Sunday, July 22, 2012

Getting Started

I just got the email reminding me that the Coursera course begins this week. The website is nice, and it's clear what I need to do to get started - which is to view some video clips. I'm not the biggest fan of doing things via video, but I see that there is a course syllabus in text format, too. So, off I go to watch the first video clip - I'm definitely looking forward to the course and have lots of questions about how it will work.

(pause for watching...)

I watched half of the "What This Course Is About" video and then, feeling decidedly restless, I decided to just read the transcript instead. That worked! I've never been one to listen to lectures (they are inevitably too slow for me) - but the transcript was very easy to access. I enjoyed so much Prof. Rabkin's story about her daughter playing with dolls in Spanish, when she would not speak Spanish herself with her family or in public. To me, that gets at the importance of fantasy and role-playing for learning itself, for the process of changing ourselves from one person into another person. That happens to us constantly, of course, and fantasy is a force in our mind that makes it possible. My favorite expression of that in literature is what the Monolith does to the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Monolith sends FANTASIES into the minds of the apes - they imagine having more food to eat, they imagine defeating their enemies, they imagine living in comfort and delight, and it is that experience of imagination which makes their culture evolve.

So, the first little lecture was good on the topic of fantasy in very general terms... I can't say it rocked my world in any particular way, but I'm ready to move on to the next video. Unless something in the transcript makes me feel like I need to watch the video, I'm just going to read the transcript.

(pause for reading)

Well, what a great surprise - this little talk was about reading for the course and he picked... an Aesop's fable! Oh my gosh - I start my courses with Aesop's fables, too (and I have been obsessed with Aesop's fables for over 20 years...). Rabkin presented several different ways of reading/interpreting an Aesop's fable, while my focus with my students is on different ways of TELLING an Aesop's fable. Meanwhile, for myself as a reader, I am a comparativist - I like to find different versions of the "same" story told by different storytellers in different contexts and compare them. So, just for my own amusement, I am going to pause here and write up a blog post on the Aesop's fable of the serpent and the farmer.


  1. Hey fellow student :) I'm glad to have found you and I hope you don't mind that I've included you on my list:

    Anyways, I really liked your example from 2001: A Space Odyssey! I haven't read it but I agree, that is exactly what makes us different from other animals: the ability to dream, to communicate and to link that to reality.

    - andrea

  2. Hello again, Andrea - I saw your thread at the class discussion board and left my blog address there and also the address of Shilpa, whom I met at Google+ and who is blogging about the class also. I hope some more blogs will emerge... it's so hard for people to really "be themselves" at the course discussion board (everything and everyone just looks the same) - given that it's so easy for anyone at all nowadays to have a blog, I hope some other people in class might feel inspired to choose that option for sharing thoughts and ideas about the class. Happy blogging! :-)



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