Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Down the Rabbit Hole of Course Prep

I have begun putting together my syllabus for the upcoming semester. My course is titled Art and Architecture of Los Angeles. I'm thrilled to teach the class, but as always it is difficult to decide what material to include in the course readings and what to leave out. And as I begin to do the research I end up sliding down a slippery road where I find more and more material that I want to include. I know that I can't possibly do this - students would revolt and lose interest in the course. So how do I know which readings are foundational and which are just excess?

With a topic as broad and wide-reaching as Los Angeles art and architecture it is difficult to know where to lay down the boundaries.

How does one simultaneously teach art and architecture without favoring one or the other? History is of course important to this course, how much social history should be taught? Should I lecture on this? Or let it be covered in the readings? or both?

I am trying to organize the class both chronologically and thematically. We will discuss the importance of the missions, the extended relationship between Mexico and LA, while also looking at boosterism and the counter noir movements in both film and literature (important to the social imaginary of the city), I also want to include a week on surf culture, graff art, chicano murals, suburbia, urban sprawl, freeways, Googie architecture, modernism, postmmodernism, and natural disasters, gang flicks, public art, feminist art..... it's too much isn't it?

I know that in finalizing the syllabus I will have to say goodbye to some beloved topics -- but I'll just keep them available for a future course on the topic. I think next time I'd like to design a more specific course - perhaps "LA Art in the 1960s" or "Urban Identity in Los Angeles."

So far, I have a handful of articles to include in the course reader and the course texts will be City of Quartz (Mike Davis) and Los Angeles: The Architecture or Four Ecologies (Reyner Banham). I will also assign excerpts from Carey McWilliams' Southern California: An Island on the Land, Norman Klein, The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory, and Cecile Whiting, Pop L.A.: Art and the City in the 1960s. I'm still looking for a good article on surf culture..though I have found an excellent text on LA graff art.

I am open to any recommendations, and I would love some input. Hopefully I'll be able to climb out of this rabbit hole soon.


Village Vegan said...

I should have taken your class...

I'm visiting L.A. right now, and I want to see the architecture, but I have no idea where to start!

eloise said...

A good place to start might be the LA Conservancy - they have all sorts of walking tours. I recommend the historic core tour. They will sometimes get you into buildings that are not otherwise open to the public.