Sunday, April 29, 2012

Breakfast with Barth, 1977 interview

In January 1977, T&G magazine published an interview with John Barth (conducted partly over breakfast) about his years teaching and writing at Penn State. Here is a link to a PDF copy of that article.

NPR story features my free online poetry course

An NPR story last week covered, in part, my online modern and contemporary poetry course, which will be offered starting September 1, 2012, for ten weeks.

From Silicon Valley, A New Approach To Education

Link to NPR's "All Tech Considered" audio recording of the story.

LYNN NEARY, HOST: You may never have had a chance to attend an elite university, but now you can take some classes at one - online. Four major universities - Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan - are joining forces with a Silicon Valley start-up called Coursera. Together they plan to offer free online classes in more than three dozen subjects. NPR's Steve Henn reports the professors involved hope this kind of interactive online education could transform higher education.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Last year, when Andrew Ng, a computer science professor at Stanford, put his machine learning class up online and opened enrollment to the world, more than 100,000 students signed up.

ANDREW NG: I think all of us were surprised.

HENN: Andrew Ng had posted lectures online before, but this class was different.

AG: This was actually a class where you can participate as a student and get homework and assessments.

HENN: And get a grade. Not course credit but a grade. The class was interactive. There were quizzes and online forums, where teaching assistants, fellow students, and even Andrew himself answered questions. In the end, tens of thousands of students did all the same work and took all the same tests that Stanford students took. Thousands passed. Jim Plummer is the dean of engineering.

JIM PLUMMER: Stanford has always been a place where we were not afraid to try bold new things, often without knowing exactly what the consequences were going to be. And this is an instance of that, I think.

HENN: Now Andrew Ng and a Stanford colleague, Daphne Kohler, are launching a company called Coursera to bring classes from elite universities to students around the world for free, online.

DAPHNE KOHLER: Really by providing what is a truly high quality educational experience to so many students for free, I think we can really change many, many people's lives.

HENN: Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan will join Stanford. And two venture capitalists are investing more than $15 million dollars in the company. Kohler believes online classes could bring university education to millions of people who are now effectively cut off. But to do this, these classes have to be effective at teaching more than just computer science. How are they going to teach hundreds of thousands of students to write?

AL FILREIS: You've asked the right question, which is - you're really going to try to do a poetry course?

HENN: They are - and in fact Al Filreis is the guy they've roped in to doing just that.


HENN: Filreis is a poetry professor at the University of Pennsylvania. And starting next fall he'll be teaching Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, online for free. Now, he knows he's not going to be able to grade thousands of essays. But he wants people to think about the poems he's teaching and engage each other.

FILREIS: Poetry is really good in this setting because you can read it alone and get so much out of it, and be perfectly fine with it. The next step is hang out with some - just some intuitively smart people and collectively - together, collaboratively - lets read the poem together.

HENN: So what will a poetry class trying to engage thousands sound like? Filreis says it'll sound something like this.

FILREIS: Today we are going to be talking about a poem by Lin Dinh. It's called "Eating Fried Chicken." HENN: He's been hosting a poetry discussion podcast for years.

LIN DINH: I hate to admit this, brother, but there are times when I'm eating fried chicken, when I think about nothing else but eating fried chicken.

FILREIS: So who's the brother being addressed in the first line?

LEONARD SCHWARTZ: Huh, interesting, I thought of that as, you know, Philadelphia-speak, maybe African American vernacular...

FILREIS: It could be anyone or it could be an African-American brother. It could be a presumptuous address.

SUSAN SCHULTZ: I was thinking the same thing, especially...

HENN: In his class this fall, Filreis will discuss poetry with a small group of students while potentially thousands of others make comments online. And Coursera's building as system kind of like Yelp that will let those students value each other's comments. The most valued and respected will rise to the top. Filreis says he's excited to give this a try, and it's possible that this fall he could reach more students with poetry than he's done in his entire career. Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

with John Barth

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

in conversation with John Barth

Install the Flash plugin to watch this video.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Penn to host 52,000 holocaust video testimonies

Penn to Host Access to Entire USC Shoah Foundation Institute Archive, Nearly 52,000 Video Testimonies of Holocaust Survivors, Witnesses

 PHILADELPHIA — The University of Pennsylvania has become the first university in Pennsylvania with access to the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s entire Visual History Archive that contains nearly 52,000 video testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust in 32 languages and from 56 countries. Penn's partnership with the Shoah Foundation Institute is supported by the joint efforts of the Annenberg School for Communication, Penn Libraries and Penn’s Division of Information Systems and Computing. Penn President Amy Gutmann, who was moved by the Institute's work when she attended its Ambassadors for Humanity Gala here last year, is hosting a special event at 5 p.m., Monday, April 23, in the lobby of the Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut St., to officially launch access to the collection. 

