Monday, July 30, 2012

Coursera, Grimm's fairy tales, and Buffy

A friend alerted me to a free online course with Coursera, Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World taught by Eric S. Rabkin from the University of Michigan.

Since I've recently been writing fantasy and reading widely for inspiration (and procrastination), the idea of doing focused reading for this course appealed to me.

Plus, I cited Rabkin in my critical thesis for grad school, and it's a nice small-world feeling to take a course with him, even if it's a course online with thousands of students from all over the world.

THAT feels like science fiction, right? Or it would have when I was born. I'm excited by the potential of this kind of education, and I'll be curious to see how the peer grading feels. I've already noticed that knowing I'm meant to evaluate other students' work makes me more inclined to take my own work seriously and gives me a sense of responsibility. I could see that feeling shifting depending on how seriously it feels like others are taking the course.

There's a grade attached to the course, but it doesn't mean anything. There are no real stakes other than mutual responsibility and interest.

I just turned in my first assignment, an essay on Grimm's Household Stories, translated by Lucy Crane and illustrated by Walter Crane, who apparently wrote the first book on the art of illustration

I got interested in the stories that focused on collective action and cooperation since so much of western literature focuses on a single, strong protagonist on a hero's journey . . .

I'm not sure I've mentioned here how much I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She's my heroine of choice. Back in 2000-2002 when seasons five and six were airing and I was fighting my own demons, I dreamed about her and the Scooby Gang all the time.

One of my favorite things about that show is its union of singular powers towards a common goal, the gathering of a team. The heroine rejects the isolation of her fated path and survives by accepting help.

The tension between the solitary hero and the collaborative team continues as a theme throughout that show, and some of the most frustrating things about season 7 result from the exploration of that tension. I'm not in love with season 7, but I do appreciate its resolution in shared power and responsibility.

Who saw this post turning into a meditation on Buffy? I would say I didn't, but it happens to me enough that it no longer comes as a surprise.


Anonymous said...

It's a very interesting point about the cooperation!
I never watched Buffy but just yesterday I watched two Angel episodes - love coincidences, don't you? :)
- andrea

Rachel Wilson said...

Thanks for visiting, Andrea! If you like Angel, you should check out Buffy!