Saturday, January 24, 2009

Help! for the Reviewing Class

I've settled on the basic assignments for my reviewing class.

* first a restaurant review (because it's a combination of straight news story and personal essay and is unapologetically a matter of consumer advice)

* a couple film reviews (first something popular, vulgar even, and then a documentary -- verging on propaganda even -- from USF's own human rights film festival)

* a poetry slam (because I've never been to one and such are synonymous with youthful energy, are they not? and perhaps there will be some 'sticking it to The Man,' an encouragement from which The Man can always benefit)

* a play (because several will be performed on campus by students and directed by faculty, thus giving the students, with the cooperation of our distinguished faculty, the opportunity to drill down into preparation, motivation, etc. and thus learn the extent to which educating themselves about the genre makes them better critics)

* Something from the 'Fine Arts' (because there's the deYoung so close in the park, plus many distinguished faculty ready to lead us down the rabbit hole)

* music (late in the semester because I am a musical illiterate)

* a 'wild card,' meaning one review of the kids' own choosing (because at least one kid wants to review video games)

* a TV series, selected at the first of the semester and followed throughout (because one should never eschew the obvious, and never with your mouth open)

Also, in there will be an interview with a reviewer on the nature of the job.

Ask not what this blog can do for you, dear reader, but what you can do for this blog. I am looking for suggestions for marvelous witty insightful essays related, even tangentially, to the art of the review or to any of the genres reviewed. I've found a couple things by Pauline Kael to use. Teresa Moore, who created this class, pointed me toward something by Anthony Bourdain about what really goes on in a restaurant kitchen that should both educate and entertain the kids.

Indeed, I am probably more interested in the entertainment aspect than is good for my intellectual health. I seem to have run out of patience for that which is only knotty, opaque, difficult. Or, to put it another way, if I have to choose between the obscure brilliance of the original thinker and the glib popularizer of the thing thought, give me glib. If it can't be paraphrased, to hell with it.

Any suggestions?

Postscript: How's this for a first question for the students? How often do you read reviews which make no sense but which you continue to read either because you lack confidence to judge the thing being reviewed or because you lack the confidence to judge the quality of the argument? What do you fear most as you engage reviews, or anything else for that matter: the distorting effect of arrogance or of insecurity?

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