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Notes Towards Day 1 (Tues, Sept. 4): Listening, Looking, Writing, Introducing....

Anne Dalke's picture

I. go outside (with umbrellas?) for 15 minutes:
be silent. observe. write. return (to share)....

II. Wendell Barry, The Silence:

"I cannot stand ...mute/but must say....
the world lives/ in the death of speech/
and sings there...."

III. for you, was this an experience of being silenced, of choosing silence, or....?
let's go 'round and say....

IV. two other "musical" representations of silence....

Simon and Garfunkel, Sounds of Silence

John Cage, 4’33”

--what did you hear?

The realization of the impossibility of silence led to the composition of 433. Cage's musical equivalent to the Rauschenberg paintings uses the "silence" of the piece as an aural "blank canvas" to reflect the dynamic flux of ambient sounds surrounding each performance; the music of the piece is natural sounds of the players, the audience, the building, and the outside environment. “There is no such thing as absolute silence, something is always happening that makes a sound. They missed the point. What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.”

John Cage on Silence:

V. A range of questions (which we'll be considering all semester):
--is silence possible?
--what is your own experience of silence? (other- or self-imposed?)
--how do you experience the silence of others?
--have you ever silenced others?
--how do you read silence in the classroom?
--in what other spaces have you experienced silence (yours or others?)
--how might the understanding of silence vary, in different classes, genders, cultures, religions?

VI. And some statements....

Our overfull "syllaship" is on-line @
you should bookmark this, and check it in preparation for every class;
it will change as the semester goes on, so be sure to "re-fresh" each time you go back
I'm going to take you now to a # of other webpages that you'll be using for the course;
all of them are available from this homepage.

For instance: you’ll have reading to do for each class;
for the first month, you'll find it all available, via active on-line links from the syllabus;
you should also buy/rent/check out/share three book-length works,
I, Rigoberta Menchu; Brothers and Keepers; and Eva's Man

What's unique about this 360 is that -- besides talking w/ each other in person,
and handing in one piece of more formal writing each month ,
and having conferences about your writing --we will be meeting virtually
each week in an inbetween space: our on-line/class forum @

By tomorrow evening, and then each Sunday evening thereafter,
I am asking you to post a comment in that space,
reflecting on our discussion from the week before or anticipating what's upcoming
(more deliberate than speaking in class, less formal than written work:
excellent place for showcasing revisionary thinking).

Learning to be a public intellectual, thinking out loud:
it's on the internet, not a closed space, so readable-by-the-world,
and discussable in class (starting point for most class meetings....).

You all registered for a Serendip account in May, and so are set to go...

This informal writing is background/preparation/warm-up/frequent source
for your more “formal” writing assignments, which will also
take the form of four "web events," due once/month
(four 3-pp. projects, one 12-pp. equivalent).

That's the basic pattern for our thinking-and-writing:
for each class
, we'll have some new material to read and discuss together.
By 5 p.m. each Sunday evening, post a short comment in our
on-line course forum, reflecting back on/for forwards toward our discussion.

What is (probably) also distinct about this course is the form of evaluation:
I will not grade any of your individual papers. @ the end of the semester,
you will complete a portfolio of all your work, and evaluate yourself.
The checklist of my expectations are all on-line
(this is not mysterious: be present in class and conferences,
contribute in-person and on-line, post your web events on time,
be responsive to instruction, engaged in the conversation...).

N.B.: my belief in education as a collective endeavor,
our shared responsibility for each other's learning

What else?
Questions about any of these details of "course-keeping"?

reminder that links to all these pages--on-line course forum,
syllabus, instructions for posting, a growing file of my "talking notes"
for class--are available as links from our course home page @

For Thursday: view on-line a range of "visualizations of silence"-->
look @ Edvard Munch's famous painting, "The Scream"
The Silent Scream, The Silent Scream, The Silent Scream and The Silence Supercut
watch (as much as you can stand) of any silent film (Phantom of the Opera/Nosferatu....?)

by classtime, following the instructions for
"how to add an image to your post," upload your own "visualization"
of silence on our course forum (google image will suffice for this,
though you can draw or photograph your own if you'd rather....)