New Class and New Professor Explore the Power of Memory Formation

August 5, 2015

By Natalie Russell, Kirstinia Jurovich, and Olivia Thomas / School of Strategic Communication
Elisa Foster

In “The Nature of Values: Memory and Erasure,” Professor Elisa Foster teaches her students proper examination techniques for the theme ‘Nature of Values’ and its connection to memory.

They study the concept of memory historically and scientifically in addition to developing an understanding of different media’s involvement in regards to memory formation and erasure.

“When I was planning this course, the new World Trade Center was reopened for business for the first time since the towers were destroyed, so 9/11 has also formed a large focus for this class,” she said.

Foster says she loves teaching interdisciplinary courses.

“I always learn new things and it brings a different perspective to issues I have taught about in the past,” she said.

The scope of this course is wide. Students who take the course will get the opportunity to construct memories in a unique way. Students can apply the knowledge and skills they learned from this course to all majors. The discussion and creative skills learned in this course will be useful in any field of study.

The mission of the course is for students to examine the general theme of the ‘Nature of Values’ as it relates to the subject of memory. This course is a discussion-based course where students will be required to think critically and participate in class discussion. This course gives students the opportunity to engage with material from multiple disciplines, and explore the material creatively through completing writing and creative projects.

According to the syllabus the objectives of the course is for students to learn how to:

  • Generate critical questions for debate based upon readings
  • Evaluate the concept of memory both historically and scientifically
  • Understand how different media (literature, film, poetry, art) have dealt with the issues of memory and erasure

Develop key vocabulary and critical points of knowledge, especially regarding cultural heritage, to discuss the themes of this course

According to the syllabus students will be expected to “create a memory journal based on themes from the class, write a cogent analysis of a memorial, prepare a research project or paper that explores a theme of this course on an advanced level, and present research in a formal presentation.”

Foster joined the Honors faculty for the Spring 2015 semester, which was the first time that this course was offered at TCU. Dr. Foster has incorporated her extensive background in art history into her teaching of this course. Elements of art, literature, and archaeology were all woven into the class content. Dr. Foster earned her M.A. from Southern Methodist University, her M.A.T. from Simmons College, and her Ph.D. in the History of Art and Architecture at Brown University. In addition to those degrees, Dr. Foster has also lived abroad in both Paris and London. During her four years in Paris, she taught courses at the Paris College of Art, and served as a guide for private tours through both the Louvre Museum and Notre Dame Cathedral. Her fascination for the study of destroyed objects and how memory can play a major role in the construction of the past have been a huge influence in the formation of this course. The combination of Dr. Foster’s experiences and her extensive education both come together to create a meaningful course for students.

Students who take this new course will learn a lot about how the nature of values relates to memory. Current students in the course who are studying law and criminal justice have been fascinated by the idea of false witness testimony just because of the inaccurate ways memories can be formed sometimes.

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