About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 2814-2818
Publication year: 2011
ISBN: 978-84-615-0441-1
ISSN: 2340-1117

Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain

CIRCLES OF WITNESSING: THE EXPERIENCE OF TEACHING A HOLOCAUST LITERATURE COURSE ON AND OFF LINE

J. Schmidt

SUNY New Paltz (UNITED STATES)
This presentation will focus on the experience of teaching a Holocaust literature course and will contrast the experiences of students who took the course in a summer online environment with those who were in a seated class. In both courses, the emphasis was on reading as a form of witnessing and on critical analysis of modes of representation in Holocaust literature. The students were exposed to a variety of forms of Holocaust texts including oral histories, video testimonies, images, films, and forms of literature (memoir, fiction, and poetry) and also were asked to gain information from various museum and other educational websites devoted to Holocaust Studies. Throughout both classes, students participated in online blogs and discussion forums, watched and reviewed Holocaust films, and were encouraged to develop creative writing, multi-modal and mixed media texts as part of their response to the coursework as they also were required to write essays and in-class midterm and final examinations. The presentation will suggest that the online environment provided the students with a fuller space for contemplation, a more open environment for discussing feelings and ideas, and as such a more intimate connection with the coursework. Students in the online environment engaged in a depth of reflection that was not as apparent in the responses of the students in the seated class. In addition, perhaps because there was a degree of anonymity, students explored their thoughts and feelings about the works in more honest and revealing ways. Another factor that shaped the online students’ interaction with the coursework was that they could approach the material in their own way and at their own tempo—this is an important need in a course that presents such difficult and often disturbing reading. Instead of squashing the reading in between three or four other classes and having it due on a specific day and time, students could over the course of a week decide when they were going to read, view films, and write—this freedom to digest the material in their own ways prompted fuller engagement with the often emotionally challenging course content. Finally, I found that in the online class the students responded more vigorously to each other’s posts and carried on more lively debates online than the students in the seated class who were often stymied by the large number of students in the class.

One strong similarity between the experience of both classes, however, was that students found themselves in the positions of witnesses who suddenly saw the Holocaust not as a tragic but distant historical event, but as part of their collective history. This process entailed two phases. First they opened themselves up as “listeners” to the words and images of the texts in a transactive process between Holocaust testifier and listener that as Ernst Van Alphen in Caught by History: Holocaust Effects in Contemporary Art, Literature, and Theory, suggests, “reintegrates the Holocaust witness in the present” and by so doing, actually submerges the listener in the world of the Holocaust. Second, they attempted to imaginatively understand the Holocaust worlds that they were entering in an experience that Marianne Hirsch defines as post memory. This presentation will explore these two phases of interaction with the texts and the complex roles that students assume as witnesses.
@InProceedings{SCHMIDT2011CIR,
author = {Schmidt, J.},
title = {CIRCLES OF WITNESSING: THE EXPERIENCE OF TEACHING A HOLOCAUST LITERATURE COURSE ON AND OFF LINE},
series = {3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN11 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-615-0441-1},
issn = {2340-1117},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {4-6 July, 2011},
year = {2011},
pages = {2814-2818}}
TY - CONF
AU - J. Schmidt
TI - CIRCLES OF WITNESSING: THE EXPERIENCE OF TEACHING A HOLOCAUST LITERATURE COURSE ON AND OFF LINE
SN - 978-84-615-0441-1/2340-1117
PY - 2011
Y1 - 4-6 July, 2011
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN11 Proceedings
SP - 2814
EP - 2818
ER -
J. Schmidt (2011) CIRCLES OF WITNESSING: THE EXPERIENCE OF TEACHING A HOLOCAUST LITERATURE COURSE ON AND OFF LINE, EDULEARN11 Proceedings, pp. 2814-2818.
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