grammar machines

New OLLI Course: “Experiencing Russia Through Film” (Spring 2017)

This week I’m starting to teach a new (and very novel for me) course, “Experiencing Russia Through Film”, at Santa Clara University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. This is my first time teaching a film course although I’ve done Russian history and culture courses before.

Course Description:

Lenin famously called cinema “the most important of all art forms”. In this course, we will explore Russia’s political and cultural history, its institutions, social norms and everyday life through the lens of the Russian cinema. We will immerse ourselves in different time periods and will try to re-imagine what it was like to live in Stalin’s Soviet Union, during the Great Patriotic War, in the time of the Khrushchev Thaw and the Brezhnev “stagnation period”, and in post-Soviet Russia by watching emblematic feature films such as “The Circus” (1936), “The Cranes Are Flying” (1957, winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival) and others. All films will be shown with English subtitles, and the classes will be a combination of lectures, discussions and watching selected films. The films will also be available on YouTube and/or Netflix. We will also contemplate how the state may control people’s behavior and worldviews through cinema as an instrument of propaganda, and how the ways in which people react to films change with time and place. Parallels and contrasts with American cinema will be highlighted.

The first film we’ll be watching is “The Circus” (“Цирк”) from 1936:

grammar machines

New Online Course: “The Glamour of Grammar” (Fall 2017)

Yay! I’ve just completed the preliminary prep for my new online Continuing Studies Course, “The Glamour of Grammar” (to be taught in the Fall 2017). All I have left to do is to film the video lectures and to upload everything onto the course website.

Course Description:

School teaching of English grammar often makes this subject appear dull and dreary. Writing manuals like The Elements of Style further confound even the most curious reader with their arcane prohibitions against using passives, split infinitives, or “negative form”. Unsurprisingly, many people still view grammar as “mysterious or occult”, which is exactly what the word “grammar” originally meant! (“Glamour”, as it happens, comes from the same root.)

In this course, we will examine the principles behind English grammar and will dispel many a mystery surrounding it. We will ask: Why is there “stupidity” but not “smartity”? Why is “blog” a word of English and “lbog” is not and cannot be? Who decides what is a word anyway? How do we put words together into meaningful sentences? How do we interpret sentences to mean more than is being explicitly said? How do children acquire the knowledge of these grammatical intricacies? And how adults learn them in a foreign language? By looking at these and similar issues, we will develop a subtler and more thoughtful approach to grammar. While the focus of this course is on English, we will also see that other languages possess grammars that are based on the same principles and constraints. So in addition to learning many fascinating (and glamorous!) things about our own language, we will gain new tools that will be helpful in learning another language — any language in fact!

Course Structure:

Each of the 10 weekly modules contains:

  • a short (6-12 minute) video lecture
  • a set of slides for self-paced exploration
  • a real-time Zoom video session (optional)
  • additional reading materials
  • two discussion boards with problem sets and other activities

Students who take the course for a letter grade or credit will have to submit four written assignments.

WHAT MAKES OUR ONLINE COURSES UNIQUE:

  • Course sizes are limited.
    You won’t have 5,000 classmates. This course’s enrollment is capped at 40 participants.
  • Frequent interaction with the instructor.
    You aren’t expected to work through the material alone. Instructors will answer questions and interact with students on the discussion board and through weekly video meetings.
  • Study with a vibrant peer group.
    Stanford Continuing Studies courses attract thoughtful and engaged students who take courses for the love of learning. Students in each course will exchange ideas with one another through easy-to-use message boards as well as optional weekly real-time video conferences.
  • Direct feedback from the instructor.
    Instructors will review and offer feedback on assignment submissions. Students are not required to turn in assignments, but for those who do, their work is graded by the instructor.
  • Courses offer the flexibility to participate on your own schedule.
    Course work is completed on a weekly basis when you have the time. You can log in and participate in the class whenever it’s convenient for you. If you can’t attend the weekly video meetings, the sessions are always recorded for you and your instructor is just an email away.

Registration starts in late summer, so stay tuned!