Thanks to Twitter, the Unessay has been on my radar for a minute — but I only finally tried it out in my Short Story lit class this summer. My students really enjoyed having a creative option in lieu of a traditional research paper, and examples of their work are shared with their permission below (along with the full prompt, and the course syllabus).
But before I get to their work: let me give some clarification on what an Unessay is, exactly. My prompt and grading criteria were adapted and cobbled together from Professor Emily Contois’ “Teaching the Unruly Unessay,” Professor Emily Suzanne Clark’s Unessay post on her personal site, and Professor Ryan Cordell’s Unessay assignment on the Technologies of Text class site.… Read more
A few folks emailed me in the past couple of weeks asking for more information around my Black Mirror-themed composition course, so I thought I’d post a few revisions and tweaks I’m working on as I prepare for the next iteration of this class. I focused on Get Out in the fall, but will come back to Black Mirror in both Composition I and our Liberal Arts capstone in the spring. I’ll post in the next week or so on the capstone class.
In case you are looking for additional resources on Black Mirror — both scholarly articles and/or reflections on teaching — I’d suggest you also check out the special issue of Supernatural Studies (4.2) devoted to Black Mirror that I edited.… Read more
I don’t want to quantify it because I haven’t conducted a formal study or anything, but an immense amount of teaching is about reflection.
Oh, students didn’t get something? A reading didn’t go over very well, or almost everyone struggled with it? Well, maybe you need to chuck it. Or create a reading guide, with questions to engage and prepare them before they dive in. Mark particular points in the text that you want them to focus on, paragraphs that are crucial to unlocking the text–and ask them, in advance, to mull over these passages in depth. Or tell them to embrace the messiness, and come in with burning questions (and, y’all: have a discussion and activity around what *makes* a good discussion question).… Read more
As summer winds down and our thoughts turn to trimming/pruning/burning and razing our syllabi, I thought I’d share a creative writing assignment I use in my second-level composition class, ENG 102: Writing Through Literature. This Creative Retelling assignment is cobbled together from prior work done by Amy Cummins, Pam Regis, and Stephen M. Park.
At some point, the act of slogging through dozens of research papers on literature chips away at my resolve, and deadens my soul. It’s just boring AF. I work all semester on the nuts and bolts of writing and responding to literature: close readings, paragraph construction, quotation sandwiches, citation methods, etc.… Read more
It’s been a minute since I’ve posted. My semester starts at LaGuardia this week, and with it comes my personal pedagogical ritual: taking a decent, pre-existing syllabus I conjured forth (that has been already tweaked and refined); putting it aside; and completely overhauling the content, usually within a mere week before classes begin. To be clear: I am constantly reflecting/tweaking prior assignments and in-class exercises — and many of these are fairly portable and can be recycled with ease into another section of composition. But I want to teach content that I find fresh and exciting, and that I hope will engage students.… Read more
This composition syllabus had a rather long gestational period. It was supposed to make an appearance in the fall of 2016.
Instead, Lemonade happened.
Which worked out fine. I had a great time teaching those composition sections around Beyoncé’s visual album, intersectional feminism, and pop culture more generally.
But because I get bored/distracted easily when teaching the same material repeatedly, I felt it was time to revisit my Black Mirror ideas, tweak as necessary, and roll out this sucker. Fortunately, the experience running those Lemonade sections – especially using student writing as course reading/response materials – helped me hone this iteration a bit more.… Read more
I’m guest-editing a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Supernatural Studies; the fall/winter issue will be devoted to the series Black Mirror.
The CFP is below, and more information about the journal is here (a new site for the journal is in the works, and the Black Mirror issue will be open access). Thanks so much to Leah Richards, John Ziegler, and the editorial board for their feedback and this opportunity.
Call For Papers: Fall/Winter 2017 Special Issue of Supernatural Studies
Black Mirror: Supernatural as Near-Future Technology
Guest editor Bethany Holmstrom, Assistant Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY
The anthology series Black Mirror offers up various worlds, visions, and fantasies for the future of technology.… Read more
There might not be a more (terrifyingly) apt moment to talk about Dixon’s 1905 play, which provided the basis for D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation. There’s a legend surrounding a presidential endorsement of the film: after the viewing of the movie, President Wilson supposedly declared that it was “like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” And, of course, the Ku Klux Klan endorsed the person being sworn into the office of the presidency today. There has been a lot of talk about how we cannot – must not – normalize white supremacy: but the KKK has been normalized – even romanticized – in popular culture since its founding in the Reconstruction period – and Dixon’s play is certainly an instance of this.… Read more
I went a-conferencing this past weekend, to the American Society for Theatre Research in Minneapolis (#astr16). I was invited to speak at a career session called Beyond the Journal: Social Media, Blogs, and Podcasts, with scholars Brian Herrera , as moderator and general theatre/social media/digital writing expert, and Pannill Camp, who spoke about the important and exciting On TAP podcast. It was pretty awesome to somehow get invited to this party (if a 7:30 am Sunday session can be considered a party. Indulge me.). Many thanks to the Career Sessions organizers for the invitation, should they ever stumble across this post.… Read more
The semester starts in less than two weeks, y’all. So what did I do, with my ready-to-go-syllabi, numerous writing deadlines, and paper-/committee-work looming over me, vulture-like?
I posted a proposition on social media that would lead me down the last-minute-abandonment-of-already-developed-syllabus road.
And yet, that is exactly what I ended up doing today.
Of course, the major source of inspiration behind all this was Candice Benbow’s stunning, comprehensive, and wonderfully detailed/designed Lemonade Syllabus. I live in awe of this document.… Read more