Architect of Exhaustion; or Back in the Saddle

My, my, my. Long time, no blog, eh?

Once the MIT5 conference ended, I was hurtling through the final two weeks of classes, with all of the teaching, grading, and coaching through assignments that that time period entails. I just submitted grades on Thursday evening, and so had all of Friday, Saturday and Sunday to…plan my summer course, which began today. Thus, the title of this post; I am the architect of my own exhaustion, made so by thinking that it would be fine to turn around and begin teaching a new class mere days after the semester ended.


More relevant information, however, (or at least information that reeks less of sniveling and more of content) is that the course is a two-week “summer immersion” course on personal essay filmmaking. I’m lucky enough to be team-teaching with my colleague and partner-in-crime, Megan F. We hope that the course will optimize the intersection of our individual pedagogical interests/proclivities: film and personal essay, respectively.

As we began to plan this course, we were greatly influenced by two particular resources: the Center for Social Media at American University and the Center for Digital Storytelling located in Berkeley, California. Both offer descriptions and definition of this genre, as well as extensive pedagogical and theoretical tools/strategies to initiate, shape, and create a personal essay film. We’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about how we want to name the products that our students are going to create. No one quite seems to know what to call this genre. Names include everything from “digital story” to “auto-documentary.” The advantage of personal essay film, we hope, is that it gestures toward a form that students and readers might be familiar with, and this allows us to draw upon work that they’ve already done—a step that’s particularly crucial because of our very short time together.

Already this morning, we’ve read John Price’s short essay “Good Workers” and viewed Ruth Ozeki’s short film “Halving the Bones.” Both, we thought, would be good examples of particular moves that personal essay writers/filmmakers do: they set up scenes, they use details, they introduce evidence that imparts authority and authenticity, they use symbols, etc. [These are all points that our students came up with as they read/viewed. Smart, right?]

So there you have it in a nutshell; why I’ve been off the map for so long, and where I’m going to be for the next two weeks. I imagine that I’ll update here with some “notes from the field” of teaching a new class in a new genre. Hopefully, I’ll also have a minute or two to write about the films I’ll be prepping (Ross McElwee’s Bright Leaves? Moore’s Roger and Me?), as well some stuff about the ever-elusive “summer reading” category. Heck, maybe I’ll ever blog something interesting. You never know. Stay tuned.

**[Wow. She who doesn’t blog for weeks gets a bit rusty, no?]**

1 thought on “Architect of Exhaustion; or Back in the Saddle

  1. You two are my heroes:) The course sounds A-mazing — wish I were enrolled! I hope you keep blogging ’bout it — especially the essays and films you’re covering, so I can follow along.

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