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CAMS 226: Melodramatic Imagination

Visual Storytelling in Popular Media and Fine Art

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Faculty Member: Carol Donelan
Class Description:
Melodrama is arguably the dominant visual storytelling mode in American popular culture, existing across popular media, manifesting in films, television shows, magazines, advertising, video games and comics. It is evident in "chick flicks" and action blockbusters, film stills and posters, soap operas, sports shows, commercials, celebrity profiles and newscasts. In addition to exploring the reception and meanings of melodrama in popular film and media, we will investigate the migration of "lowbrow" melodrama into "highbrow" media, including fine art photography, painting and sculpture. Students enrolled in the course will participate in researching and mounting an exhibit in the Carleton Art Gallery.


Watch/Download Full Video (Flash Video 129.9MB Sep2 09): 34:10 min

Class Video



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Chapter 1: Curricular Goals and Course Design (Flash Video 14.4MB Jul21 09) (3:50 min)
Carol describes how she encouraged her students to draw upon their prior experience and course-work to inform the material of her course, and how the one of the goals of the course was to integrate curriculum and curating.

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Chapter 2: Obstacles/Preconceptions/Resistance (Flash Video 11.1MB Aug31 09) (2:56 min)
Carol discusses the challenges of teaching students something new about material that seems very familiar to them and the resistance that can arise in doing so.

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Chapter 3: Teaching Analysis (Flash Video 28.9MB Aug31 09) (7:37 min)
Helping students formulate researchable questions is at the core of Carol's pedagogy. Students particularly struggle to base analysis and interpretation on concrete, observable evidence.

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Chapter 4: Teaching as Performance (Flash Video 16.5MB Aug31 09) (4:22 min)
Carol reveals the performative elements in her own teaching style and how they open a space for student engagement.

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Chapter 5: Personality-based Teaching (Flash Video 17.7MB Aug31 09) (4:40 min)
Carol talks about adapting her teaching strategies to the personality of each class so that the intellectual content of the course can be "embodied" in the students' affective domain as well.

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Chapter 6: Change and Continuity (Flash Video 38.7MB Aug31 09) (10:10 min)
Carol reflects on the changes she continues to make in her pedagogy over the years, including having students do more original research. She also speaks about preparation, improvisation, yielding more control of the class to the students—favoring process over coverage—and her passion for her discipline.