Reflective Learning Essay
This course has been unlike any other course that I have taken during either college or high school, and consequently, the knowledge that I have taken away is unlike that which I have gained from any course that I have previously taken. I not only learned new skills, but how to apply my preexisting skills in new and more efficient ways so that they will be applicable to a wider range of applications, as well as more successful in their deployment.
The beginning of the course served to lay the groundwork for our understanding of what melodrama is, its power and pervasiveness, and how it came to be such a ubiquitous and influential art form. In reading articles from Bousquet and Singer, we were able to see how melodrama was born, how it developed, what its key tropes are, and how it is used to great effect in today’s popular culture. The readings were paired with assignments that helped me to link the classroom discussions with multiple readings as well as personal experience. First, we attempted to rewrite passages from Harry Potter without the use of melodrama (an impossible feat). We then moved to working to understand the role that modernity and capitalism play in melodrama and identified the melodramatic elements of the Communist Manifesto. Moving from Harry Potter to The Communist Manifesto showed the many forms in which melodrama can manifest itself and the powerful effects that it creates.
Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson was the most influential reading of the course for me. Williams’ writing brought together the earlier readings to firmly solidify my understanding of the cultural importance of melodrama, as well as expose more ways in which melodrama crept into and embedded itself in sects of American culture. I read her text very actively in order to properly compose three related melodrama questions on the blog, as well as to answer three questions that my classmates had asked.
Having established a stable foundation through the early readings and blog posts, the course shifted into larger writing assignments that involved mediums other than the course blog. The critical diary that I composed after screening Birth of a Nation was a very important assignment for my development in the course. It was during this assignment that I more actively made the shift from using the evidence in the movie to support the views of authors that we have read to building off of the views of authors that we have read to bolster my own personal conclusions and ideas of the movie. I began to try to add to the preexisting conversation, or even create an entirely new conversation.
After reading Elizabeth Anker’s article on the melodramatic coverage of the terrorist attack of 9/11, we composed presentations that explored how melodrama affects media and how media utilizes the powerful effects of melodrama. This was another important assignment for me as it gave me continued space to amalgamate knowledge from the course with my own notions of U.S. culture. The assignment had the effect of enabling me to look at elements that I was cognizant of in the media and be able to more clearly define them.
The next step of the course moved us into the realm of the creation of our own hub sites and project pages. These looked like particularly daunting tasks to me, a somewhat computer illiterate fellow, from the outset. As we began developing our sites and refining our topics, we read poems from Langston Hughes (my favorite readings of the course) and viewed The Battleship Potemkin and used different digital mediums to write on both and relate them to our topics. I created a page for an imitation poem and a Storify for a critical response and reimagining to The Battleship Potemkin. These assignments, along with the wiki page that I created for my portion of the collaborative The Jungle assignment helped build both my confidence in my writing as well as my digital literacy and ability to effectively adapt my writing to different mediums.
My efforts for the remainder of the semester were devoted to the development of my research hypertext project on peer responses to sexual assaults on college campuses. The project involved research, interviews, and formal and informal writings in a variety of mediums. I am proud not only of the work that I put into my research, the development of my annotated bibliography, literature reviews (both comic and formal), and tactical media project, but I am also extremely proud that I was able to apply this work, writing, and inventive production to a narrowed topic through mediums that were both foreign and admittedly frightening to me. I will leave this class not only with increased knowledge of the history, relevance, an power of melodrama, but with writing skills that are geared to a variety of mediums and focused on adding my own original contribution. I am now more prepared to leave my own, personal mark and whatever topic I choose to tackle next.