Panel Discussions

A few people have asked me to expand a little on the subject of the Panel Discussions part of the course.

Each student will be required to participate in a Panel Discussion event. These will usually, but not always, be held on the Tuesday class meeting. The Panelists will be expected to prepare for a one-hour (actually, 50-minute) discussion of a given topic. The discussion should focus on the general topic, and on whatever assigned material I have chosen for the panel discussion, but of course can also stray to subjects related to it.

For example, if we were to discuss the Korean movie Memories of Murder, and you if you were on the panel for that discussion, you might consider preparing thoughts on the following:

  • the archetypes of the characters in the movie, how they’re different from police officers in other “cop”/”serial killer” movies, and if they are different, why
  • some information about the “true story” on which it’s based, and how similar or different it is to the story in the movie
  • some facts (like how well the movie did in Korea, and how well it did abroad in festivals or theaters), comments from reviews by respected Korean critics, and any interesting/relevant comments from the director that you can find in published interviews
  • comparison with other movies in the genre, such as The Silence of the Lambs or
  • discussion of the political commentary in the movie, or whether there is any in the film
  • thoughts on the idea of movies “based on a true story”, or the fictionalization of history as entertainment (which could lead to discussions of other films, like 실미ë�„ (Silmido) or Saving Private Ryan.
  • the way humor is used to balance the dark storyline
  • the sense of difference when looking at Korea at this time period — or whether it feels foreign to you, even — and why this is a part of the movie

Not only are the above reasonable topics for a Panel Discussion of Memories of Murder, but you can also prepare questions for your panel members, or ask them questions spontaneously. Remember, you should also be able to answer your own questions!

You should also be mentally prepared for the fact that the audience (all of your classmates) will come to class with questions prepared for you, and that I (Gord) will be acting as moderator, urging people to contibute, choosing students to ask questions, and maybe even asking a question or two of my own!

Now, all of that probably doesn’t give you a really good idea of what we’ll be doing, so I thought I’d like to a video online that will give you a clearer sense of things. Here is an example of a Panel Discussion at a conference in New Orleans, about whether the Harry Potter character Severus Snape is a good guy or a bad guy, and the nature of characters in Harry Potter in general. The language might be challenging at certain moments, but the interaction is pretty good — there’s agreements, disagreements, changes in topic, returns to earlier questions, and more. This is what a classic Panel Discussion is like — lively, interesting, and thoughtful, but fun too.

That should just about do it for explanations. Except for one thing: the grading part of the exercise. I will be grading you individually and I will be taking the following into account:

  • how well you seem to have prepared
  • how actively you participate
  • the intelligence, preparation, and thought that goes into your contribution
  • how interesting your contribution is
  • how well you handle spontaneous questions from the audience

Part of your grade will also be determined by your participation in Panel Discussions led by others, in the form of prepared questions.  At the end of each panel discussion that they have attended as a non-participant, students can submit written questions and prep sheets for  a checkmark. (Which will only be given if the prep sheets show a reasonable amount of thoughtful preparation for the panel.)

That should just about do it for explanations. Every please remember that our first Panel Discussion will  take place on April 1st, and the topic (in general) will be James Baldwin’s essay “The Stranger in the Village” (which was linked in the last post I made on this site) and on the archetype of “The Other.”

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