Juxtaposition Thinking

Rice, Jeff. “Juxtaposition.” The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New Media.” Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2007. 73-92. Print.

For my notes on chapter 4 from the book, I wrote:

As I was reading the highlights and notes I wrote in the book for this, I kept thinking of the digital presentations my second semester fyc course does. It seemed like juxtaposition would help make those more interesting. I may write about that more later…

Here’s what I was thinking:

I have the students make a list of the kind of images, sounds, and videos they think they will be looking for. I make my own list for a class I will be teaching in a year, just to give me something to do with them on this and to try out things on my own.

I am going to be teaching an Honors Class on Science Fiction and Fantasy (more specific than that, but let’s just go with that). So I wrote this list:

Images of the book covers
Werewolf pictures
Vampire pictures
Juxtaposition of pretty girl with tattoos and a coyote
Lamb necklace image
Scooby van
Scooby gang
Pictures related to wizards
–maybe that film clip from Jurassic Park
giant swords
Asian guy using a Western sword
Glowing swords
Churches (at least one, maybe one and one abandoned—ruins?)
“The Life of the Everyday Housewife” country song—old, who sang?
“this is the life of the everyday housewife, who gave up the good life for me”
nuclear family: father, mother, daughter (teenager)
Louisiana swamp town, bait store
Inside a convenience store type bar
Official government shield (which letter organization?)
Empty/ghost town (but modern)
One “typical” image of a Christian
One iconic image of Christ
Woman in black motorcycle gear—with helmet (or obviously American Indian)
Picture of the Church of Christ with the barbed wire around it

I mostly wrote these in the order they are in. (I did add Elvis later.) I knew I was looking for both images and sounds, so I could have some of both.

I thought of this list based on books. The first 7 are related to Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. The next 7 are related to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Series, especially book 3. The next 7 are related to John Ringo’s Princess of Wands. I didn’t intend to just have 7 for each, but that happened. I wonder if my subconscious thought that was sufficient.

The last 4 are actually related to Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series, which we are not going to read for the colloquium. Why did I add them? Originally her work was in the description for the course and I think that I may actually read a little of the book (the first page) to the students and give an overview of the permutations of faith that are presented in the series.

I have the students create their own lists. Some of these will, I hope, provide juxtapositions of ideas, especially when they are searching for images for them.

More thinking–what next?
How can this list help students/me discover juxtaposition?

Maybe I want to actually put together images from one of the books, what I think of as I read through the book?

Briggs already supplied an interesting juxtaposition of an ancient vampire having a Scooby van. Could I photoshop a vampire into a scene with a Scooby van? There’s an old, not updated mechanic’s shop here in town that I could take pictures of to be Zee and Mercy’s workplace.

Could I find an obviously ex-military, buff business man in a suit? Someone particularly handsome, but a little intimidating? (Only a little.)
Again, this is a juxtaposition Briggs has already created.

Now as I am thinking of these I wonder if that is how Briggs created the books herself. Did she take characters and twist, so they weren’t what you were expecting–as Brandon Sanderson recommends?

Could I find someone who looks like a slightly unkempt, borderline alcoholic in a leather full-length coat? That’s what I think of when I conceive of Butcher’s Harry Dresden. Why do I think that when he works with the police? Because I know he is a rebel and doesn’t fit in. … What else?

Anyway, that’s my list and thinking… What does that do for my students? It gives them a different direction to go. (Is this where the blackbirds and the clothesline from UT come in?–Several years ago I attended a presentation where someone was showcasing student work and they were particularly impressed by the images that accompanied a work on blackbirds, because instead of being images of blackbirds, the images were of clothes on a clothesline blowing in the wind. I thought it was particularly odd to think that those were imminently superior images.)

So students have lists and ideas. They start gathering these up. What does that do for them?

I first put in “housewife.” Instead of what I think of, I see lots of 1950s advertisements and drawings and some fine art nudes. Scrolling down I see a few that look like more what I was thinking about, though they are still mostly from the 1950s. And I note that I easily reject many of the pictures. The few that I like have additions like “Happy Anniversary.” Those won’t work.

I couldn’t find anything. Then I put in “homemaker.” The image I liked was from a home-health-care service, but it was closer to what I was thinking. I couldn’t get it to upload, so I found something else–a bit more discouraging than I had hoped for, but within the realm of realistic. Again it wouldn’t upload. I wonder why I am so set on this (housewife/homemaker) and I realize it is because I want to juxtapose it with vampires and werewolves.

So now I’m frustrated and I am wondering how my students will feel with this. Are they going to come to the digital presentation with firm ideas, if they write a list first? When they can’t find them, how will they feel?

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