Author: Bethany Holmstrom

Reflecting & Tweaking (Or, What We Should Be Doing All the Freakin’ Time): Get Out Syllabus Edition

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?

It’s not them. It’s you, boo.

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.… Read more

Notes:

  1. I’m leaving a .1% margin here to account for things like fire. Or natural disasters and extreme weather that prevent students from physically getting to class, or other things outside of our control.
  2. Many thanks to Elizabeth Alsop, Luke Waltzer, and the TLC Summer Institute participants for inviting me!

Creative Writing Assignments in Composition: Creative Retellings

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. 1 

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. 2 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

Notes:

  1.  Amy Cummins, “Tell Me a Story: Effective Use of Creative Writing Assignments in College Literature Courses.” Currents in Teaching and Learning 1.2 (Spring 2009): 42-9; Pam Regis, “Understanding Point of View” in The Pocket Instructor: Literature edited by Diana Fuss & William A. Gleason, pp. 75-78; Stephen M. Park, “Flip the Script,” ibid., pp. 78-81.
  2. This post grew out of a conversation I was having last week with the brilliant and talented Sarah Hildebrandabout course prep and the soul-deadening task of grading piles of research papers, and in which I promised to share materials, and realized I just needed to get my ass in gear and post this stuff already.
  3. In my fall sections of ENG 102, I plan on teaching Ken Liu’s “Mono No Aware,” Octavia Butler’s “Speech Sounds,” and Carmen Maria Machado’s “Inventory” for short stories (and will probably add a couple more before the semester starts). As I said above, if I include “Monstro,” it will be for modeling purposes for this assignment, and the other short stories will be fair game for the assignment itself.

Teaching Get Out in a Composition Class

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted. 1 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. 2 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

Notes:

  1. I got into an MFA program, and CUNY foots the bill if full-time employees want to take graduate classes within the system (or undergrad classes, for that matter). Yes, I’m lucky AF. It’s also a bit time-consuming, turns out.
  2.  The Black Mirror composition course (detailed in my last post, many moons ago) went quite well, and only needed some minor adjustments. I made them soon after the semester ended, and will probably re-visit that at some point again. I just felt an urge to trot out this idea first.

That Black Mirror Composition Syllabus. Finally.

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

CFP: Special Issue of Supernatural Studies on Black Mirror

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

Bad Play Friday 3, Inauguration Edition: Thomas Dixon, Jr.’s The Clansman

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.  1 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.” 2 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

Notes:

  1. I remember a time when I said I was going to try and do a Bad Play Friday once a week. That was hysterical.
  2. Melvyn Stokes, D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation”: A History of “The Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 111. The film was screened for Wilson on February 18, 1915.

What Comes Next?

Today, I held individual conferences with students. I suggested these conferences, instead of our regularly scheduled class,  a little while ago. I tweaked the schedule because it’s usually a good idea to check in, one-on-one, around this time in the semester. But I also did it as a precaution. Maybe it is my Southern roots. Maybe I subconsciously knew how white folk could be : the sexism, the racism – whatever it takes to maintain white male supremacy. 1 But I knew that – if what happened were to happen – I wouldn’t be able to function in front of a whole class today.… Read more

Notes:

  1. This should not have been news to me. Hell, the first thing of mine that I ever saw in print was in high school, and was an editorial against the Confederate flag, written in response to some good ol’ boy in the Lynchburg News & Advance. And I look at racist AF Civil War memories. I should have known better, but was in denial, like so many others.

A Blog Post About Blogging & Social Media In Academia. Specifically Theatre. Featuring: Risks! Rewards! With an Appearance By: The Near-Criminal Neglect of Pedagogy Training in Grad School!

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 #LemonadeSyllabus & A Last Minute Switcheroo

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.

 

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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

Bad Play Friday 2: William Haworth’s The Ensign

Hello again, intrepid fans of bad plays! This week, I’m looking at a professional melodrama set during the war: William Haworth’s The Ensign (1892).

To my knowledge, the copy I got from the Sherman Collection at Southern Illinois University might  be the only extant copy of the play. But it seems that a lot of unpublished typescripts are squirreled away in odd places/papers, or haven’t been catalogued, or the finding aids aren’t digital/online, so I could be wrong on this front (please contact me if you know of any other copies out there!). 

Anyways, actor/playwright/director William Haworth chose a rather unexpected location for the start of his play (at least, unexpected compared to many other popular Civil War melodramas).Read more