Thursday, June 18, 2009

Class, Houses, Discussion

My students and I just spent about an hour talking and writing about this painting by Edward Hopper entitled “House by the Railroad.” I am teaching 1004 right now, and I am trying to integrate visual culture studies into writing. I choose this topic because I figured it would be something that all of my students (all three of them) would be familiar with. We look at the world around us all of the time. It is in fact one of the major senses through which we experience life.

Today’s class was just one of those days that was kind of rewarding. I met a fellow teacher in the stairwell just before getting to class, and I talked about how I feel so awkward teaching sometimes—that I talk to much, that I make a big deal out of nothing, that I am interested in the topic and my students are just little bobble heads nodding agreement. When I got to class and one of the students was not there, I was kind of shocked and thought it might be a bad day, but I was luckily rewarded with her reassuring presence.

We talked a lot about place and space because we started with the chapter, “Coming to Terms with Place.” We spent time talking about the difference between space and place, and my students were getting the really theoretical stuff that I wanted them to understand, which felt great. We ended talking about this poem by Edward Hirsch—an ekphrastic poem about Hopper’s painting. We then learned how to incorporate MLA into our writing and talked about introductions and rhetorical questions. Good discussion.

But what I was most happy about is that I started to realize how awesome Hopper is. Of course, I am very familiar with Nighthawks, his most famous painting. And this one time I downloaded some random podcasts from MOMA about him. I think there might be some research going on Hopper in the near future. What do you think about the painting?


SJE said...

I'm glad you had such a great class this morning. I don't know if you talked about this at all but what fascinates me about this particular painting is where the house is situated, in the background even though it dominates the painting because of its size. Hopper depicts an antiquated, old almost Gothic looking house and juxtaposes that image with the modern visual of the railroad tracks. Perhaps this is a commentary on how old ways, things, and places were (and still are today) being left aside or in the background of progress (symbolized by the railroad tracks which seem to be leading somewhere, and not stuck still in motion like the house). I've been thinking a lot lately about things that get left behind, that are rediscovered later because of nostalgia, and it makes me wonder how our generation is going to be seen in a thousand years. I mean, will our society be juxtaposed between two, the old iphone and the new one (which comes out Friday!)?

Laminated Fragments said...

We actually talked about how interesting that the house looks like it is settled onto the train tracks. The house is what is moving in some senses. We also talk a lot about isolation and loneliness because that was the particular interpretation that they really could identify and understand. I tried to get them to think about houses as humans, but that one didn't go over that well.