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12-04-2013 20:40

Fantastyczny E-Learning - o kursie profesora Rabkina

W działach: literatura | Odsłony: 176

Niektórzy narzekają, że Polter to głównie RPG, szczególnie jeśli chodzi o blogosferę. Nie śledzę serwisu na tyle, by samemu wyrobić sobie własne zdanie. Pewnie jest w tym sporo prawdy, ale to nie powód, by nie publikować tekstów spoza sfery gier fabularnych, a tak się składa, że chciałem się podzielić jedną ciekawą rzeczą.

 

Słyszeliście już może o stronce Coursera.org? Jeśli nie, muszę najpierw wyjaśnić o co chodzi. Coursera to serwis oferujący szereg bezpłatnych kursów online, powstałych dzięki partnerstwu z różnymi uniwersytetami z całego świata. Można więc trafić na uczelnię z Hong Kongu, Kopenhagi czy Toronto, choć nie ma tam tych najsłynniejszych szkół. Kursy prowadzone są przez wykładowców zatrudnionych na tych uczelniach i mają różną formę. Zazwyczaj są to wykłady video z kwizami, rzadziej trzeba wykonać jakieś dodatkowe zadanie. Czasem dostaje się za nie certyfikat ukończenia (coraz częściej płatny), czasem musi kursantowi wystarczyć satysfakcja i zdobyta wiedza.

 

Większość oferowanych kursów (wszystkie w języku angielskim) dotyczy ścisłych dziedzin nauki takich jak statystyka, chemia, matematyka, biologia. Humanistycznych nie ma aż tak dużo, ale serwis cały czas się rozwija. Dołączają kolejne uniwersytety. Może za jakiś czas to się wyrówna. Dla ciekawskich kilka przykładów: Principles of Macroeconomics (The University of Melbourne), Human-Computer Interaction (Stanford University), Gamification (University of Pennsylvania), Medical Neuroscience (Duke University), English Common Law: Structure and Principles (University of London International Programmes). Jest tego trochę, nie wszystkie równie atrakcyjnie. Warto samemu przejrzeć i sprawdzić - a nuż znajdzie się coś interesującego.

 

Ten wpis dotyczy jednego z takich kursów, w którym wziąłem udział. Chodzi o Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. Była to już druga edycja (niektóre kursy są powtarzane), prowadzona - jak poprzednio - przez profesora Erica S. Rabkina z University of Michigan. Kurs składał się z 10 rozdziałów. Każdy z nich dotyczył innego utworu i osoby. Listę zamieszczam zresztą niżej.

 

Do każdego z rodziałów należało przeczytać kolejne utwory i na ich podstawie napisać krótki esej/rozprawkę na dowolny, literacki temat, byle tylko był związany z omawianą pozycją. Można było pozwolić sobie na różne interpretacje utworów, o ile miały one sens i były odpowiednio dobrze uargumentowane. Zbyt ogólnikowe potraktowanie tematu, nie gwarantowało sukcesu. Wprowadzone ograniczenie od 270 do 320 słów skutecznie uniemożliwiało lanie wody i pisanie nie na temat. Poza tym, eseje należało pisać zgodnie z poniższym założeniem:

 

"Your essays should aim to enrich the reading of a fellow student who is both intelligent and attentive to the readings and to the course."

 

Po wtorkowym deadlinie teksty anonimowo rozdzielano pomiędzy wszystkich uczestników kursu. Każdy kursant otrzymywał do oceny pięć z nich i musiał je ocenić. Tu też były pewne zasady. Po pierwsze, należało skomentować Formę i Treść, czyli poprawność gramatyczną i strukturę tekstu w pierwszym okienku, a zasadność argumentacji, jej siłę i głębię analizy w drugim. Założeniem było, że idelny komentarz zawiera zarówno dobre, jak i słabe strony tekstu. Autor tekstu miał dzięki temu dowiedzieć się, co poprawić, a co się udało. Wystawiano tu również oceny - 1 (zadanie nie wykonane poprawnie, max 10-30% wszystkich ocen), 2 (poprawnie, większość ocen) i 3 (wybitnie, max 20% wystawianych ocen). Jeśli ktoś chciał, mógł również dodać parę słów od siebie w osobnym polu tekstowym. Po dwóch dniach, w każdy kolejny czwartek, mijał kolejny deadline i kursanci poznawali oceny swoich tekstów. Cały cykl zaczynał się od nowa. W międzyczasie można było obejrzeć wykłady na temat czytanych książek (publikowane we wtorki, po napisaniu eseju) i przeglądać forum, na którym studenci mogli wymieniać się opiniami.

