What kind of podcasts do I want students to create?
Well, literary criticism is often described as a "conversation." Too often this is a dead metaphor, obscuring the isolation, insularity and exclusivity of much critical inquiry.
But literary conversation can be exciting, fulfilling, and even adventurous!
I feel this in the best moments of teaching.
As a model, I chose the New Yorker Fiction podcast of Junot Diaz reading Edwidge Danticat's story "Water Child." Junot Diaz reads Edwidge Danticat.mp3
Following this magnificent story, Diaz and editor Deborah Treisman have a ten-minute discussion about it. They weigh Danticat's choices as an author, and the effects her choices have on readers. They speak with a warmth and depth of emotion that demonstrates keen analysis need not preclude the personal.
Following this model, I present students with the nuts and bolts of their project:
-Working in groups of 3, they script a dialog responding to an assigned work of literature. Students can follow the reader/editor/critic model, or get creative in speaking from the perspectives of characters or authors.
-Students turn in a draft of their script 3-5 days in advance of the class day their work of literature appears on the syllabus. I make comments and suggestions.
-They then perform their conversation in class, spurring discussion and responses from peers.
-After the in-class performance (which serves as a kind of workshop), students record an edited version of their script and upload it to the course podcast.
-Other students can listen to their peers' podcasts as inspiration for their own work and preparation for final exams.
To get students comfortable with the (free) recording software and process of uploading files to the podcast, I assign short individual pieces titled "This Is My Voice" and "A Sound of my Roots." These brief expressive pieces also help students get acquainted and hear diverse perspectives in the first weeks of class.