||My favorite class: Impressionism and Nature
An interview with Nora Traum, a junior double-major in economics and French from Prestonsburg, Ky.
RELEASED: Nov. 20, 2003
Class name: Impressionism and Nature (French 470)
Day/time: Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:40-11:10 a.m.
Professor: Dr. Ken Keffer, National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Modern Languages
Class size: 23
What are you doing in this class that makes it fun and interesting?
"We're studying the impressionist period including the music, painting and literature of the time.
"Dr. Laurence Bitensky (Centre assistant professor of music) recently performed a piano concert of Debussy music, and he explained some of the musical theory that developed during the impressionist period. We've been reading about all of the painters of that period and copied a Renoir. We took one of the paintings, divided it up into 12 sections, and two people tried to paint each section similar to how it looks. (The Renoir Mosaic can now be viewed outside of Old Carnegie in front of the The College Centre construction site.)
"We did it because the whole theme of the class is beauty and pleasure, which are the dominant themes of the impressionist period."
What have you learned this term?
"I've learned a lot about this period. It's a French class, but the fun part is you speak French but you are learning about something else, painting, music and Proust. The people we study are all French, the composers and painters.
"You learn about the attitude and what was going on in Paris and in France at the time. Even though there's a focus on beauty and pleasure in the paintings, when you read about it you see the social tensions at the time and a lot of modernism. You can see how it created a tension and how this made it possible for the artists to do their work."
Would you suggest this class to your fellow students? Why?
"Yes. Especially if you're interested in upper-level French courses in general. We come to class and speak French but it doesn't have to be as structured as some classes. You can branch out into other fields of interest such as art, painting or history. It can cover everything. Dr. Keffer is really good at taking a class and turning it into a project.
Dr. Keffer says:
"People take anesthetics against pain. They should also take a dose of the opposite, aesthetics, from time to time. French 470's Renoir mural is, therefore, a prescription for good mental health. This ill-fitting copy of the "Boating Party" is gratefully built with College Centre construction materials. We have exposed it to the elements on purpose. The mural shows the way our class coheres and the way it doesn't quite fit together. The pleasure in the thing lies in the perception of this disconnectedness, both on the mural and in the classroom and in the potential for reconnection and understanding. Marcel Proust, whom we read in our course, said "none of us could be said to constitute a material whole." Impressionism and our course set out to investigate this baffling truth."
Do you have a favorite class that you would like to nominate for the "My favorite class" feature? If so, e-mail Kacie Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org or Brant Welch at email@example.com.
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