Pompeii as Text

Alisa Pazos of FIU recreates the shape of Mount Vesuvius before the 79 CE eruption
Alisa Pazos of FIU recreates the shape of Mount Vesuvius before the 79 CE eruption (Photo: JW Bailly CC BY-4.0)

POMPEII
“Ashes were already falling, not as yet very thickly. I looked round: a dense black cloud was coming up behind us, spreading over the earth like a flood.’Let us leave the road while we can still see,’I said,’or we shall be knocked down and trampled underfoot in the dark by the crowd behind.’We had scarcely sat down to rest when darkness fell, not the dark of a moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamp had been put out in a closed room.” Pliny the Younger

PROJECT DESCRIPTION
Pompeii is a city frozen in time. Our visit allows us to experience life in the Roman era.

FORMAT
Students will form 5 groups of 4 students.  Each group will be assigned one section of Pompeii.  Groups will have 2 hours to explore their location.  Student groups must explore the history, culture, location, contemporary people of their respective location/institution. The class will then reunite and tour Pompeii together. When the class visits a group’s location, that group will present their findings.

DESTINATIONS
Group 1: From Porta Marina to Foro
Group 2: From Porta di Ercolano to Villa dei Misteri
Group 3: From Terme Stabiane to Teatros
Group 4: From Garden to the Fugitives to Anfiteatro
Group 5: From Casa del Poeta Tragico to Casa del Fauno to Casa di Meleagro

CITY AS TEXT STRATEGIES
Machonis, Peter A., ed. Shatter the Glassy Stare: Implementing Experiential Learning in Higher Education. Birmingham, AL: NCHC, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9796659-2-9

“As an experiential-learning method, CAT makes students step outside their conventional classroom paradigms, and at no time is it easier to do this than when they are experiencing an alienation from what they know. Outside their ordinary habits of thought, the students respond to the call to figure things out for themselves, using the tools of mapping, listening, and observing.” – Joy Ochs

Excerpt from Shatter the Glassy Stare

Strategies: Mapping, Observing, Listening, Reflecting

City as Text™ methodology is based on the concept of active or experiential learning. Participants are split up into small groups with an assigned area of the city/place to explore. They report back for a general discussion at the end of their walkabout and exchange their insights with others who have explored other areas of the same city. The idea is that the sum of everyone’s experience is a better view than just one person or one group doing the same exercise.

There are four basic strategies used in these exercises: mapping, observing, listening, and reflecting.

Mapping: You will want to be able to construct, during and after your explorations, the primary kinds of buildings, points of interest, centers of activity, and transportation routes (by foot, vehicle, or other means). You will want to look for patterns of housing, “traffic” flow, and social activity that may not be apparent on any traditional “map.” Where do people go, how do they get there, and what do they do when they get there?

Observing: You will want to look carefully for the unexpected as well as the expected, for the familiar as well as the new. You will want to notice details of architecture, landscaping, social gathering, clothing, possessions, decoration, signage, and advertising.

Listening: You will want to talk to as many people as you can and to find out from them what matters to them in their daily lives, what they need, what they enjoy, what bothers them, what they appreciate. Strike up conversations everywhere you go. Ask about such matters as: how expensive it is to live there (dropping by a real estate agency could be enlightening), where to find a cheap meal (or a good one or an expensive one), what the local politics are (try to find a local newspaper), what the history of the place is, what the population is like (age, race, class, profession, etc.), what people do to have a good time. In other words, imagine that you are moving to that location and try to find out everything you would need to learn to survive there.

Reflecting: Throughout your explorations, keep in mind that the people you meet, the buildings in which they live and work, the forms of their recreation, their modes of transportation—everything that they are and do—are important components of the environment. They are part of an ecological niche. You want to discover their particular roles in this ecology: how they use it, contribute to it, damage or improve it, and change it. You want to discover not only how, but why they do what they do. Don’t settle for easy answers. Don’t assume you know the answers without doing serious research. Like all good researchers, make sure you are conscious of your own biases and that you investigate them as thoroughly as you investigate the culture you are studying.

EXAMPLE OF STUDENT WORK
Although the subject is specific to Italy study abroad, Stephanie Sepulveda’s Grand Tour Redux project is a model of what a successful project should be. Stephanie’s reflections are personal yet universal and do not shy away from the big ideas and tough questions. Her scope is also interdisciplinary in nature. Review her project here Stephanie Sepulveda’s Grand Tour Redux

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