Friday, March 14, 2008

Evening Listening

In the States, I've long been in the habit of turning on the TV to some not-too-irritating show, or NPR, and having the sound on in the background. When I go to bed, I like to have a book on tape/cd on quietly; I listen to that and don't fret about things that can't be changed in the middle of the night. But it has to be the right book: good reader, a plot/narrative pattern I either know or can follow, and not so exciting that I can't fall asleep in the middle.

Here, once sumo's over for the evening (and that's something I've only discovered in the past couple days), it's either quiet, CNN on TV, or something on the computer. I can take CNN in small doses, but there's a certain point in the evening where they start in on either sports or celebrity stuff (I haven't paid close enough attention to figure out exactly when), and I turn it off.

That leaves either quiet or the computer. I'm not much of a music downloader. I got out of the habit of buying much music when I went off to the Peace Corps, and then again when I went to grad school and was just getting by, and I really haven't gotten back to the music thing. I don't like things in my ears, so i-pods and such don't seem appealing. And I really like to hear what's around, and that makes such things even less appealing.

But I really like to listen to a good story. A couple weeks ago, I found a UC Berkeley webcast site, and I've been listening to a first year History lecture class, The Making of Modern Europe, by Margaret Lavinia Anderson.

She's a really good lecturer, and puts together the story with a good narrative, simplifying, but not too much, and questioning and crossing geographic boundaries to provoke some thought. I'm no historian, but I know enough European history that I've probably read most of the readings (well, the early ones, anyway), and can follow. I did find myself looking up the pictures of Napolean she talked about so that I could see them, but other than that, the lectures themselves are just great, and I've been enjoying them.

What I'm really enjoying is that she puts things together that I just haven't put together. It makes me realize how focused my historical knowledge is on a very small period and mostly in London/theaters. The process is fascinating; I really liked the lecture on Cromwell's England and then bringing Cromwell in to make some comparisons during the Napolean lecture.

It seems to me that there are real limits to what works for me to listen to. A history lecture about an area/period where I have a few clues is perfect. A history lecture where I knew less would be harder to follow. I don't think I'd really enjoy lectures where there was a lot of stuff happening on the board, physics or math, though maybe a lower level lecture class would work really well?

On the other hand, I would hate for my classes to end up on a webcast. I don't lecture much; usually I try to introduce an issue or text, and then take questions, and then ask students to think about different passages, with the aim of pulling things together so that a couple threads emerge, with the students doing some of the brainwork to get there. It's not a format that works in a large lecture class, but then I don't teach in large lecture classes these days, so that's okay. (I also don't have a small army of grad students leading discussion sections and grading, so it's just as well!)

It's been a real pleasure listening to the lectures as I relax in the evening and wind down.

Anyone know some other lectures that might be interesting and are well done?

ps. I'm heading out tomorrow for spring break in Kyushu! (and not taking my computer!)


  1. Ok, may I suggest for computer viewing:

  2. Not lectures, but if you want to access audio books read by volunteers and free in the public domain, try LibriVox --

    Though, I can say now, avoid Shakespeare's sonnets.

  3. Have fun on spring break! :)

  4. Thanks for posting about those lectures: I'm definitely going to download them!

    If you'd like to listen to readings of short stories, may I humbly suggest the fantastic Miette's Bedtime Story Podcast?

    For poetry, I am absolutely loving Poetry Off the Shelf.

    The Teaching Company has some really interesting series of lecture courses for sale. They're a bit pricey, but not too bad if you catch one of the periodic sales.

    And I think the Annenberg Foundation has some downloadable stuff, too. . . .

  5. Crap, I posted a comment and it got eaten. Basically I said that the MIT online materials are good, incl lectures but also notes. Also that our university makes lecture podcasts generally available (not intentionally, I think), and I'm uncomfortable with mine being out there.

  6. Where in Fukuoka? Looking forward to some pics!

  7. good weblog...hope be successful always.

  8. Anonymous7:03 PM

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