Instructor Reflection

By Jimmy Butts

[0:04] So I wanted my students to adapt poems into videos.  And in the past I had done multimedia projects where my students would take and make a video that made an argument.  So, we would study rhetoric, and we would talk about the ways arguments are made both in text and visually.  And would make all kinds of videos.  But a lot of times they would end up being kind of common and banal.  I would get videos that argued which cafeteria was better on campus, or why Facebook is ruining our lives.  And those are kind of interesting, but not as poetic and not as artistic as I was hoping for.

[1:04] And so to kind of push my students towards that poetic mindset, I came up with this adaptation idea. And so we talked about how everything is an argument—the kind of Andrea Lunsford premise.  And then we looked for poems in various databases online.  I gave them a lot of freedom with what they picked.  And then they found the argument of the poem, and then tried to adapt that poem into a video.  And we worked with iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, and I kind of helped them along the way.

[1:55] But one interesting thing happened, where students were reading the poems much more carefully than when I’d actually, explicitly taught poetry in the past in English class.  Where through the process of adaptation and translation, they would go back and back and back to the poem again and again, reading over the lines really carefully to try to see, “How are we going to adapt this visually, how are we going to translate this for the screen?”  And so, the readings were really, really close and really, really interesting. The students wanted to do a good job translating in general, but they took much more time with the poems than they would’ve if I had just been teaching the poem from the front of the class or something.  And so that was one really interesting outcome for them trying to adapt those poems.  And I think that it was useful for them to see even in these creative spaces that there were arguments there as well, that arguments could be really poetic and beautiful, and not just efficient or utilitarian.

[3:15] There were a lot of impressive videos.  And as an assignment, I really want to maybe continue doing this in the future because the students did really creative things and saw making rhetorical arguments as beautiful and as artistic, and I think that was valuable.