Just finished Scandinavian Film and Television from the University of Copenhagen via Coursera. It has taken awhile to adjust to the idea that MOOCs weren’t created to entertain me; they exist to educate. What a concept! That does mean the instructors are not necessarily charismatic but they do seem to be scholars of the first order. Who are, after all, the people best equipped to educate us. I like the word ‘educate.’ In some societies and times people who educate are honored and even well-compensated for sharing their knowledge. The U.S in the 21st century unfortunately is not one of those societies. The truth is that Coursera would not be offering me this wonderful learning opportunity if it did not see profit in its future.
For now though I am most appreciative of this opportunity. So what did I learn? Being enamored of all things Scandinavian, this class affirmed some things I already knew, for example Babbett’s Feast and Dancer in the Dark are brilliant films and the new Nordic Noir TV series are much more interesting than your average television fare. And opened my eyes to some things I did not know, especially regarding the earlier quite distinguished history of the avant garde and eclectic (and, it seems the almost always dark and psychologically-weighted) in the Scandinavian film world. Of course I’ve known of Ingmar Bergman (mostly of interest to me as Henning Mankell’s father-in-law) but now I realize I must see some of his films—maybe not all, but some.
Finally I was especially attentive to the last sessions with a good overview of the present and future of Nordic Noir on the small screen. I’ve watched the BBC version of Wallander, Scandinavian (and American) versions of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, original Danish Borgen, American version of The Killing and now must move beyond one episode of Lillehammer and also check out the Annika Bengtzon series. There’s more of course but those are my favorites or at least the ones I know the most about. Thanks to Netflix I can see them all and, hopefully, even more in the future since Netflix is very involved with the Scandinavian film and TV world.
So did this MOOC open new worlds to me? Well, no. But it certainly enhanced what I know about a world in which I am most interested. Yay MOOCs, yay Coursera and thanks University of Copenhagen (I now forgive you for so thoroughly confusing me with Kierkegaard.).
Now I switch to The Emergence of the Modern Middle East from Tel Aviv University. Here I am learning a great deal of new information. Even though I’ve tried to read and pay attention, and have traveled some in the Middle East/Arab/Islamic world, I am still fearfully ignorant. I was a little reluctant to take a class on the Middle East from an Israeli University but if one cannot trust Universities and scholars to be relatively unbiased then there is no place to go for truth. And even though I’m only through the first two sessions it is feeling like real history, not at all propagandized. I hope that is right. The professors in these two classes are very alike. They are obviously intelligent, knowledgeable and articulate; showmen they are not. I like them better for that.