On getting ready to teach a humanities computing course . . .

With the start of classes next week comes one of my 2 brand-new preps this semester: ENG 481: Digital Literary Studies, which is sort of an English-focused intro to humanities computing.  (Texts: Landow’s HyperText 3.0; Amerika’s Meta/Data, and Hayles’s Writing Machines, plus the Blackwell Companion and a variety of material on reserve.)  A draft version of the syllabus is here; I’m still tweaking the order in which “how stuff works” material (xml, etc.) will be presented.  (And even the extent to which it will be presented formally, given concerns over turf with other departments.)

The watchword of this course is going to have to be flexibility:

  • I need to be flexible about differing levels of experience/comfort with technology
  • I need to be flexible about differing levels of familiarity with the conventions of literary analysis (not all students are majors . . . not all students are upper-division).
  • The students need to be flexible about pursuing certain kinds of questions and about reflecting on their practice.
  • Students will need to be flexible and patient with technology that’s balky or alien, and to trust that I won’t punish them for experimenting.
  • We will all need to be flexible about expertise.  This isn’t a class on the Victorian novel, or the survey.  I know that there are a couple of students in the class who have more experience in certain elements (programming, design, games) than I do, and I suspect there are a couple of others.

Having said that, I’m very excited about this class.  We’ve just done some curricular redesign in order to free up some credits in the major for courses that aren’t time- or nation-bound.  I proposed this course, rather than a (frankly, *much* easier to prepare) course on, say, psychoanalysis, because I think *all* our students will need to have these skills.  So, a bit anxious/worried, but also eager to get started.

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4 Responses to On getting ready to teach a humanities computing course . . .

  1. Alex says:

    Consider me naive, but I had actually not considered that someone taking this course would not be versed in technology – My associate and I had bets on the gender ratio here(as I mentioned to you), because we saw this as a nerd-class as opposed to an upper-level English course (I still expect a viewing of “the machine is us/ing us”, which fills me with an indescribable amount of pride). I wholeheartedly agree that these skills are vital, and this class is essentially what I am trying to do with my Major- using technology and art ( in this case, literature) to combine in interesting new ways. Also; lightsabers.

  2. jbj says:

    Assumption 1: That all students who register for a course do so based on its content, rather than on a combination of: schedule, requirements, ratemyprofessor.com.

    (Not to crush *all* your dreams for the upcoming semester, but not everyone registered for the League class has any idea what the comic book is.)

    Assumption 2: That students who are *interested* in a topic are experienced in or knowledgeable about it.

    Plus, there are a certain number of students (in the population, not necessarily in this class) who are competent enough with technology, but who Do Not Like it coming into the classroom, except in certain narrowly-defined forms.

  3. Donna says:

    Hey! I’m teaching a similar course (I’m calling it Writing Web 2.0) this semester. If I had my act more together, I might suggest that we try to get the folks in our classes to work together somehow.

  4. I’m planning on teaching a similar course for graduate students in our public history degree program, mainly to force myself to get over my own anxieties and actually learn how to do all this stuff.

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