Noir106: No Stain No Problem

It’s been a very strange year at UMW for many, many reasons, but none more than the fact that one of our students was allegedly murdered by another student last week. I can’t imagine anything that could hit a community harder; it’s deeply distressing. Unfortunately, I have no profound words of consolation, and as a parent I have no idea how you even begin to deal with such a thing. It’s dark and ugly, and nothing seems more alien to our campus.

It’s all the more strange for me because I have spent the last two and half years teaching courses on Hardboiled Fiction, True Crime, The Wire, and this semester Noir 106. I’ve been on a pretty consistent run of dealing with literary, historical and cultural approaches to violence and crime in fiction, films, TV series, as well as interrogating the all encompassing genre/style/philosophy of noir. Up until a week ago it seemed fairly innocuous. It was, in ds106 fashion, a creative exploration of histories, texts, popular culture, and genre, but that’s not so much the case now. Now it seems downright haunting.

And it’s even weirder when you see a Tweet like this from your student in that context:

Now I never abducted a cat or murdered three people, but the No Stain No problem agency for noir106 put together one of the most elaborate and brilliant narratives I have seen in my five years of ds106. This group of five students/noir characters, Stella Vaughn (Kelsey Roach), Blair Morgan (Mia Boleis), Michael Ol’ Mick Bretton (Cuyler Matteson), Billy Steel (Brian Burns), and Jack Sadler (Philip Dorch), did a truly remarkable job building a narrative around the case of Meowdred Peirce: the missing noir cat. You see, for the last four weeks students in ds106 have been working in groups, or individually, to create a detective agency (in this case they were the cleaning agency “No Stain No Problem” turned Scooby-Doo detectives) to solve the case we assigned to them (there were four cases in all).

This group spent two weeks weaving together all sorts of remarkable bits and pieces from the course into a creative, compelling narrative that explored noir themes of abduction, violence, and murder that have played out in so many of the works we have read and watched. None of us saw what was coming last week, how could we? The recent events made the class that much more powerful and alienating simultaneously.

So, the following case videos and supplementary evidence may be harder than ever to watch given the specific context in which they are presented. That said, I wanted to acknowledge the unbelievable work that these students did in the conceptualization and execution of their project. They were true professionals, and the work they did is pretty epic. I think begins to suggest a whole new level of narrative development that we have not really seen in at UMW heretofore.

Some of this is because of the brilliant work conceptualizing and scaffolding the last third of the semester Maggie Stough, Paul Bond, and Martha Burtis brought to the experience. But, in the end, the students in once again rose to the creative occasion and made some serious art, dammit. The current climate at UMW will make it difficult for many to appreciate what has happened in noir106 this semester, which is more than understandable, but it has  been nothing shortly of remarkable, and brings an already stellar course to a whole different galaxy of creative possibilities.





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One Response to Noir106: No Stain No Problem

  1. Very well said. My heart bleeds for all at UMW living so closely to the events.

    Concur with your analysis and conclusions. It has been a virtual high traveling the path of the #noir106 students this semester. So much so, I often forgot they were students. Work has been stellar and detailed. Growth and effort abundantly evident and products worthy of attention and accolades.

    The happenings on campus a cold slap of reality and yes, over shadows the efforts with some horrible incidents.

    My heart goes out to the students and the #ds106 community in feeling proud of the art and creative endeavors while still dealing with how twists of reality filter in and tarnish the intellectual levels of exploring dark and mysterious story lines.

    I wish that all will heal well. That others will notice and appreciate the depth and quality of work done by students this semester and at some point allow themselves to be lost in the joy and depth of the creations and their quality for what they are and not part of events and the ugly stuff that sometimes enters our lives.

    Stay strong. Stay connected. #4life

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