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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3 Responses to True crime

  1. Jim Groom says:

    I am sor fired up for this class, and I love the idea of a sermon for Ted Bundy, and I am beginning to think the Salem Witch Trials might be an important link for that moment. I recently read about them, the fact that 12 people were formally executed as a result of those trials is insane.

    I think now that we have a good 6 months to plan, we can really go crazy with the projects. Open it like #emoboiled, but start crafting the assignments more specifically. This should be a blast, we have to figure out some details, but I am ready to start on this baby! It’s going to be awesome, and I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for emoboiled last semester, the energy you brought to that experience was amazing, and I love we can actually plan around it and formalize some of the details this time around! #truecrime4life

    • phb256 says:

      The thing I like about the Bundy execution sermon idea is that if they do it while they’re reading Cotton Mather they’ll have to research Bundy, so when they get around to The Stranger Beside Me they’ll have some background to bring to the table.
      The Salem Witch Trials would be interesting. What we call “true crime” these days is always dramatized to some extent, even if only through editing, so it’s not quite true, an edited truth perhaps. The Witch Trials further distort the “true” aspect because witchcraft isn’t actually real (depending on one’s culture and beliefs). Or maybe the true crime was the convictions.

  2. Pingback: Coming Fall 2013: True Crime! | bavatuesdays

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