When I first read George Saunders’ fable-like tale, Fox 8, I initially felt amused, then sad, and finally outraged. I also felt a blog brewing – not of the book review variety but of the teaching tool/creativity corner variety. For starters, Fox 8 is less of a charming bedtime story for children – who will no doubt enjoy it – and more of a darkly comic cautionary tale for adults. The titular first-person narrator takes the readers on a journey through his life as a fox who lives and forages with his fellow foxes in the forest. Fox forest life is running smoothly until Fox 8 has his first confusing encounter with humans, which results in conflicting feelings.
Intellectual legacies of colonization play a powerful role in shaping how mainstream U.S. and global society has come to see Native Americans. Artwork from the 19th and 20th centuries – such as James Earle Fraser’s sculpture, “The End of the Trail” – have helped to create the image of Native Americans on horseback as representations most associated with Indigenous populations of North America. Type “Native American” into a search engine, and you’ll likely get many historical images of Great Plains Indians. In parts of Europe as well, the perception of Native Americans has been shaped in unique ways by authors like Karl May and the later movies based on his books. Without a doubt, our students’ perceptions about Native Americans are influenced by these fantasies and representations.
It’s that time of year again. February 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month. Before I suggest some useful resources, let’s briefly look at its origins.
Fact 1: The United States is not the only country to officially celebrate it. In addition to our neighbors to the North, who also celebrate this time of remembrance in February, the Irish and the United Kingdom observe Black History Month in October.
Fact 2: The roots of Black History Month in the U.S. can be traced back to historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, who together marked the second week of February – which coincides with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday – as Negro history week in 1926.
Fact 3: Even the Great Emancipator had his failures, and so it’s undoubtedly best that in 1969 students at Kent State moved to celebrate the contributions and culture of Black Americans for an entire month, instead of placing President Lincoln, who upheld the mass public hanging of 38 Dakota Sioux on December 26, 1862, in the center of their celebrations.
So, if your school has never celebrated Black History Month before, it’s never too late to get on that ‘soul train’. And since we didn’t want to leave you in the lurch, we’ve provided a list of some suitable blogs we’ve published over the years on subjects, ranging from cultural icons, such as Aretha Franklin, Don Cornelius, and Beyoncé, to best books and fabulous films dealing with Black identity and history. You’ll also find information on some current controversies:
With this fifth blog, we are coming to the end or our series on digital teaching tools. We hope that you’ve been inspired by some of the American Studies links ranging from the heart-warming and hilarious antics of humans and animals to the more scholarly posts on Academic Earth.
Google Lit Trips
By Carolyn Blume
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain
As we all know, more and more adults are reading less and less in their free time. That’s not a judgment, just a fact. Budding bookworms might even be considered an endangered species, so a few years ago, I started looking for a different approach to teaching literature to students of all majors and backgrounds. While looking for inspiration, I came across the literature circle, an approach that might just engage even the most skeptical university student who’d rather be writing code for an app or starting his or her own business. While it has become an integral part of the English classroom from elementary school upwards in the United States, this student-centered activity is relatively unknown in Germany. At least it was to me. During my research, I found out that literature circles come in all shapes and sizes and can be structured in many different ways, so there’s no one “right” way of doing it. That very fact appealed to me and led me to explore unchartered territory.
In a nutshell, a literature circle is made up of a small group of individuals who read the same text. Together they explore the text’s content and style while reflecting, asking questions, and sharing feelings, just as any literature circle would do. Sounds simple, right? It is and that’s exactly the point. When I first started adapting the literature circle to fit my university’s curriculum, I didn’t realize how this method would revolutionize my classroom – at least for a day.