Monday, December 28, 2009

Major literary works we will study in the 2010 session

We are now in the final stages of preparing the Memory course for the 2010 session. It looks like we will have groups of about 5 students from each of our three partner programmes at University College London, University of Aarhus and University of Lisbon. During the coming term, starting January 11, we will be discussing Julian Barnes' novel England, England and Joseph O'Neill's Netherland. As in last year's session we shall introduce the study of cultural memory with the Chicago World Exhibition, and we will also be discussing the film, Babel, and the relationship between new media and new conceptions of media by looking at digital sites of memory in Second Life. An exciting 10 week term is ahead of us.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Preparing for Spring 2010

Thanks to the students at UCL and Aarhus who made it possible to run this course for the first time. The pilot run of the module ended with students creating exciting and impressive academic hypertexts on a variety of subjects (e.g. genocide, sleep, vikings). Check the course website for links to the students' hypertexts.

We were happy so happy with the results that we (UCL, AU) will try to run it one more time in the Spring of 2010. We are presently negotiating with University of Lisbon to try and expand the transnational scope of the module to the south of Europe, thereby creating a course that connects students and teachers at three European locations. We hope we will be succesful in this and am presently undertaking great efforts to make this happen.

We have also created a new fairly static website for the course on the UCL site, with information about the coming version of the course, and with access to the evaluations and reports about the 2009 version. There is a link from the website to a lengthy report written by Dr. Federica Mazzara, which analyses the methodologies, outcomes and mode of delivery of the course in great detail.

Friday, March 13, 2009

UCL scientists show how the brain records memories

It is not only in the MA in Conparative Literature that we are attempting to map the ways memory works. Although neuroscientists may not be able to say something particular about how collective and cultural memories function in local and globalised cultures, UCL scientists have published research that claims to make it possible to read personal memories in the brain.

"Professor Eleanor Maguire (UCL Institute of Neurology) and Demis Hassabis have published research which confirms that it may be possible to ‘read’ a person's memories just by looking at brain activity. In a study published today in the journal Current Biology, the researchers show that our memories are recorded in regular patterns, a finding which challenges current scientific thinking."

Read the UCL news feed here

Friday, February 6, 2009

Our Moodle site

I just wanted to show you a screenshot of our Moodle site, since it is a very central part of the course we are doing. Apart from the weekly seminars in videoconference, and as part of the seminars, we have spent quite a lot of time putting together this "virtual seminar room" where we have put all the textual resources we need (and more), we have the weekly schedule with pdf files of the texts we are discussing, an image collection, powerpoints, and the web2.0 solutions we use on a weekly basis to assist students in colaborating on ideas and small projects relating to the seminars, such as conducting a forum discussion about types and functions of memory, and this week, the students are working on a blog (see link to the left) recording their interests in and findings of local, national and global sites of memory that correspond to the "England, England" heritage park we read about in Julian Barnes's novel. If you would like to visit our Moodle site, please send me an email, and I'll tell you have to find it.

Course in the air and flying

We are now just about four weeks into the course, and though we have had some difficulties, such as this week's snow that stopped the heartbeat in London, and some intital pressure on getting the hardware up and running, I think we can comfortably say that we are having a good deal of fun engaging in these trans-national seminar sessions.

Initially, well I guess still, I feel like an old man shouting on a mobile phone in a public space when speaking in the videoconference seminar - which is, of course, not necessary, since both the video and audio goes through very well. I guess it just takes some time getting used to. One of the UCL students noticed one thing that makes a videoconference seminar different from a regular seminar, apart from the obvious fact of us only virtually being in the same room, that we seem to formulate ourselves more carefully when speaking "through the wall" - we noticed that the individual contributions are very thougtful and more consciously responsive when doing a seminar this way. I had not thought about this, but I think it actually hightens the level of reflection and active contributions to the seminar sessions.

The best thing about the course is, I think, that we have an excellent group of students with just about 6 UCL students and 3 Danish students. Most of the UCL students are volunteers and are only auditing the course which doesn't leave them enough time to engage as actively in our students led group work sessions during the week as they would have liked, but here, fortunately, the Danish students are extremely active and make good use of the Moodle site we have created for the course. Read more about our Moodle site elsewhere on the blog. You can also see a photo taken by David of our videoconference setup seen from London. I wonder how it looks from the Danish side?

As you can see in Davids photo, we have set up our tables in a regular seminar fashion with a wideangle camera in front of us and a multi-directional microphone on the table. On the screen to the left we have an image of the Danish seminar room, and to the right we have an interactive whiteboard where we share a screen (using a NetMeeting application that allows us to shift control of the board). In the photo we can see ourselves on the whiteboard, but in the seminars we have our Moodle site there, a powerpoint, pictures, pdf files of texts or websites that we are discussing in the seminar. We still need the assistance of our technician in Aarhus, Michael, to set up the communication, but it looks really intuitive and I think we, Svend Erik and I, could manage all of the tech ourselves. I'll try to get more photos of our setup and some more precise technical stuff up on the blog soon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Dawn of the Cyberstudent

I found this interesting article from the Guardian's Education section on "The Dawn of the Cyberstudents". I think it puts the "method of delivery and learning" that we have adopted in our course into perspective.

The heading says: Colaborative Learning, wkis, virtual classrooms: web2.0 is transforming higher education, and students are driving the changes. Can UK institutions keep up?" Read the full article here:

Let me know what you think?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009



In the spirit of getting to know each other's individual interests in the subject at hand, I would like to draw your attention to the work of one of my favourites, the American philosopher Daniel Dennett (pictured). Here is the transcript of a significant and accessible talk Dennett presented in 1992, on the mechanics of memory. I can't gauge how relevant this rather technical and basic epistemological discussion will be to our endeavour but I think it could be comforting as a solid basis from which to digress into the more abstract trains of thought that literary-minded people tend to end up following. Dan Dennett is an exceptionally gifted speaker, so I'd also like to point you towards a lecture on consciousness he delivered more recently as part of TED, here. TED, for those who haven't come across it, is perhaps the most bookmarkable address on the net. The most inspiring lectures by some of the world's most accomplished speakers are archived there. It's a profound database of audacious ideas worth visiting regularly.

See you next week,