True crime

cotton judyLast semester I played along with Jim Groom’s hardboiled detective fiction course at UMW. After all the fun we had with that course, we’re looking at exploring crime reporting in America from colonial era execution sermons through classic true crime (In Cold Blood) to the modern day – from Cotton Mather to America’s Most Wanted, and also reprising the Wikipedia project from the hardboiled course. In a discussion with David Kernohan, Jim brought up the idea of using video, doing a TV show as part of the course. I think there’s something really fascinating about combining the new with the old, looking at events through different lenses. We could do colonial sermons for Ted Bundy, and give a modern media treatment to stories from Pillars of Salt, or maybe some kind of Cotton Mather as Judge Judy thing. We could work murder ballads into some kind of radio production, pairing a traditional ballad with a modern song and doing a quick two minute DJ thing to tie the two together. Some of the lessons from DS106 would apply here: start with the writing, the script; move to audio production and then go to video.

The challenge is to not overwhelm the students – to set them up to succeed. Video can be a lot of work. Is there a way to break things down, so everyone does a little and no one gets crushed? And can we do that and still maintain the high level of discussion that we achieved in Hardboiled? Or is it all too ambitious? I don’t know, but there’s time to think about it.

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