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Bob Marley in the classroom

Monday, April 23, 2018

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COME summer, the works of reggae king Bob Marley is making its way into the classrooms of University of Nebraska.

According to the Daily Nebraskan, Dr Kwame Dawes will be teaching a section of English 207: Reading Popular Literature that will focus on Bob Marley's lyrics. The course will run from July 9 to August 9.

“You get a chance to travel into new worlds, discover new cultures and discover, above all, that the world is not as large as we sometimes imagine,” said Dawes. “And that we can face the differences in the world through study, engagement and thought.”

The Jamaican-born Dawes is co-founder of the biennial Calabash Literary Festival, which is scheduled for Jakes in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, on June 1-3, 2018.

Dawes said many students called the class the highlight of their semester when he first taught the course nearly 20 years ago at the University of South Carolina.

“I have found that students write at the highest level when they are engaged by the work they are studying — they abandon anxieties about writing well and instead become consumed by the desire to communicate what they are thinking,” Dawes said.

According to Dawes, there are many misconceptions his class works to get rid of about the reggae artiste so that students can start to understand Bob Marley's true self.

“I love when students walk in saying, 'I know who Bob Marley is,' and leave saying, 'Wow, I thought I knew who Bob Marley was,'” said Dawes.

He reasoned that there is a world of difference between Lincoln, Nebraska and Marley's hometown, Kingston, Jamaica, but he is happy there is a way to bridge that difference through teaching.

“I believe most sincerely that anyone who has not had a genuine engagement with reggae music and with Bob Marley is a deprived soul,” he said.

Dawes said students taking the class will learn about Jamaican culture, post-colonial history, popular music and Caribbean literature, among other things.

“They also learn to think critically, write thoughtfully and engagingly, and learn from the thoughts and ideas [of] their peers as much [as] from the books they will read, the films they will view and the lectures I will give,” Dawes said.

Sophomore English major Celie Knudsen said Dawes' enthusiasm about Marley helped him spark student interest.

“He encouraged us all to develop our own interest and personal connection with Marley as an artiste, and allowed us to follow our own curiosities when it came to what to analyse or dive into for assignments and papers,” Knudsen said.

Marley died of cancer in May 1981. He was 36.

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