Sunday, October 30, 2005

Quizilla in the Classroom 2: Realms of American Memory Assignment

If I teach our second semester "Advanced Strategies for Rhetoric and Research" first-year comp class next term as I think I will be, I'm planning on refocusing my "practices of memory" theme I used last time to "practices of social memory." One assignment I plan on using is a reworking of the "Traveling Photo Exhibit" in Cindy Selfe's "Taking up the Challenges of Visual Literacy" chapter in Wysocki et. al.'s Writing New Media: Theory and Application for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. In this assignment, we'll be using Pierre Nora's notion of les lieux de memorie to create a "Realms of American Memory" exhibit.

First, for those of you who need it, a brief definition. According to Nora, les lieux de mémorie must be material, symbolic, and functional: that there must be a physical object or actual event, that it must have symbolic meaning, and that that meaning must be understood by a large number of people (18-19). While French les lieux de mémorie include such things as the monarchy, the Revolution, and the Arc de Triomphe, Nora explains that even concepts a historical generation can be a site of memory because it represents an actual group of people (the material) whose experiences, events, and values we've come to be associate with them (the functional), and we can refer to a particular historical generation as a way of representing the experiences, events, and values we associate with them (the symbolic) (19).

So, in this assignment, each group will be asked to choose an American lieu de mémorie, an American realm of memory, such as, for instance, the Washington monument or the American Civil War or the Declaration of Independence or Route 66 or Disneyland or slavery. For the exhibit, they'll need to:
  • Create a poster board exhibit of 10-20 images representing their realm of American memory.

  • Create a two or three-page Curator's Commentary that introduces to a college audience the concept of social memory and, in particular, the idea of realms of memory; explains their exhibit's particular theme as a realm of American memory, and discusses, in a general way, how the images they include serve as particular places or sites within their larger realm of memory.

  • Create a card for each image that identifies the image, contextualizes it as a place of memory, and documents the source of each image.

So, how might Quizilla play a role in all this? Now, having written all this, I'm not so sure this is the best way to use it, but I had been thinking that each group could create a "What American Realm of Memory Are You?" quiz to help decide what their realm of memory will be and the ways they want to represent it. They could narrow down their topic to a short list of potential realms and by working out a quiz that includes each of their possible realms, they'll brainstorm the meanings of that realm of memory. Or, conversely, I could have each group create the answers for their realm, but that would require coordination as it would require cross-group interaction to develop a set of questions and responses that, when put together, made sense.

Work cited
Nora, Pierre. "Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémorie." Representations 26 (1989): 7-25.

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