 

Z e-learningiem w takiej formie miałem do czynienia po raz pierwszy i wrażenia wyniosłem pozytywne. Nie wiem, jak inne kursy - ale jeśli pojawi się on na stronie jeszcze raz, to szczerze go wszystkim polecam (a, i jak by ktoś chciał obejrzeć po prostu wykłady, a nie chce mu się pisać, jak najbardziej jest to również możliwe, jeśli się zapisze). Dla mnie była to świetna motywacja do przeczytania klasyki fantasy i s-f, dowiedzenia się paru ciekawych rzeczy na jej temat. Dobrze było też przypomnieć sobie, "jak się pisze po angielsku", a także okazja do spojrzenia na krytykę literacką od innej, mam nadzieję, bardziej poważnej strony. IMHO takie przeszkolenie przydałoby się każdej osobie, aspirującej do bycia recenzentem.

 

Opis samego kursu to jednak jedno. Praktyka jest zawsze lepsza od teorii, dlatego poniżej publikuję teksty, które napisałem do każdego rozdziału. Nie poprawiam ich, wrzucam ze wszystkimi błędami, ze świadomością, że nie wszystkie mi się udały tak, jak bym chciał. Oczywiście, każdy z nich był oceniany, pomyłki i różnego rodzaju inne głupoty mi wytknięto - tych nie publikuję, bo to mimo wszystko nie są moje wypowiedzi. Jeśli jednak ktoś ma ochotę, spokojnie może mi je zjechać bądź pochwalić. Im więcej opinii, tym bardziej obiektywne spojrzenie można sobie wyrobić. :)

 

Jeśli przy okazji uda mi się kogoś zachęcić do przeczytania którejś z tych książek, to mnie to ucieszy. Te utwory to naprawdę dobra literatura.

 

Dodam tu jeszcze, czysto informacyjnie, że większość z tych tekstów pisałem na dwie godziny przed deadlinem i prawie równo z nim kończyłem. To jeden z powodów, dla których występują literówki, etc. - niestety, na proofreading trzeba mieć trochę czasu. Ponadto, nierzadko było tak, że nie zdążyłem doczytać danego tekstu na czas. Nie zaważyło to ani razu nad tezami zawartymi w tych tekstach, dalej mogę się pod każdym z nich podpisać. Mimo to trochę żałuję, że nie zabierałem się za czytanie wcześniej. Dlatego uczulam - jak by ktoś chciał się zabrać za kurs, niech dąży do tego, by być tę jedną książkę do przodu w stosunku do deadlinów. Mniej stresu przez to będzie.

 

Hope you'll enjoy!

 


 

01. Bajki braci Grimm

 

Trochę się zagapiłem, nie wyrobiłem się czasowo, pierwszego tekstu nie napisałem.

 

 

02. Lewis Carroll - "Alicja w krainie czarów" i "Po drugiej stronie lustra"

 

 

Alice's adventures can be analysed on many different levels, yet the strongest I find the topic of looking for oneself. In fact, the girl questions her identity from the very beginning. After scaring the White Rabbit in the hall she wonders whether she is Ada or Mabel. Later, when asked by the Caterpillar who is she, Alice shyly answers: "I hardly know, sir, just at present". This problem recures quite a few times.

 

It is also immensely connected to the issue of changing. One can point out that Alice is altered somehow in almost every chapter, be it physical or psychological change. Once she transforms into a snakelike creature. At that very moment, while talking with Pigeon, Alice finally realizes other can view her as something evil, dangerous and she explores the darker nature of self - the thing she could not comprehend earlier in conversations with birds and the Mouse.