The Ambassadors for Humanity Gala honored Brian L. Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation, and was chaired by Stephen A. Cozen, member of the Penn Law Board of Overseers, and Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen, chair of Penn's Board of Trustees. "This partnership between the University of Pennsylvania and USC's Shoah Foundation Institute provides an unparalleled resource for scholarly exploration across many disciplines, and I am proud we are able to offer the Philadelphia community access to the entire collection," said Gutmann. "I have seen and experienced first-hand the impact that these personal testimonies can have. They are a poignant reminder that we must stand together against hatred and intolerance of any kind." Gutmann’s father fled Nazi Germany in 1934, eventually emigrating to the United States, where she was born. "My father's journey has been one of the most important influences in my life, and I feel a strong personal connection to the value of these educational opportunities made available by the Shoah Foundation Institute." “Survivors’ memories are the authoritative source for information on the Holocaust, and the value of audiovisual testimony to other areas of research has been demonstrated at universities around the world where the Institute’s Visual History Archive has enhanced 275 academic courses in a wide range of disciplines,” Stephen D. Smith, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, said. “By partnering with the Institute to bring the Visual History Archive to Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania has demonstrated its commitment to scholarship guided by the highest humanitarian principles.” In addition to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute has gathered testimony from homosexual survivors, Jehovah’s Witness survivors, Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) survivors, survivors of eugenics policies, political prisoners, liberators and liberation witnesses, rescuers and aid providers and war crimes trial participants. The Institute has also begun to collect testimonies of survivors and witnesses of others genocides, such as those in Rwanda and Cambodia. The USC Shoah Foundation Institute was established in 1994 by film producer/director Steven Spielberg to collect and preserve these testimonies, and the Institute maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world. It has a long history in Philadelphia where its regional office was based and where the training of local residents as interviewers and videographers was coordinated. More than 600 testimonies were taken in Pennsylvania.  

About the USC Shoah Foundation Institute Established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg to collect and preserve the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world: nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages and from 56 countries. The Institute is part of the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California; its mission is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry —and the suffering they cause—through the educational use of the Institute’s visual history testimonies. The Institute works within the University and with partners around the world to advance scholarship and research, to provide resources and online tools for educators, and to disseminate the testimonies for educational purposes. In addition to preserving the testimonies in its archive, the Institute is working with partner organizations to expand the archive with accounts of survivors and witnesses of other genocides. For more information, visit the Institute’s website.

John Barth at Penn

LINK to article.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Modern poetry course on KYW/CBS Philly

Mike DeNardo of KYW/CBS Philly has published an article about my online modern and contemporary American poetry course being offered through the new Coursera consortium.

my free online course on modern & contemporary American poetry

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Kerouac's way of writing/typing, per Whalen

From an interview with the poet Philip Whalen, who knew Jack Kerouac very well and watched him writing at one point and described it as follows:

He would sit--at a typewriter, and he had all these pocket notebooks, and the pocket notebooks would be open at his left- hand side on the typing table--and he'd be typing. He could type faster than any human being you ever saw. The most noise that you heard while he was typing was the carriage return, slamming back again and again. The little bell would bing-bang, bing- bang, bing-bang! Just incredibly fast, faster than a teletype. And he'd laugh and say, Look at this! And he'd type and he'd laugh. Then he'd make a mistake, and this would lead him off into a possible part of a new paragraph, into a funny riff of some kind that he'd add while he was in the process of copying. Then, maybe he'd turn a page of the notebook and he'd look at that page and realize it was no good and he'd X it out, or maybe part of that page. And then he'd type a little bit and turn another page, and type the whole thing, and another page, and he'd type from that. And then something would-again, he would exclaim and laugh and carry on and have a big time doing it.

This might be an example of Kerouac doing that kind of writing, jumping from memory chord to memory chord (from Old Angel Midnight):

Lou Little explaining to the newsreel audience how this football player went mad & shows how on a Columbia Practice Hillside it started with father & son, the gray reaches of the Eternity Library beyond-I go visit my sweet Alene in her subterranean pad near the 3rd Avenue El & Henry St of old Mike Mike milkcan Lower Eastside Dreams & pink murders & there she wont ope the door because I cant get the job I tried so hard to get & the woman said my form wasn't right but Neal made it but regretfully it is he's shipping out & I'm on the ship with him telling him "If you wash dishes dont say a word, if you're a yeoman do yr work all well"--I can see he hates to go without me to this other Grayshore--Sitting before my stove on a cold gray Saturday morning with my coffee & my pine, eating jello- remembering the little jello cartoon that filled me with such joy as a kid on Sarah Avenue, the little prince wouldn't take pheasant or delicate birds or celestial puddings or even Mominuan icecream but when the little bird brought his jello inverted in a rill mold cup he went wild & saved the kingdom, red jello like mine, in the little dear lovable pages--of long ago--My form is delight delight delight

Ring, ring ring-
Shh, the sky is empty-
Shh, the earth is empty-
Look out, look in, shh-
The essence of jello is the essence of arrangement-
Be nice to the monster crab, it's only another
arrangement of that which you are

Quoted in Clark Coolidge, "Kerouac," published in the January/February 1995 issue of American Poetry Review.

my favorite passage in "On the Road"

Click on the image for a larger view.