Tuesday, August 23, 2005

New semester, new writing prompts

I am stubborn. But my students WILL benefit from my stubbornness, whether they like it or not!.

Last semester, as a way of eliciting writing samples from my comp students on the first day of class, I selected a couple of paintings and asked them to respond to them in writing. With only a couple of exceptions, they all chose to write about the Vermeer. I had thought at least some would write about Las Meninas; not a single one did. And just a couple of people chose the Magritte--and they were the more intriguing of the samples I received (for, you see, through the samples I'm curious to learn not just their skills in mechanics but also something about their willingness to be adventurous). So: most chose the safest--by that I mean the most straightforward (to their eyes)--image in the bunch, the Vermeer.

I recall feeling a bit disheartened with the results, even as I kept the faith in what I was trying to accomplish. And so, because I am stubborn, I've decided to force the issue with this semester's writing prompts by presenting my students with 7 Magrittes from which to choose. I find these paintings in particular to be thought provoking . . . let us hope my students will, too.

Here they are:

Clairvoyance

The Treason of Images

The Key of Dreams

The Art of Conversation

The Lovers

Not to Be Reproduced

The Human Condition

We'll see how it goes. I'll let you know.

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3 comments:

Courtney said...

Oooh - if you're a writer we do our own writing prompts in the Writing Usergroup over at Blog Advance. You should join! I'm the moderator, I have a vested interest in this. :)

But really, it is fun.

BA~~38

Sinequanonblog said...

I love this idea and what is wonerful about it is that it allows the flow of imagery to be written using descriptive terms. What emotions does the paintng invoke, what does it mean to that person. Art is like religious philosophy, no two people have the same response or ideation of God. I write a lot about art through description of my friend Robert DOwling's paintings. It's quite fun and I always wonder if I got it right. Later, I often find imagery or meaning I missing the first go round or two or three.

John B. said...

Courtney,
This blog is the closest thing to "writing" that I do. But thanks for the invitation anyway. Through this exercise, though, I hope to get my students to push their ideas a bit harder than they might and get out of their comfort zones as writers, instead of playing it safe.
Sinequanon,
Yes. And something else as well: though a work by Magritte isn't quite as objective as, say, a census report, each document has the potential to encourage informed speculation on the audience's part, to consider some possibilities and exclude others. In other words, looking at and writing about a painting becomes an exercise in the basics of critical thinking.