The following is an occassional exchange composed for this occassion. Anna Hallberg and Carlos Soto-Román may not have met apart from the artifice of this conversation. Nonetheless, there is a conceit of some commonality of interest and points of divergence. This is part three of the series.
Wildly over the top, but charming and fascinating: http://bit.ly/Oijddm. ModPo will change the world, she says. I'm heartened by what she says about class, and by this: “Granting access to knowledge to everyone, anywhere in the world, no matter their level of education, or motives for learning, is downright revolutionary” and “I’d call it one of the greatest humanitarian efforts we’ve seen. So when class starts just a few hours from now, Indeed my world will change forever.”
[From a commentary published in Psychology Today:]
Yes it's true I have studied modern poetry before — in the normal small-class setting. Cappucinos and berets optional. At Bennington, at Boston University and Breadloaf. But I've never taken a course taught by a UPenn professor, with a class size of 28,000. And counting.
The class I am about to take, it starts on Monday, is one that is offered by Coursera. And what is Coursera? Coursera is the new world baby. It's an online college (kind of) offering free classes to anyone anywhere. (coursera.com) Classes taught at Stanford, Duke, and obviously UPenn. Top of the line. FOR FREE. That's right. The best things in life are free. If only Abbie Hoffman were still alive to see this. He'd be grinning ear to bearded ear. So would Walt Whitman for that matter. I guess you can tell I'm excited.
I'm not the only one champing at the bit for Coursera’s Modern Poetry class (or ModPo as dubbed by its professor, Al Filreis). Turns out there are over 3000 of us tweeting on Twitter, and getting responses from our teacher! And he's stoked too. A life of the mind has never seemed so connected to the world. I get to read Emily Dickinson and yes Walt Whitman and even John Cage and I get to write essays and takes quizzes and if it all goes well I will get a certificate of completion. It's too soon to say but I'm saying it anyway. This may be the solution for anyone who wants a do-over on choosing a major, or has finally found the time to dig into something they love but could never fit into a “required” courseload, or it may be the solution for those of us who never wanted college to end. Maybe the answer is never finish. Never stop learning. Turn your life into a growing patchwork quilt of classes taken, certificates earned. And who knows? Maybe Coursera will find a way to give out degrees. Crazy? So is talking to your iPhone and getting a response.
I’m enamored with the idea of the flaneur as a creative way to move through urban spaces, even though I don’t quite espouse (or embody) the three qualifications for being one, which are wealth, education and idleness. (Not that I’d reject any of those three if they came my way, but I don’t agree that they’re prerequisites for flaneurism.) However, being a woman in public spaces—especially wandering through public spaces—is complicated. That’s why that scene in La Notte when Jeanne Moreau roams through the streets of Rome and breaks up a fight between a group of men is such a shock. That sort of urban engagement is not really encouraged in women. As a long-time dedicated female flaneur who began as such during my teens walking home late at night after babysitting jobs, I’d argue that many of the fears many have of passing through city spaces are socially constructed (urban myths), reinforcing a system of inequality.