 

However, the change - although as Alice states can be queer and confusing - does not imply that it has to be gloomy and ominous. Quite the contrary. It gives you all the new possibilities; it shows you how to deal with problems; it broadens your horizons, it gets you to new places. And that is the metaphor behind the telescope or the garden. Still one may not forget about past. Though Alice says goodbye to her feet, she quickly calls it nonsense.

 

Through all the encounters Alice learns new things about life and herself. She evolves or - we would rather say - grows up. All that culminates during her final confrontation during the trial. By refusing to all the fantasies and madness around her, Alice becomes a self-aware, hardened and confident person. She knows what she wants and is no longer confused. She finally recognizes the rules to which she adhere. Thus the whole story may be viewed as the search for features that constitue an individual.

 

 

 03. Bram Stoker - "Dracula"

 

Reasons why Dracula is up to this day a succesful book

 

How is it possible that the book written more than a century ago is still so thrilling and tense? Seemingly, we should not be agitated. We all know the whole story as it is inscribed in our culture. We've all seen the movies about vicious bloodsuckers. Yet we read Dracula with excitement and absorption.

 

First of all, we should look at the vocabulary that Stoker uses. Words like creepy, ghastly, horrid, deathly, lurid, etc. influence our perception accordingly, filling Dracula with the odour of death. They create the gloomy atmosphere of the novel. However, that is the least of all reasons to the success of the book.

 

More important is the fact that all events are presented from the point of view of the protagonists. We become more engaged as we can see all emotions that agonize the characters. We can understand their motives and sympathize with them more intensely. As a result we are not as afraid of the villainous vampyre as we are scared for the fate of all good people in the book.

 

Evenly important is the mysteriousness of the novel. By using epistemological structure Stoker forces us to solve a puzzle, and what is more thrilling than riddles. This aspect is also visible in the way Proffesor Van Helsing acts. Did you notice how he delays revelation of the true face of the abhorrent threat? Not until Chapter 15 a word vampyre is even used. Stoker knows that the best way to scary someone is to hide the monster and as long as he can he only leaves hints and traces of the evil presence.

 

The horrors in Dracula still seem vivid and convincing. Partly due to the characters' tendency to justify events scientifically but above all it is the seriousness of the book. All  that makes Dracula a good lecture even today.

 

 

04. Mary Shelley - "Frankenstein"

 

An imperfect god

 

Death is a terrible thing, isn't it so? Yet life can also be horrible, as we can see it in Mary Shelley's novel. Thus both realms should be the domain of gods, not fallible men. However, many claim that any god is only an illusion, that if we want to find divinity, we should look into ourselves. Shelley's novel shows it may be a false approach.

 

Victor Frankenstein is a man of many virtues. He is ambicious, inquisitive, eager to learn. Ultimately he wants to make something important and good. However, he is just a man. He is not omnipotent. He does not know everything. Yet he tries to play god. In his early days he perceived world as "a secret which he desired to divine". So he seeks knowledge - a feature god should already have.

 

What is important, Frankenstein sought for information concerning natural sciences. He did not try to ballance it with the moral teachings and the virtues of humane soul (that was Elizabeth's and Henry Clerval's field of interest, they are symbols of his equilibrium during childhood). And isn't a god who does not know the difference between good and evil somehow imperfect?

 

It is interesting how Frankenstein tries to elevate himself at first. That is visible through his obsessive urge to conquer death (thus unwittingly making himself equal to gods). Even such petty things like the place of his workshop (solitary chamber at the top of the house) seem to indicate that matter. However, he has doubts, he does not try to predict consequences. He lacks morality, knowledge, prudence and many other features that are attributed  to celestial beings. But the most important thing is that he lacks responsibility about such issues like life and death.

 

No wonder that Frankestein flees when he creates the monster.

 

 

 

05. Hawthorne & Poe - wybrane opowiadania i wiersze (m.in. "The Rappaccini's Daughter", "The Birthmark", "The Raven",  "The Black Cat", "The Oval Portrait)

 

Between the boundaries

 

There are rules to write a short story. Hawthorne and Poe can teach us a lot about structure, atmosphere and plot building or narrative coherence. However, the most interesting is how both authors ballance between certain issues on which they build their stories.

