Just what you always wanted—another post from me about teaching and primary sources. This is a follow-up my post last month about my favorite primary sources to teach. Again, add your favorites in the comments! The question today is: What is your favorite media-based primary source (image, song, video) to teach?
Last month I focused on written primary sources (though hopefully you noticed that the post's images were visual complements to two of the selections). This is typical way I organize class: homework is reading, class is full of discussion with images and other media. We dissect images, we note what strikes us in them, we use those readings to help us see things in the images we wouldn't otherwise see. I also add in as much music and video as I can too. In fact, I begin class everyday with what I call "mood music." I play a song as the students file into the classroom and get settled in. I can't claim originality here; I stole the idea from my M.A. advisor Chip Callahan. The mood music sets the tone, and, as some students have figured out and remark on, the music gets at the topic in another way. There's so much about The O'Jays' "Ship Ahoy" that sets the right atmosphere for a discussion of religion and the Atlantic slave trade. And Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" is just a fun way to begin a class on the Second Great Awakening.
I'll start with favorite media primary sources from my American Christianities course, then move to African American Religions, and end with Native American Religions. I included one of my favs in the post last month; the original engravings of The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk provide much to discuss in tandem with the excerpts they read before class. Millerite charts about the end of the world and God's countdown say so much more than I ever could about them. I have my students read the prologue to Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843 to equip them with Miller's use of symbols and then we talk through those images in class. Showing images of Father Divine and thinking about the belief that God was in the body of a short, balding, African American man brings more to his ideas of "tangiblization."
One of my other favorite primary sources to teach is the 1947 comic book Is This Tomorrow?: America Under Communism, a what if dramatization of a communist takeover of the country. It was published by a Catholic educational society and had an estimated readership of 10 million children. The comic is a great source for a number of reasons. It's a graphic novel reflection of Will Herberg's Protestant, Catholic, Jew in that, while it focuses on the Americanism and vulnerability of Catholics, any patriotic and religious American is threatened by communism. It also provides a nice epilogue to discussions of anti-Catholicism. A 10-minute video on American citizenship (also taken from Chip's teaching repertoire) couples really well with the comic book. The dark shadow of communism and its threat to our godly American way of life is explored, and while I could describe those ideas in class, it's so much better coming from a propaganda video (especially one that warns people about propaganda!).
In my African American Religions class we spend the last week thinking about religion and hip hop. Their reading one day is lyrics from conscious hip hop artists from Grandmaster Flash to today. One of the songs I always choose is Public Enemy's "Fight the Power." We watch and then analyze the full 7 minute music video in class. We do the same with Kanye's "Jesus Walks." The students bring a lot to the discussion from the lyrics, but the music video brings even more.
|King Islanders, Jesuit Oregon Province Archives|
There are so many more media-based primary sources I could choose! Add your favs in the comments!