Summer SAVY 2019: Session 1, Day 1 – Theory, Criticism, and The Force (Rising 5th/6th)
Dear Students of Theory, Criticism, and The Force:
Thank you for an exciting, intellectually rigorous first day! I’ll be honest; you’ve set the bar for the week, and you’ve set it high. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching this class for several years, at SAVY and at the collegiate level. I’m thrilled when a first session yields such challenging, thoughtful discussion as we had today. If this is where we’re to begin the journey, I cannot wait to find where we will arrive by week’s end!
We began our day with a few icebreakers and community-building games, before assessing your existing understanding of the fine craft of criticism. We followed with a fun, far-ranging conversation about the purpose of criticism, the need to define one’s lens by way of theory, and the benefits of attempting to expand or shift one’s default positionality.
We discussed Plato’s Allegory of the Cave before using Star Wars’ original 1976 trailer to unpack Platonism and the idea of “Platonic Forms.” I enjoyed watching you grapple with the concept that all content may be merely a shadow of more perfect ideals. I loved when some of your classmates tried to poke holes in Plato’s theories, with examples that ranged from lost continents to the “Upside-Down” of Stranger Things to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Along the way, you created visual representations of Plato’s allegory and of your own Platonic Forms.
Later, we took Platonism to its logical extreme and began to explore Formalism. The Formalist lens can be tricky, and I was impressed with your willingness to dive into this heady concept. I enjoyed when the class systematically deconstructed an image of Han Solo – or, what a Platonist might call a shadow of the Platonic Ideal of Han – into colors, shapes, textures, and hues. You broke that singular image into dozens of forms. Can you imagine doing that with a whole film?
Oh, yes: the film. Today we watched some of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. We mustn’t forget that part of the reason for this class is to enjoy the fun of Star Wars, and there are so many moments in the early part of this film that bring me joy. I love when Finn rescues Poe (or does Poe save Finn?) and Rey’s flight of the Falcon is delightful. We ended just as Han Solo and Chewie set foot on the Falcon…
Tonight, as you discuss Formalism and Platonism, don’t forget to share some of our impromptu vocabulary words with your parents. Among our Star Words: diminutive, bucolic, capacious, and incongruous. Oh, and who can forget Ewok, Tusken, and Droid?
Tomorrow we’ll move away from the maddening micro-precision of Formalism, venturing into Structuralism and Semiotics. We’ll touch on Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey. We’ll see what happens when the Millennium Falcon makes a Hyperspace jump from inside a docking bay. We’ll likely debate parallelograms and rhombuses (rhombi?) and we’ll have more fun. Thanks for a great first day. I’m eager for the week ahead.
Oh! One last thing. In Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu – or, for those of you who are more terrestrial, Star Wars Land in Disneyland – one doesn’t say, “Hello!” or “Good-bye!” Tomorrow I’ll great you with the traditional “Bright suns!” (“Rising Moons!” were it the evening), and I’ll sign off now as one might do on Batuu.
Until the Spire,
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