 

Let us think about a few antagonisms present in their texts like e.g. life and death. The most vivid examples here would be "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart". Also in "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" we see a similiar theme concerning youth and old. To add to this consider the case of Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" with opposing the ugliness (birthmark) with beauty (Georgiana). Another interesting case is "The Tell-Tale Heart" with good and evil deeds (although the protagonist commited murder, he reasoned that it was because of an "evil eye"). There is also a very important case of madness and sanity of the characters (also did you notice how often we are told that we may not believe in the stories, yet they are supposed to be true).

 

In each case boundaries between those antagonisms are blurry and obscure. Yet there is a harmony, a symmetry, a well preserved ballance between them. In every text we do not have just one antagonism, they are mingled, they cross each other. And it is at that point when both authors show their brilliance. E.g. they mix beauty with death as opposing to ugliness and life. After that they just move sliders showing that striving to get one thing will lead to loose the other.

 

It's like Hawthorne and Poe found a golden mean or proportion which they use in making their stories interesting and meaningful. And through that they show the complicated and sometimes reckless nature of human beings.

 

 

06. Herbert George Wells -  "Niewidzialny człowiek", "Wyspa doktora Moreau", "The Country of the Blind", "The Star

 

 

In his works Wells deals with various aspects of blindness in literal and metaphorical meaning.

 

The most obvious example is "TCotB". Even in wikipedia it is stressed that it "features prominently in literature dealing with blindness". Also "TIM" deals with the problem from a similiar, physical point of view.

 

However, the more interesting are metaphorical aspects of being blind. Consider "TCotB" where Nuñez cannot understand that the blind folk of the valley are happy and doeas not see his own position (visualised by the proverbabout "One-Eyed King"). Wells persuade us that being disabled is not always a problem, but also that we cannot deal in a blindfold way with people different from us. However, when Nuñez is to be blinded, people of the valley show the same problem with a narrow view on their beliefs. (The story is also an interesting response to the Allegory of the Cave, especially revised version).

 

Look also at "The Star". The mathematician says there: "You may kill me (...) But I can hold you — and all the universe for that matter — in the grip of this little brain. I would not change. Even now." The paradox here is he thinks of a star while finally it is revealed it was a missle. That is not the only story when Wells shows that blind faith in science leads to wrong conclusions. Moreau in his experiments chose human form by chance, blinded to the consequeces.

 

And finally consider what Prendick says: "A blind Fate, a vast pitiless Mechanism, seemed to cut and shape the fabric of existence and I, Moreau (by his passion for research), Montgomery (by his passion for drink), the Beast People with their instincts and mental restrictions, were torn and crushed, ruthlessly, inevitably, amid the infinite complexity of its incessant wheels." It seems that in the stories by Wells there always has to be an issue with having obscured visibility.

 

 

 07. Edgar Rice Burroughs i Gilman Charlotte Perkins - "Księżniczka z Marsa" i "Herland"

 

 

Gilman's "Herland" raises the topic of conventional views on women during her time (as the protagonists say "laws of nature"). It has some distinctive features, which make it especially interesting to read.

 

Gilman decided to write the novel from the point of view of men - not women. Therefore, it seems she wanted to indulge in a discourse with the male part of the population. No wonder "Herland" fails (when treated rigorously) all requirements of the Bechdel test.* We deal here with a feminist novel directed to men.

 

Throughout the novel, Gilman neatly shows different approaches of men towards women (worship of Jeff, Van's partnership, Terry's domination). She seems to sympathize with the most moderate attitude. She indicates that women can cope without men, ephasises their strenghts and virtues.

 

Yet she does not negate the relationship between both sexes. It is true that both sides are not elastic enough and ultimately the three gentlemen fail, the differences are too great. Nevertheless, "Herland" is not necessairly the appraisal of the women society, it does not set women as dominant over men in their eintirety. It is rather a plea to consider them equally valuable to the society as men.

