Myths for Mutual Pedagogy 4: Totem

You are teaching a Graduate Seminar (topic variable) with both Art MFAs and Classics Grad students. Artists and Classicists are invited into the same space and sit in chairs. The Artists, however, occupy the room ahead of time, had chairs which they had altered, and are dressed in costumes that they have chosen. Each Artist is situated in an area of their own with empty chairs all around.

You meet the Classicists in the Graduate Office where they are briefed. They are told that they have the choice of sitting next to any Artist, although they are free to change places at any time, and free to respond – if they wish – to questions that you will use as a focus for the Artists.

Or they could simply observe. (As you’ll see, Classicists tend not to want to be mere observers and will most likely take over and even become (like the) Artists!).

You can add new elements on the spot and let the rest of the class go where the Classicists want to take it. The class typically end with all the chairs being constructed into a gigantic totem pole in the center of the room, and the Classicists doing a very formalized stepping dance around it, as suggested by one Classicist in the room.

Afterwards, you can serve coffee, which will be brought into the class by Anthony Kaldellis, the Chair of the Classics Department. You can talk about myths as related to totems, the idea of the chairs, and different ways that people at different periods and in different cultures had specific sitting styles.


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