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Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010

Boswell Hosts Du Vernay, ‘The Simpsons in the Classroom’

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When “The Simpsons” hit the TV scene 20-plus years ago—with Homer’s satirical ignorance years away from international renown—who would have conceived that today’s professors would be designing lectures built around this cartoon family? Currently in its 22nd year on television, Springfield’s iconic dysfunctional family has been a mainstay in popular culture and the foundation for classes in literature, humanities and composition. The Simpsons in the Classroom: Embiggening the Learning Experience with the Wisdom of Springfield emphasizes the medley of approaches instructors can take to mold “The Simpsons” into a scholarly teaching tool. Co-authors Karma Waltonen and Denise Du Vernay, educators who have shared their “Simpsons” knowledge with novices for more than 10 years, offer a guidebook teeming with ways for teachers to use “The Simpsons” to examine a sundry of topics, as well as classroom activities and sample syllabuses that have proven to be effective additions to school curricula.

There is little dispute that “The Simpsons” have impacted American society as no other animated TV family in history. Homer, in particular, has coined expressions so well known that they even appear in the Oxford English Dictionary—Woohoo! In fact, Homer’s most familiar catchphrase, “D’oh,” has popped up on cable news networks and in error messages on prominent websites.  From educational exercises and episode commentary to in-depth analyses on each of the five Simpson family members, The Simpsons in the Classroom is an entertaining and satisfying installment suitable for a classroom or the TV room.

Waltonen and Du Vernay, who became acquainted when they were graduate students at Florida State University, collaborated on this publication largely via e-mails and long-distance phone calls. Du Vernay resides in Milwaukee and teaches at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). She has incorporated “The Simpsons” into composition, literature, humanities and speech courses for more than 10 years. This die-hard “Simpsons” fan will discuss The Simpsons in the Classroom at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21, at Boswell Book Co.