Sandra Lee, professor of intercultural communication and coordinator of the English Language and Culture Program, and Ellen Summerfield, former director of international programs, collaborated on the second edition of "Seeing the Big Picture: A Cinematic Approach to Understanding Cultures in America."
The new version introduces readers to eight different American groups or subcultures, including new chapters on Irish and Muslim Americans, in addition to updated chapters on Mexican, Chinese, African and Native Americans, and deaf and gay cultures.
Lee uses the text in her inquiry seminars and ESL courses, and Summerfield has used it in online anthropology classes for adult students. The authors explain that in each chapter students learn about the culture at hand by watching and analyzing a feature film. "The films are cinematic gems," Summerfield said, and "students find them fascinating and challenging."
"Film is helpful in that you can touch on sensitive topics such as Mexican immigration and same-sex marriage," Lee said. "It's a relatively non-threatening way of getting into a discussion of topics students may otherwise be afraid to talk about."
According to Lee, the text has been well received by Linfield students and has an immediate relevance in their daily lives, no matter their ethnic, national or religious background. Class members often say that they have learned to relate much more easily to peers and others who are different from themselves.
"They're able to free themselves of some of their fears and prejudices and become more skilled at communicating across cultures," said Summerfield.
In addition to increasing students' knowledge and understanding of cultural differences, both authors use "Seeing the Big Picture" to develop students' critical viewing and analytical abilities.
"Film always presents a certain point of view," Lee said. "And in this day and age when we're so bombarded by the media, it's very important for our students to become critical viewers and not just accept what they see and hear." Students develop what the authors call their "film eyes."
"Seeing the Big Picture" is suitable for introductory classes in areas such as American studies, intercultural communication, history and ethnic studies. It will be marketed as a way to satisfy college and university diversity requirements and for use in the context of "First Year Experience" readings.
The textbook was originally published in 2001 by Intercultural Press, and the revised edition was released in 2006 by the University of Michigan Press. Copies are available at the Linfield College Bookstore, 503-883-2240.