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National Imagination

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Interview with Allison Trulli '05 (Spanish major), Maura Minardi '03 (Spanish Major), Jared Swerzenski '05 (Communication and Culture major) and Eleni Vidalis '05 (Communication and Culture and Studio Art major)

What made this course different from other humanities courses you might have taken at Clark?

Allison: This course offered me variety in a number of ways. For one thing there were three professors, which will always make a course more lively, and bring more variety to the table because the professors can feed off of one anotherĀ“s energy and ideas. There was variety in the subject matter as well. While the themes of the course did not necessarily change, the angles from which we approached did so constantly. This proved to encourage critical thinking while reinforcing previous ideas or theories at once. And who can forget the variety of the materials used? We had novels, videos, articles, paintings, songs, and "live" debates between professors.

Maura: Having three professors, and three very different opinions gave us more of a vision to create our own opinions on the matter discussed. Having split discussion groups allowed us to more freely talk about our feelings on each subject instead of discussing in front of the entire class, which was large in comparison to regular Clark classes. And the ability to make a creative project to express what had been learned in class made it more attractive to students in comparison with their more traditional assignments from other classes.

Jared: This course was one of the best courses I have taken because of the different professors. I felt like I learned as much as three classes in this one class.

Eleni: This course was one of my favorites. I was able to study literature from three different countries by three different professors whose specialty is the particular country — therefore placing the work well within the culture and time period when the work took place.

What was your reaction to the integration of technology into the course?

Jared: This was one of the most integrative courses I have taken at Clark — and overall, one of the best I've taken here. The use of Blackboard and the array of visual projects, slides, music and PowerPoint presentations the professors used made this course stand out. And it made every class interesting and engaging.

Maura:I thought the assignment where we went up on Blackboard, watched the video by the professors and then shared impressions and dialogue on Blackboard was an excellent innovation for the classroom. Using another form of teaching, and not just the traditional forms, seemed to help students grasp the material better and more seriously.

Eleni:It was definitely convenient to be able to observe the conversation of our professors on camera from our rooms and view it at our own leisure.

What made you choose your particular Visual Culture Project?

Allison: Well, I knew that I wanted to write a paper for the Argentine Experience from the beginning. I felt that I had a strong enough base in Latin American literature to produce an interesting and on target paper. I also am a bit technologically impaired, and because I had not seen an example of a Visual Culture Project before making my decision about the French Experience, I opted for the paper. With the Japanese Experience, I also felt that it leant itself to visual expression, seeing as we had been learning about the importance of the aesthetic. I felt that a visual project would express better what I had learned than would a paper.

Eleni:It was a good alternative to writing a paper and to me seemed like a better way to learn the material since it involved having a good grasp of the material and then taking it a step further and teaching it to our fellow classmates.

Maura:I chose the first subject, titled "Who is Marianne?", because I was attracted to the idea of examining the use of this woman as a symbol representing a nation and the ways it was manipulated in different occasions to unite a country.

Jared: Professor Valentine's readings and lectures in class made me very interested in the samurai. What really sealed it for me was the fantastic display of samurai at the Worcester Art Museum.

Do you have general impressions of the course?

Allison: I would recommend this course to anyone. It forces you to examine your own national identity while opening your eyes to other ideas and views on identity.

Maura: I really enjoyed learning ancient and modern roots of three very distinct cultures through all types of expression and having the possibility to independently indulge into one aspect of that culture and present it in a creative and interesting way.

Jared: The professors really should be commended. This course not only covered a breadth of information, but also was well taught and really strived to use cutting-edge technology to engage students and help us learn.

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Two images of Samurai
Images of the samurai from Jared Swerzenzki's Visual Culture Project
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France
French paintings, excerpt from Maura Minardi's 'Visual Culture Project
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Genji
Images from "Trail of Genji" Visual Culture Project
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