Tomorrow is the first day of a new term, and I’m equal parts excited and nervous, as usual. I’m teaching three classes at Marymount University, including Composition II, Early Modern World Literature, and Theater History. I’m trying something new with my composition course this term; instead of just working from a rather arbitrary topic of “the 1920s,” we’ll be engaging with silent film from the period–especially film that speaks to some of the central issues of the decade, like technologization and urbanization; the growing entertainment economy; immigration concerns, racial tension, and xenophobia. I’m eager to see how my students react to silent film, a form that may feel very removed from what they’re familiar with. We’ll be watching Chaplin’s Gold Rush, Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer, Valentino in either The Sheik or Son of the Sheik, and one of my personal favorites, Lon Chaney in The Unknown.
Tomorrow, we’ll do the usual first-day dance, but I want to try to get students thinking about the first major project, too. The first major project should be interesting, one hopes; I’m testing out an assignment that draws from the conventions of action descriptions in screenplays. In preparation for that, I plan to have students freewrite on their morning ritual, and then we’ll go over the conventions of action description–present tense, active voice, clear and concise descriptive language illuminating the characters, their actions, and their relationship to each other and their surroundings.
World lit also meets for the first time tomorrow–it’s in both an unfortunate time slot and an unfortunate room, so I hope the energy and interest of the students makes up for those deficiencies. I think instead of just going over some of the basic background information, we might leap right into Petrarch and use his sonnets as a way to address some of the major characteristics of the Renaissance experience: increasing investment in the individual, a visible attempt to understand the self and the vagaries of human emotion, the value of creativity and the figure of the poet, the way the inward is tackled through the image of the beloved wrought and re-wrought, and re-wrought again, a series of fragments of a whole. Plus, we’ll get to spend time with some wonderful poetry!