CUTF Intro: Setting the Stage

“Hello! My name is Gigi Butkewitsch and I will be your TA this semester!”

That’s how I introduced myself to the students in Women and Literature, the excellent class I have the privilege of “TAing” for this semester. After taking this class with Dr. Brenda Whitney during my second semester, I knew it was the type of class I would keep returning to. Intellectually, it pushed jumps in my brain that I am still running after which is why I was so excited to be back to analyzing this content.

In addition to being an English Literature major, I am also pursuing a Business degree in Marketing through CBA. In my free time, which is scarce, I am involved in student and independent films as a writer, actor, and producer. I have taken so much of the content and process of thinking that my English courses have taught me and used them to translate stories to the screen. It’s such an honor to be a part of helping teach those concepts to others who are interested.

I am originally from Brazil and in accordance with my favorite stories from my culture, I have always been invested in folklore and fairy tales, especially the ones pertaining to women. I am thoroughly enjoying diving into the literary scope that represents women once again with Dr. Whitney.

My CUTF project will be structured as a class on a topic of my own choosing. Stage and film have always been a part of my life, even before I saw the opera Carmen in 2022. I was struck by the analytical potential of the story and scenery, especially in the context of Dr. Whitney’s class which I was taking that same spring. I’m so happy to finally be delving into Carmen for Women and Literature, over a year later.

The plan at the moment is to create an opera guide packet from readings and research papers I have scavenged throughout the semester and make it available to students as they watch a version of the opera. These supplementary materials are in the process of being gathered with a narrow focus in relation to the themes and topics about women, fairy tales, and abjection as discussed in class. Then, as per the structure that the course follows, we will have a discussion based on questions I make about the opera and its dealings with female characters.

This project is important for the class due to its inherent literary curiosity and cultural significance. The themes that the original short story examines, along with the opera’s adaptation fit perfectly with the types of analyses that Women and Literature is always eager to make and goes beyond by adding something novel to the syllabus: an operatic production. Additionally, Carmen‘s story and music have become such a monumental piece of reference in modern culture that’s seen in films, TV, musicals, video games, etc. that it requires constant analysis to revolutionize the way we think about stories regarding women, which fits directly with the strides that the course forces you to make as an academic.

In that line of thinking, my professional goal is to work in the film industry in the future. I want to work directly with the crafting of stories and I believe that to tell a good story you have to understand what it says in the first place, or at least one version of what it says. To this end, I focus on trying to understand how stories about women are told and what other versions of them are yet to be told.

I know that structure and application will definitely help me in my future career goals to pursue storytelling in a professional sense. Maybe one of those versions starts on the stage, maybe in a classroom, or maybe it starts trying to log into JSTOR. Maybe it starts with me and my curiosities and ability to apply them in a classroom setting and hearing what the students think about it in addition to my own interpretations. It’s not a maybe that it definitely starts now.

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