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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

History as Collage

Great Things I’ve Recently Seen

Slumdog — it deserves all those awards. It is a fable, and in some ways predictable, but still a wonderful fresh wild ride.

Waltz With Bashir, — also available as a Graphic Novel, I have not seen the Japanese film that won Best Foreign, but I thought Waltz was spectacular and regret that it did not gt the prize. The film and Graphic Novel are for adults and teenagers, not younger kids.

Beyond Babylon — this exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York is only up until March 15. Here is a bit about it on their website. There are three exceptional aspects to this show — all of which relate to themes we’ve talked about here. 1) The show is about the interlinked world of trade and cultre in the Bronze Age — 1800 BC to 1100, linking areas as far flung as Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon. Greece, and Crete. Every step of the show is fascinating, but the very last wall text knocks you flat on your back. After seeing the links of art styles, commerce, religion, war spread all over this ancient world, you learn how all of this fed into Homer. So if your school does anything the Iliad and the Odyssey, this show (there is a hefty catalog if you cannot get to see the show) allows you demonstrate the vast world of cross-cultural influences it contains. Your students see a globalized multicultural past that resembles our present. 2) the show is very well designed (as I said about Springfield, museums are getting really good at physical narration). 3) The objects on display are both unexpected and fascinating in their own right. 

The show about the ancient world, like these two very recent films, are all about melding, influences from all over creating a larger whole. Slumdog was directed by a Scot; Bashir is all Israeli, but it is really about memory, how it functions for all of us. 

I left the Met on Sunday thinking that we make a mistake in teaching kids any discrete historical topic, as if one could study Greece, say, and not an ancient world of mixture and exchange. History as collage, as Venn Diagram — somehow we have to figure out how to give that young people.


  1. Monica Edinger says:

    The working title for my book Seeking History was History Collage. The editor came up with the final title (which I quite liked), but I still used collage as a framing idea and put collages in the beginning of each chapter, made up of primary sources related to the chapter topics.

  2. Marc Aronson says:

    neat. Have you seen Beyond Babylon?