 

By using the "perfect" (though incomplete as shown through the fact that the women of Herland initially want a return to "bi-sexual" society), Gilman stresses the most absurd issues present in the society of her times. All comparisons made by protagonists between Herland and the rest of the world does not tell us how the future should be but what was wrong at that time. It is especially interesting, when we consider our second reading, "A Princess of Mars", which not only strengthens the stereotypical perception of women but also estabilishes a modern archetype of a male hero, which stands as a contrast to the notions presented in "Herland". However, that is a topic for a different essay.

* Tu mała uwaga, Test ponoć odnosi się tylko do filmów, nie do literatury. Gdybym miał pisać powyższy tekst jeszcze raz, pewnie bym o nim nie wspomniał. Przepisałbym ten fragment jednak tak, by podtrzymać zawartą w akapicie tezę lub, po prostu, wyciął to jedno zdanie.

 

 

08. Ray Bradbury -  "Kroniki Marsjańskie"

 

 

Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles" exploit quite a few motifs that can be viewed as science-fiction mainstays. Those elements are so influential that they can be observed in novels of other authors and were present not only during early days of science fiction but up to this day.

 

Definitely, the most visible are the decorative elements such as robots, rockets, strange aliens, which can be dangerous to mankind, etc. Also the place of the action - a desolate planet Mars - and the idea of a journey through space (and time) is vivid in many other stories. Specific to the period of time when Bradbury wrote were also the issues of nuclear bombs and telepathy as well as war and pesimistic fear for self-destruction of a human civilization.

 

However, equally significant and generic are the issues in the fabric of each story in "The Martian Chronicles". All stories about expeditions deal for example with the topic of a clash of civilizations and meeting with aliens. We can also see social topics concerning the problems of the larger groups of people (i.e. "The Old Ones") and the general condition of man and their beliefs (frequent criticism of American society, expansionism and religion). Bradbury also indicated issues concerning individuals (Hathaway's longing in "The Long Years", emotions between Gripp and Genevieve and their hopes in "The Silent Towns")

 

Certainly, Bradbury did not introduce all those motifs to the genre. Nevertheless, "The Martian Chronicles" strengthened their presence in the minds of the readers and stressed the connotations, especially when we consider mainstream recipients. As a result Bradbury's novel can be viewed as a quintessence of the science fiction genre, a book so profound it could be a model example for all those who would like to know what science fiction is a whole and how extensive it may be.

 

 

09.  Ursula K. Le Guin - "Lewa ręka ciemności"

 

 

In the introductory video for our ninth assingment professor Rabkin mentioned the similarities between Herbert's Dune and LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness. Certainly, both novels share some motifs. In both there is a planet with harsh conditions and strong individual who tries to fulfill his mission. In both novels we have a prophecy and hardened societies. Also rulers of Dune and Gethen resemble each other in some way as they are described as mad, tyrannical or cruel people.

 

However, when we analyze those similarities, we see more and more differences. Ai is driven by duty and he deliberately chooses his mission while Paul Atreides, the protagonist of Dune, is steered by fate and other forces like Bene Gesserit until he choses his own path. Fremens on Dune are savagery but straightforward and honorable warriors while Getheners does not know what war is: they are simple citizens or manipulative, sneaky and insidious politics. Also one cannot forget the issue of the Getheners' sex, although sexuality is important in both novels.

 

And yet there is still one major difference which remarkably distinguishes both novels. Fremens are, regardless of their tribal nature, a one nation while Getheners are divided into (at least) two national groups: Karhide and Orgoreyn. The first is focused on indvidualism (feature of Western civilization) while the second emphasise community (approach of the Eastern civilizations and the communism). At the same time Ekumen shares some common features with the European Union. (1) It is hard to find equally strong associations to the real world in Dune.

 

Dune and Left Hand of Darkness deal with similar issues: sociology, xenophobia and fear (Agraven says that fear is a king, Harkonnens rule with it), genetics, ethics and many more. However, both novels show those things from different angles. Dune is a bit more universal than Left Hand of Darkness and it is easier to connect the latter with contemporary world.

