Monday, June 30, 2014

Approaching the Seminar

The Great Adaptations seminar begins in just under a week! As everyone is packing fort he move to Santa Cruz and preparing for a month of intensive immersion in Dickens, I thought I might post some musings on the general concepts of the seminar to everyone thinking in advance of our first meetings together.

Our goal in this seminar is to find new ways of teaching Dickens, the nineteenth-century novel, and fiction more generally via adaptation. We’ll talk about what adaptation is and is not, or rather, what it can be, what it can mean, and what it can do—for us as readers and as teachers—and for our students. I don’t cling to a restrictive definition of “adaptation,” but rather embrace it as a rather commodious term that can signify a wide range of intertextual connections as they inform interpretive acts of artistic production. We'll talk more terminology in our first few sessions.

In designing this seminar, I selected texts (novels and plays) and films that engage with their originary novels in interesting and provocative ways. I selected scholarship that would introduce participants to ideas that were engaging or fresh. As a participant in the seminar you won’t like everything we read or watch, but I hope that everything we read (or watch) and discuss will help you to read and think in some new ways. In the end, I hope that the seminar will affect in some way how and what you teach, as you find ways to bring the lessons of the seminar to your own classrooms. This will happen in lots of different ways, and I hope that you will all share with one another your evolving lesson plans as well as your successes and failures in teaching (with, through) adaptations and in getting your students to read (and think) adaptively.  

The biggest requirement for this seminar is an open mind. Skepticism can be a useful tool in the critical thinking arsenal, but it can also be obstacle to discovery and growth. You may be suspicious of some of scholarship we read or unconvinced by some of the arguments I’ll make, and that is absolutely fine. I only ask that you consider where those hesitations are coming from, to interrogate the sources of your suspicions, and to try to remain open to the ideas and approaches we’ll be considering. You may not “buy” it all, but at least kick the ideas around a bit—look at them from all angles—before you decide they’re not for you. At the same time, please do engage with all the primary and secondary materials critically. Ask them hard questions. Challenge them. The seminar can’t do anything for you unless you engage very actively with it.