prose. After the Restoration, the educated elite were joined by middle class readers and women who poured over a growing number of prose titles, including travel narratives and romances, political pamphlets and tracts, works of scientific or philosophical speculation, and–by far the best selling of the period–sermons and religious works. Popular prose titles appearing in the period reflect many of the new interests and tensions of the seventeenth century:

      – John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)
      – Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)
      – Robert Hooke, Micrographia (1665)
      – Isaac Newton, Principia (1687) or Optics (1704)
      – John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)
      – John Toland, Christianity Not Mysterious (1696)
      – Jeremy Collier, Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698)

    Spend 10-15 minutes researching one of these titles. You might begin with the Encyclopedia Britannica to put your author and work in context but may use any other sites or resources from the web. *Make sure to keep web addresses for sources providing unique information to cite at the end of your summary.

    Encyclopedia Britannica Online

    After you can answer the basic journalistic questions (Who? What? When? Where? Why?), write a short 1-2 paragraph introduction to the author and work that summarizes its main thesis or purpose. Then speculate on the title’s importance to the period or connection to events from the timeline.

    Bring your summary to class to conclude our discussion of the Restoration period.

Festive Comedy

by   |  10.13.09  |  221-Early Modern

    Most students come to college with some familiarity with the plays of William Shakespeare, but often these previous experiences were with tragedies. What many of these students find surprising then is that the immortal Bard, the Sweet Swan of Avon, could also tell a joke. As a young playwright, Will was actually quite fond of them, writing almost as many comedies as tragedies and histories combined. He enjoyed laughing at the madness of love, puncturing self-conceit, and wordplay, lots of wordplay. Shakespeare's early comedies like A Comedy of Errors and Midsummer Night's Dream are light, airy confections dependent upon puns and mistaken identity; later in his career William began to develop more complicated, layered forms of comedy that balanced festivity with solemnity, young love with menace, light with shadow, but more on that later. For now, take a few minutes to read Susan Snyder's introduction to The Genres of Shakespeare's Plays (labeled “Session 1”) and then return to this assignment to complete the exercise below.

    Shakespeare's Genres – Session 1

Genre in the Video Store Exercise

    Even if you've never used the word “genre” outside of an English class, you've no doubt had passionate debates on the subject while standing in the aisles of a video store. You can't walk into a Blockbuster without overhearing the couple next to you discussing which movie they'll rent: he wants something with a car chase and she wants something sweet but not too sad. Questions of genre are a familiar part of video-store culture, influencing every part of the ritual down to the organization of the store itself.

    Before class, list as many broad types of movie as you can, starting with the basic categories and then dividing this list into subgenres if possible. These categories are always just behind our first response to a new movie. When someone says they liked or didn't like the new Julia Roberts movie, they are silently comparing it to other films she has starred in or other favorite romantic comedies. To adapt Susan Snyder's observation,

      In recognizing such habits as [improbable plots and witty dialogue in a romantic comedy] . . . we construct a notion of a [film's] modus operandi that in turn conditions our reactions as dialogue and action unfold. A sense of the norms of genre guides us through that unfolding: prompting sympathy or detachment, highlighting the significance of what we witness, and raising expectations about what is to come. The [screenwriter/director] may also at times invoke generic codes in order to play against them, refusing to fulfill the expectations he has aroused and thus pointing us in a marked new direction. (“Session 1” )

    List 2 or 3 examples of recent films that raise expectations based on genre only to fulfill them or play against them. Then in 2-3 sentences, explain how the audience's understanding of these norms is used or manipulated. We'll return to this conversation in class.

Comic Genres Review

    The term Shakespearean Comedy is deceptively singular. No single definition or narrowly-defined genre can contain the 14 plays listed as comedies in the 1623 First Folio, including plays as diverse as Much Ado About Nothing and The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest and Twelfth Night. Neither did Shakespeare draw on a single tradition or set of models, varying his methods as often as his material.

    Return to Susan Snyder's The Genres of Shakespeare's Plays web-seminar and read “Session 4.” Pay special attention to descriptions of the festive (or festival) roots of English Comedy. You might list festive characteristics you can reflect on as you finish reading the play.

    Shakespeare's Genres – Session 4

    Reread Feste's clowning scene with Sir Andrew and Sir Toby from Act 2, scene 3 (1096-1100). Then watch the following clip from a 1996 film adaptation. You probably noticed the similarities between Feste's lyrics and the carpe diem tradition. If the enemy of love in carpe diem poetry is time, in Twelfth Night what are the enemies of comedy or the festive spirit? If specific characters come to mind, what values or ideas do they represent?

    Present Mirth clip

Early Modern Timeline

by   |  09.30.09  |  221-Early Modern

    Before class, spend a few minutes reviewing the Exchanging Vows timeline. This interactive timeline will introduce you to important bonds that were formed or broken during the sixteenth century together with their lasting influence on England’s religious heritage. Taking notes as you review the reigns of each monarch may help you keep the important names and dates straight.

    Exchanging Vows Intro

    Once you’ve viewed the Exchanging Vows introductory film, explore the Dipity timeline below.

    Exchanging Vows timeline

    Exchanging Vows transcript

Middle Ages Timeline

by   |  08.20.09  |  221- Middle Ages

    Before class, spend a few minutes reviewing the British Invasions timeline. This interactive timeline will introduce you to the Anglo Saxon period and give you a clearer sense of Britain’s place in the larger world. Taking notes as you go will help you keep the most important names and dates straight.    

    British Invasions Intro

    Once you’ve viewed the British Invasions introductory film, open the following Flash timeline covering the nations and tribes that influenced Britain over its first 1,000 years.

    British Invasions timeline

      British Invasions transcript

    After 1066 Exercise

      As we move into the Middle English period, review the timeline and then select one of the dates after 1066 to research on the web. Using the links provided as a starting point, spend 15 minutes learning as much as you can about this event. After you can answer the basic journalistic questions (Who? What? When? Where? Why?), write a short summary of your event. 

      Once you’ve described the basics, consider whether your event served as a “cultural turning point.” In what ways might your date have had larger or longer range implications than can be explained by the basic facts. Add a short interpretation to your summary which speculates on the event’s broader political, religious, social, or economic significance. (See Student Example on the Crusades before you begin writing.)

      1095 – First Crusade Begins – Student Example

      Bring your summary and interpretation to our next class where we will discuss dates following 1066. The period after the Norman Invasion was one of significant change in almost every area of life, so be ready to discuss reasons for these changes and how they are reflected in works like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.