In my Writing 101 class, “Laughing Matters: Interpreting and Contextualizing Modern Caricature,” I wanted to give my students a chance to interact with the rich cartoon periodical collection of Perkins Library and Rubenstein Rare Books room. The cartoon periodicals contained therein, of which my students were particularly drawn to the American Puck and the British Punch, contain gorgeous chromolithographed or woodblock engraved caricatures. These complicated visual objects necessitate interdisciplinary research, and through them, I have encouraged my students to engage with the material history of print culture and the periodical press.
I also wanted to give my students an opportunity to explore a kind of writing which I personally find to be tremendously challenging: writing and curating for public audiences. To prepare our Perkins Student Wall exhibit, the students of W101 “Laughing Matters” reverse engineered genre guidelines for label writing, produced magnificent labels, and curated the hang for our exhibit, Reading Between the Lines: Comical Interpretations of the Nineteenth Century. They did all of this with careful attention to audience experience: they built subthemes into our exhibit, and hung the caricatures so as to take advantage of the colours and perspectival lines of their pieces. Throughout the curatorial process, I feel like I’ve learnt the most of all of us thanks to the candid and insightful discussion we’ve had throughout the semester.
Duke University, Art, Art History and Visual Studies, Graduate Student