Sunday, December 21, 2008

Interpreting a Gravestone in Greene County, Georgia

I've just posted a video essay on our new Cultural Production "video channel" about an enigmatic gravestone in the city cemetery of Greensboro, Georgia:

I came across the marker while doing research in cemetery for my book on slavery and memory in Georgia. At this point, I know nothing about the woman the marker commemorates, a Mary Irving who evidently passed away in 1828, other than what is inscribed on the slab. I'm fascinated that the details of her death (evidently from a venomous snake) are diagramed out on the slab. The visible slab, I should note, appears to be a recent reproduction, perhaps placed over the original slab after it faded due to the passage of time; I don't know how similar the modern images are to the ones made in the 1820s.

I'm curious about the potential use of i-movies as instructional devices, a usage that has been especially popularized by the wonderful scholar Shigehisa Kuriyama at Harvard. See a report at:

What does this genre let us do that conventional illustrated essays can't quite do? What are the pros and cons of intentionally directing the viewer's gaze through the so-called "Ken Burns effect?" Should we be encouraging our students, in the interest of developing their oral expression and visual literacy to produce and submit these kinds of video essays in the context of academic courses?

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