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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