digital humanities · higher education · teaching · technology

seasons

Ruth Attway and Peter Sellers star in a film about a gardener whose limited knowledge of the world around him is based mostly on what he learns from television.
Ruth Attway and Peter Sellers star in “Being There,” 1979 American film about a gardener whose limited knowledge of the world around him is based mostly on what he learns from television. This film is a teaching tool that helps us see how much television and other things including music inform what we know about others and “the Other.”

A new semester is upon us. Spring 2015 no less even though it is winter here in Tuscaloosa. First day of classes done. Two new courses, “Antebellum America” and “Gender, Race and the Urban Space,” the former an undergraduate course, the latter  my first grad course.

In both, I am thinking of how to continue incorporating technology into my teaching – and not necessarily the kind that requires a power cord. More on that later.

In the graduate course, we started the semester by peeling apart how we “know”  gender, race and cities by watching the first 20 minutes or so of “Being There” (Peter Sellers stars as a gardener whose attention to the seasons makes him a national celebrity). Youtube for context. Buy or rent if you want a good laugh and to be pushed to think about so much we take for granted when we make agreements about who’s smart and who’s not, who’s black or white and who’s not. This motion picture is a troubling story about identity and how it plays out politically for those who encounter a simple man. I am also deeply interested (and hope the students in both courses are as well) in how the “city” serves as an apt space to explore this issue.

On other fronts, but not entirely, I just enjoyed listening to a conversation about the outcomes of exploring “the Other” and the archive via an oral history project at a former university.

Check it out. It gave me a few things to think about as I turn to how oral history figures into my next research project, which is situated in Miami.

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