Jeff Appel puts the case nicely:
"So I guess what I am saying is that watching movies that explore new cultural
terrain, like travel itself, requires some sort of mental shift in terms of
expectations compared with viewing Die Hard VII. It takes more work, it means
you have to go into uncharted territory, it means you have to challenge some of
your own assumptions about what you find enjoyable in a film. This last part
can be quite hard, I think. After getting so much enjoyment out of a
particularly passive approach to watching current releases, "you mean that I've
got to do some work?!?. . .without the promise of the easy reward I know I'll
get from the new Depp?"
So isn't part of teaching pushing the student into uncharted territory while
simultaneously respecting the more limited framework from which the student
A historical sense is one of the hardest things for anyone to acquire beyond
the few cliches about the past that emerge as Mythology in any given era.
Helping students to understand that (as said in THE GO-BETWEEN) "The Past
is a foreign country; they do things differently there" is part of it.
I often have the impression that (younger, at least) students do not want to
learn anything that they do not think they already know. (One way, perhaps,
of describing ideology--and I've seen full, tenured Professors just as
resistant to knowledge.)
Thus, to take one example, to get students to understand GRAND ILLUSION requires
a little refresher course on the early history of World War I and perhaps some
reference to the "star" status of Gabin and Von Stroheim, just to begin. If
it helps students to get a handle on the film by cross-referencing HOGAN'S
HEROES, so be it (as long as I don't stop there). It's hard enough for some
students to understand that a) World War I was not World War II; b) a prison
camp for enemy officers was not a Nazi concentration camp! (assuming they
're even aware of the Holocaust).
It is, as Superman sez, "a never-ending battle," but it also requires me to
keep aware of film of the present--whether American or otherwise, to understand
new forms (and content) that emerge and have no direct precedent in my own
field of experience.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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