New Projects – Or Not

While doing something-or-another, I managed to twist my back.  In doing so, I’ve managed to aggravate the earlier existing pain, meaning that the last day or so has not been pleasant.  But, life goes on, as they say; I don’t have the luxury of sitting around and convalescing, because I’ve got stuff to do.


The end of the term always has me thinking of two projects: A massive overhaul of my teaching notes, and creating new classes.  In the case of the former, we’re talking about something big.  I like to have my notes typed and clean, but if in a rush, I’ll write them out long hand.  Over time, I’ve added notes in the margins – dates, extra names, references to anecdotes to share in class.  There’s also the issue of chronological order in that I’ve gone back and redone topics when I felt the first presentation wasn’t enough.  The goal is to have them collected and ready to go – I should just have to grab the binder from my shelf and know that the course is complete.  While some people say that’s a pipe dream, in truth, I’ve done it for my more recent class offerings: A roughly 100-page outline that serves as my instructional notes, typed and bound.  It’s really great, but I need to do this for all of my courses, and it just hasn’t happened yet.  Well, maybe this year.

As to creating new courses, that’s a huge problem.  I’ve created four (4) new classes in the lat two years.  That may not sound like much, but it is.  Right now, I have a catalogue of fourteen classes that I teach (most instructors are in the six-to-ten course range), and unbelievably, I’m considering adding three more.  This is not good at all, but I have some of the research material already prepared and set to go – I just need to complete my research and write out the  notes.  One that I’m particularly interested in creating is a class dealing with the history of slavery (at least since 1500) and the concept of emancipation.  That’s something that I should have developed long ago, but I didn’t; I couldn’t craft it the way that I wanted, and I really didn’t think that there’d be any real interest in the topic.  It may have been timing, however, because there’s been a small measure of interest that might justify such a class.

Another topic: 19th century media representations of crime.  We are obsessed with criminal activity today – so many blogs, sites, and documentaries are devoted to examining offenses and their effects.  Hell, there’s at least two cable networks dedicated solely to true-crime programming.  Countless television shows, movies, songs – let’s face it: We like crime.

But we’ve got nothing on our nineteenth-century ancestors.  They absolutely loved hearing about crime, criminals, and the gamut of things in between.  Broadsheets (huge posters), pamphlets, songs, books, plays, and any other form of expression – all used to dramatize and educate people on the criminal element that existed within.  Charles Dickens wrote about the tragic circumstances of 19th century London life, but he began as a crime reporter, an experience that left a lasting impression on him: That’s why virtually all of his novels contain some act of theft, murder, or execution.  He wasn’t alone in that regard, either.  Other novelists of the day used crime as a key plot motivation, sometimes for dramatic effect, and sometimes as social commentary.

With this in mind, this proposed class would look at actual events, media presentations, and public reactions.  It’d be pure social history, and would probably go a long ways towards explaining our own fixation with these darker deeds.

I can’t believe that I’m actually talking myself into doing more work.  But it might be fun, so who knows?


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