Author Archives: Steve Rosenstein

Rosenstein on Research

When I was in grad school, I took a course on Post-Holocaust Literature. At some point, I recalled some of the horror comic books I had read when I was a kid, specifically EC Comics, which produced some of the most famous titles of the 1950s (Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear, etc.). When I revisited some of those comics, I was stunned to find that much of the imagery was reminiscent of certain Holocaust icons, while many of the stories (mostly written by William Gaines and Al Feldstein, EC’s Jewish publisher and head writer, respectively) were revenge-based tales of corpses emerging from the ground, their coffins, whathaveyou, to avenge a wrongful death. I thought I was nuts, or maybe just seeing the stories through the lens of the course I was taking, but it did inspire me to research the comics as a form of post-Holocaust literature, where Gaines and Feldstein were, consciously or not, processing the trauma of the Holocaust through their stories.

Research wasn’t easy; there’s serious criticism devoted to the comics, but not nearly enough (the folks driven to write about EC, for example, tend to lapse into a fan’s reverence, enough at least to keep them from serious scrutiny), and Gaines and Feldstein were good-humored men that weren’t very self-reflective about their efforts that, as far as they were concerned, blatantly pandered to the youth market. So, aside from reading a lot of EC comics, I did research on 1950s youth culture, Holocaust iconography, attitudes toward the Holocaust in post-war America, and artistic representations of trauma. Once I had a working thesis, I did presentations at a couple of conferences (as you can imagine, it was a laugh riot), and when I had a finished draft, I asked a friend of mine who publishes comic criticism where I could send it. He suggested The International Journal of Comic Art, and it was accepted there.

I’m not sure how to expand the definition of a research project, but it’s probably worth noting that the type of research I conducted doesn’t really prove anything – I wasn’t able to unearth any proof of my thesis, just offered what I hope was a ‘deep speculation’ on the subject. One of the books I came across in my research was Martin Hammer’s ‘Francis Bacon and Nazi Propaganda,’ where Hammer argued that Bacon was processing WWII and its imagery through his paintings. But in his introduction, Hammer notes, “It has to be said that the readings of specific works presented here are often quite speculative and subjective,” and that “This book is intended to open up such important and wide-ranging questions about the artist, whether or not the particular observations and hypotheses that it puts forward are found to be convincing.” So perhaps its a good lesson for students to realize that research doesn’t always answer questions as much as it provides opportunities for new questions and possibilities.

Steve Rosenstein pre-1st Meeting Intro

Hi, all, my name’s Steve Rosenstein. I’ve been teaching at City Tech for the past four years, Binghamton University before that while I was getting my PhD, and at City College before that while I was getting my MFA. I’ve also been teaching online for Monroe College for the past six years, which went a long way toward preparing me for the switch over to all-online, all the time.

I’m finishing my first City Tech summer course, and I have to say that I’ve been tremendously impressed with the level of engagement and attentiveness shown by almost all of the students; after finishing the spring semester online, I was concerned about the continued instability of the current mess having an averse effect on the students’ ability to participate actively and find the means to complete their work. But I’ve been thrilled by how active the students have been, in aggressively completing their assignments, seeking out my assistance, and just being present, during lectures, office hours, and in the discussion forums. So, I’m optimistic for the fall.

In the first week of online classes, I find that the best way to motivate student involvement is to humanize the proceedings as much as possible as soon as possible. So, in the first week’s Content folder, I’ll have various recordings available – a welcome, an introduction/explanation of key assignments, etc. – where they hear me being self-deprecating, but hopefully authoritative enough so they feel like their future is not in the hands of an idiot. After giving everyone a day or two to settle (and resolve whatever administrative/technical issues they may be having), I schedule an online session which functions both as an introduction to course requirements and expectations and a sort of meet-and-greet, and draw their attention to the first week’s Discussion Forum, where they are asked to introduce themselves and to offer a ‘fun fact’ or two about their lives – some opt not to, and most of the facts aren’t all that much fun, but it tends to generate interaction and good will, as well as starting to establish a sense of camaraderie.

A genre of writing I’m come to know well in the past couple of years is the conference abstract. What I love about the genre is there are always strict word counts to operate within, which requires me to be succinct, to be attentive to every word, and provides a great opportunity to clarify what I’m trying to achieve with a conference paper, both for myself and the recipient. The form is somewhat flexible, but some of the common points to be addressed in the abstract include the specific topic to be pursued, gaps in other critical work/critical approaches to the topic that you’re seeking to fill, your methods of research/exploration, and what has been concluded through this research. I learned the form by checking the guidelines of the conferences I wanted to attend, googling a few templates, and then writing, revising, revising, revising, etc.