Journal Entry #1
Our first week, I spent a lot of time with a book called "A Short History of the Scandinavian Theater." I learned about the Holberg's predecessor, a frenchman called Montaigu, and his troupe that performed in the Danish court. I also read a fair amount about the French styles of theater and how Scandinavian monarch would literally just hire artists from france and germany to produce art for the scandinavian people; so that they might benefit from some culture without having to actually create it themselves.
I suppose this is relevant to my life and my work because it makes me question whether or not much of the art I'm creating is original, or if it is just an analysis or interpretation of something I've been instructed to recognize as good art. It also makes me wonder about the connection between British theatrical culture and American theatrical culture today. How British theater tends to have more legitimacy in the states simply because of their theatrical history, and so their playwrights, actors, directors, etc, are often seen as more sophisticated than American playwrights/actors/etc.
Journal Entry #2
I spent a lot of time this week on general Danish History, trying to get a scope on the historical context in which Holberg was writing. The great Nordic wars leading up to our little section of history is fascinating and bloody. Some of the kings that came before Edward IV are little more than ridiculous. The history allowed me to get a better grasp on the economic consequences of the 80-year war, and why that may have interfered with Denmark's ability to contribute greatly to the intellectual movements happening just a bit farther south. It's still pretty amazing to me that no one else contributed as significantly as Holberg. How can a country with a reasonable population produce so few educated and inspired individuals? It really gives credibility to Sir Robert Molesworth's dreary account of the Danish society of the time.
I actually draw a parallel between that near century of lack of Danish art to the state of American musical theater for the last decade or so. There was a period of turmoil (80 year war vs. economic depression/financial strain) that can be attributed to the lack of creativity (commercialized or movie-based musicals that are bad and only created to sell tickets) displayed by educated persons of the age.
I'm rereading a lot of our previous blog posts in preparation for our presentation tomorrow, and I am struck by how much our argument has changed and narrowed since we began. We had ambitiously planned to cover a lot of material, including the political context of Holberg, the debates we had over whether or not his material supported the monarchy or the people, the wars in Scandinavia that contributed to the lack of culture and absolutism of monarchy, and many other fascinating bits of history that are no longer relevant to our thesis, which we really only fully realized Sunday night. Amazing how even once one thinks one has narrowed down a huge amount of information into a narrow scope, it can still get so much smaller! Mostly because our "focus" (holberg, the rise/fall of danish comedy 1722-1727) has to be explained with an argument in mind (that despite historians' reverence of holberg, he actually failed in his goal), or else the stream of information has no purpose. That was something that struck me in watching presentations last week. All four groups did a fantastic job of presenting information and explaining a topic, but only one really made an argument. I hope our presentation tomorrow will convey this information thru the vehicle of our even more narrowed argument, even though we only came to that discovery last evening.
I'm really happy with this group and our work thus far. Not only did we gather lots of information, form an argument and support that argument, we worked together really well. I learned a lot about how to use this new skill set of examining history/historiography, a frankly brand-new way of processing information that is kind of mind-boggling in how different it is from other types of critical thinking I've done in my academic career, I learned to negotiate and debate in a productive, patient way, and I learned how to manage time and collaborate efficiently.
So this is reflecting on our presentation and the other presentations we saw this week.
I thought our group did a rattling good job. We conveyed all the information we wanted to. I think we made strong arguments to support our thesis, which was interesting and fairly clear. I think our presentation was engaging, unique, fast-paced but not difficult to follow, and even a bit entertaining. I think it was not as cohesive as it might have been had we practiced it more. We really rehearsed with a timer only once, and not everyone knew at that time exactly what he or she wanted to say. I think we could have made segues, and connected all of our bits of information to our thesis more concisely, and I think in general we could have connected all of the pieces more.
I enjoyed watching most of these presentations, but the ones that were most engaging were the presentations that used the fewest words on slides and connected most with the audiences (multi-media, q & a, read-alouds, humor), and MADE ARGUMENTS. So many groups simply presented information and historical context without making a point about anything. I think we came to our "point" pretty late in the game, and if we'd determined that earlier we probably would have had a more cohesive presentation, as we would have been researching towards an end, not just to gather information.