Local author, Karma Waltonen will be putting the “Po-Mo into Postmodernism” this Wednesday evening at Bistro 33 in Davis as she and co-author Denise Du Vernay debut their book, The Simpsons in the Classroom: Embiggening the Learning Experience with the Wisdom of Springfield.
When Waltonen first parked herself in front of The Simpsons at age 13, she probably had no idea that she was charting her destiny. While watching those early shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, she was hooked. A few decades and many laughs later, Waltonen is now mining the show for its teachable moments. Having taught several classes on the Simpsons including a UC Davis freshman seminar entitled “The Simpsons: Satire and Postmodernism” she has now co-authored a book on the subject.
“There are still some people, some teachers, who have the idea that this show is for kids . . . or that because it is in a cartoon format, that it is somehow not important,” says Waltonen.
A quick perusal of the episode guide of Waltonen’s new book might change their minds. Need to discuss politics, government, illegal immigration, scape-goating, red herrings, fallacy, deportation, taxes, American history, citizenship, crime, fraud, stereotypes, democracy, voter propositions, xenophobia, or linguistics? Fast forward to Season 7, episode 23, “Much Apu about Nothing.”
This book is packed with practical advice for teachers who want to liven up their classes and enliven the love of learning in their students. And while Waltonen’s love of The Simpsons is clearly a burning desire, even more impressive is her passion for her students and for teaching.
“My job is to help students think critically and write good papers,” says Waltonen. “Now, I am trained to do that through the lens of Shakespeare and Chaucer and all of these wonderful people . . . but would [my students] be coming to class every week if Chaucer was our primary text? The point of the course is not to be coming out with Simpsons knowledge, but with critical thinking skills.”
Students use adjectives like “witty, cutting-edge, funny, interesting, articulate, awesome, hilarious, life-changing, and amazing” when reviewing Waltonen on RateMyProfessors.com. If her high-flying scores on the site are any indication of her true skills as a teacher, UC Davis is lucky to have her.
If you’re ready to be inspired or just need a good laugh, Join Karma Waltonen and Denise Du Vernay this Wednesday, May 26, 7-8:30, at Bistro 33 for a talk, Q&A session, and book signing. This event is free and open to the public, and guaranteed to bring the wisdom of Springfield to downtown Davis.
Keep up with Karma and Denise on facebook: www.facebook.com/Simpsonology
Visit the Bistro 33 website: http://www.bistro33.com/bistro33_davis/