Understanding American Imaginary Through Documentary Film
The College of Liberal Studies’ annual Feaver-MacMinn seminar is one of the highlights of the CLS academic calendar. This seminar provides students a unique opportunity to examine an interdisciplinary topic through a teaching collaboration between OU faculty members and guest scholars. The Feaver-MacMinn seminar is underwritten by Brad McDonald, who created the seminar to honor two of his favorite OU professors, Clayton J. Feaver and Paul MacMinn.
This year’s Feaver-MacMinn seminar was entitled “The Fabric of History: Understanding the American Imaginary through Documentary Film.” The seminar was hosted by Ralph Beliveau, associate professor for the OU Gaylord College of Journal and Mass Communication, and featured two guest scholars, Dayton Duncan and Marco Williams.
Duncan, an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker, talked with students about the significance of documentary films and their role in shaping understanding of history, utilizing The Dust Bowl, his latest collaboration with Ken Burns, as a focal point for discussion. Students viewed this documentary film along with portions of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, which was also created in collaboration with Ken Burns. Duncan explained the process through which he and Burns develop their ideas and also shared a few bloopers and his opinions on what he likes best about the films and the film-making process.
“(Dayton’s) collaborative efforts on several of the most popular PBS documentary projects help tell important stories about our history,” said CLS Associate Dean Martha Banz. “We’re thrilled to have Mr. Duncan take time out of his busy schedule for our students.”
Joining Beliveau and Duncan for the Feaver-MacMinn seminar was Marco Williams, an associate arts professor at New York University and award-winning documentary filmmaker. Students viewed Williams’ film Banished, which explores racial cleansing perpetrated against African American families after the Civil War and the legacy of these events still felt today. Williams also discussed his most recent film, Undocumented, which aired on PBS in spring 2013.
Update: The College of Liberal Studies was renamed the College of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2017.