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Center for New Media Teaching and Learning Set Sights on 'Midnight's Children' Program

By Sherry Mayo

Through hands-on research and international collaboration, the Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CNMTL), has developed a new multi-media educational application in conjunction with Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children."

With the impending arrival of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)'s production of Rushdie's work along with Columbia's month-long Humanities Festival, CNMTL has been working closely with the RSC and University faculty to create a new interactive program for use in the spring curricula.

CNMTL staff traveled to London to witness the final preparation for "Midnight's Children's" adaptation to the stage by the RSC. The CNMTL crew went behind the scenes, taping rehearsals and off-stage interviews with director Tim Supple, designer Melly Still, and key members of the creative team, gathering important artifacts for the development of the multi-media study environment (MSE). CNMTL also captured the technical and full dress rehearsal in preparation for the preview opening of "Midnight's Children," which took place on January 18, at the Barbican Centre in London. The RSC used archival footage researched by CNMTL in the production.

In partnership with the School of the Arts (SOA), the CNMTL is constructing a rich MSE based on Salman Rushdie's prize-winning novel, "Midnight's Children." The MSE will promote understanding and appreciation of the work by adding context to selected text through direct links to glossaries of concepts and terms, significant web sites, profiles of relevant figures, scholarly commentary, archival historical footage and artwork.

The collaborative efforts of the SOA, the RSC and the University Musical Society of the University of Michigan will bring this work to the stage of the Apollo Theater in Harlem in March. Beyond the stage, the MSE will serve multiple cross-disciplinary courses throughout the University. Using the text of the novel and the play as frames, it presents Columbia faculty an opportunity to speak on the turning points of South Asian history, literary commentary, dramaturgic critique, and the process of adapting the novel to the stage, as well as the play itself.

Professor Neguin Yavari from Columbia's Religion Department, will be using the "Midnight's Children" MSE in her "Religion, Gender & Literature: Muslim Women Write Islam" course this spring. As she explains in speaking about her spring course syllabus:

"The Midnight's Children project focuses on a novel rooted in a specific locality at a certain juncture in history and yet invites questions and raises issues directly relevant to the interplay of religion and culture in different spheres and contexts... And last but not least, it promises to exploit one of the web's most useful assets, its capability to respond to different users and provide for different needs. I therefore look forward to using the project with my students and am hoping to learn as much from their reactions as my own."

The MSE has broad interdisciplinary application and will also be used in Professor Anupama Rao's "Political Modernity in South Asia, in the History Department at Barnard; Narrative and Identity: Rushdie's Midnight's Children," a Comparative Literature course, taught by Professor Deborah A. Martinsen and instructor John Frankfurt; and in Constructing Digital Educational "Communities: Midnight's Children a Case Study in Self-Education" at Teachers College.

Distinguishing features of the MSE include Rushdie's video commentary, interviews with director Tim Supple and other creative artists on the stage production team, and interviews with Columbia University faculty whose expertise complements and enhances the understanding of Rushdie's work and the cultural history of South Asia. These Columbia faculty conversations include Peter Awn, dean of the School of General Studies; Dennis Dalton, Political Science; Nicholas Dirks, chairman of Anthropology; and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, English.

Published: Mar 18, 2003
Last modified: Mar 28, 2003

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