So I’ve been on an Errol Morris kick lately (see his link on my blogroll if you don’t know who that is). Last night I watched The Thin Blue Line for the first time since I was in high school, and it blew my mind. Morris has such a subtle technique for focusing the viewer’s eye and mind on the physical features and the language of his subjects. I should be more specific–he focuses the viewer’s eyes and ear’s on what I think he (Morris) finds personally interesting. Morris seems to be the kind of guy that’s interested in anything even slightly out of the ordinary–a facial expression, a shirt, a figure of speech, a style of make-up–and some subtle thing he does with his interviews lets those interesting features reside in their own natural space while simultaneously highlighting them. It’s remarkable. Here’s what he says about his own filmmaking in an interview from The Onion:
In essence, [The Gates of Heaven] embodies many of the ideas that are in every single film I’ve made. The obsession with language. Eye contact. An interest in accounts of subjective experience rather than objective reporting. The fundamental belief that if you scratch the surface of any person, you will find a world of the insane, very close to that surface.
Anyway. I love films that are pessimistic about the existence and knowability of truth, so this stuff really gets my goat, so to speak.
Speaking of goat-getting, today in class we forged ahead with our rough drafts of our Catcher essays.
Actually, before that we had a quick but profound discussion about the writing process. I drew up a chart that showed various stages of the process, from “collecting,” to “planning,” to “drafting, to “revising,” and then I asked students to supply me with various verbs to describe what we actually do at each stage. We discussed how we have now moved into the drafting and revising stage with this particular essay, and we talked about how drafting and revising kind of circle around each other in a (possibly) endless loop.
I gave students about 30 minutes to finish those up, following the guidelines for turning a discovery draft into a rough draft from yesterday’s handout. Then we exchanged papers and students worked through the handout you can download below, responding to a classmate’s writing. The activities on the handout were meant to focus our brains on introductions–the various strategies a writer can use to begin a piece of writing–and the elements of paragraph structure we talked about yesterday.If you missed class today, come see me so I can arrange a paper exchange with another student.
We’ll take a little time off this project tomorrow to give ourselves a breather, and then we’ll be in the lab on Thursday to create a revised draft that I will try to grade.
Download: Peer-review handout