 

 

 

(1) For that issue please consider the Estraven's reflections about Ekumen in Chapter 11 and envoys explanations on the same topic in Chapter 10. Other similarities between East and West during the Cold War and Karhide and Orgoreyn can be found across the whole novel. In Left Hand of Darkness we've got an interesting clash between those two civilizations and a solution which means chosing another path, path of Ekumen and mutual cooperation which resembles contemporary idea of European Union. That is, however, an issue for a different essay.

 

 

10. Cory Doctorow - "Mały brat"

 

 

Quite often the best science fiction and fantasy stories are about crossing the boundaries. The author sets them and then breaches to find out what happens. Those boundaries might be physical or abstract. They might concern individuals or even whole societies. They might show mundane issues or most extraordinary circumstances but they are crucial to the story. Cory Doctorow's Little brother may be added to the list of such novels.

 

The reasons why Little brother isso strong in reception is that it takes the real world and tweaks it just a little to be credible but to destroy the belief we all assume: that governments are to represent and protect the citizens and law is to ensure justice. When Marcus with his friends are arrested and kept in custody, Doctorow breaches that border inscribed in readers' minds.

 

As a result, Marcus has a choice to make - he can act or he can remain passive. By choosing the former he crosses another boundary - this time as a person, a human being. He must now learn that he is responsible for others, that one has to fight for his own freedom. He must become something more than he had been. He must go beyond himself. The effect is that from a regular teenager he becomes a father of a revolution. In the end Marcus has to exceed another, more intimate, border. He has to admit to his loss of dignity during Treasure Island custody and that he is vulnerable as everybody else.

 

However, although there are more examples of exceeding the limitations, it is worth noting that Little brother is also a bit more complex in that matter. By discussing what limits the authorities should assume when trying to prevent terrorism, it indicates not only that crossing the boundaries may be important but also that setting them may be vital. And that distinguishes Little brother in relation to the other stories.

 


 

Na koniec jeszcze jedna rzecz. Gdyby ktoś miał ochotę poczytać wyżej wymienione dzieła (z wyjątkiem Bradbury'ego i Le Guin), są one dostępne w domienie publicznej (bo chyba nie wspominałem, książki czytaliśmy w oryginale). Można je znaleźć np. tu:

 

http://openlibrary.org/

Baśnie braci Grimm

Frankenstein

 

http://www.gutenberg.org/

Opowiadania Hawthorne'a

 

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/

Alicja w krainie czarów

Herland

 

Mały brat

EDIT:


I jeszcze jedna rzecz: link bezpośrednio do kursu, jak by kogoś interesowało więcej szczegółów (i można się zapisać, start od czerwca):

 

https://www.coursera.org/course/fantasysf

 

 

Komentarze


Krzyś
   
Ocena:
0
Wszystko pięknie, fajnie, naprawdę ciekawa rzecz. Ale umyka mi jedno, jaki był cel kursu/wykładu, czego miał nauczyć? Czy może był li tylko zachętą do sięgnięcia po klasykę fantastyki?
12-04-2013 21:12
KFC
   
Ocena:
0
Polecanka na zachętę.
12-04-2013 21:28
Galathar
   
Ocena:
0
@ Krzyś, przeczytaj sobie najlepiej "About the course" w linku, który dodałem na dole. Tam jest wszystko napisane. Wolę się do tego odwołać, bo sam mam trochę kłopot z odpowiedzią na Twoje pytanie ;) Dla mnie to nieco jak pytać o sens nauki historii literatury czy historii w ogóle. Można się bez tego obejść, ale dużo fajniej jest wiedzieć więcej. Może tak: kurs pozwala inaczej spojrzeć na przeczytane teksty i daje sporo wiedzy o nich i o ich autorach, o kontekście, w jakim zostały napisane, etc.
12-04-2013 21:44
Krzyś
   
Ocena:
0
Mhm, opis jest dość przydatny. Kurs wygląda na ciekawe, pouczające wyzwanie. Choć pachnie mi tu też psychologiczno-filozoficznym podejściem, które mnie zawsze niepokoi.
12-04-2013 22:11

Komentowanie dostępne jest po zalogowaniu.

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