A friend of mine is teaching a class on “The Politics of Memory” in the International Relations and Political Science Department at Vilnius University. She asked me to be a guest speaker for the course. Today I gave a presentation and had a discussion with the students about post-1990 commemorations and historical narratives of Romas Kalanta’s suicide and the ensuing demonstrations.
The students in the seminar are all undergraduates from abroad, most here through the Erasmus program — two from France, three from Turkey and one from Canada. The class is conducted in English. I sent them a draft dissertation chapter and an article to read in advance.
It’s often difficult to tell if students are really interested in what the instructor is saying and I have to admit their faces looked a bit blank as I showed slides and gave a short presentation on my research. However, at the end, several students asked interesting and thoughtful questions and we had a fairly active discussion about European integration, national identities and the 1960s youth protest movement and counterculture. Three of the students submitted response papers on the chapter that I gave them in advance (each student is required to write two response papers but they get to select which guest speakers to address). The questions and critiques raised in the response papers were thoughtful and it was clear that the students understood both my analysis and what gaps still exist in the draft. I was impressed.
I have not taught in a formal setting since last summer and it was kind of fun to be back in the classroom. Plus discussing this chapter with the students has motivated me to finish it up to send to my adviser.