My English 450: Recovery Projects in the pre-1900 Literary Archive course has always included a digital humanities component. This digital component has changed as technology and my own knowledge of DH pedagogy and resources has evolved. In this class junior and senior English majors find a “lost” or forgotten piece of American literature and create an online annotated edition of the work. As you can see from the student learning outcomes below, I want students to use technology not only as a tool, but as a new way for thinking about the study of American literature.
English 450 student learning outcomes (DH outcomes in italics):
- demonstrate an understanding of the significance of recovery work in the field of American literary studies
- validate the study of literature to a wider public by developing a digital research project
- appraise digital humanities projects and the scholarly apparatuses of published recovered work
- create and edit a digital recovery project
- formulate and sustain text-based arguments about literature through essays and digital formats
- create interpretive materials that highlight the cultural, historical, and biographical contingencies of literature
- explain and justify the place of one’s own research project in the larger fields of literary studies, recovery work, and digital humanities scholarship.
The first time I taught English 450 the only digital component was the use of digital archives. When I taught the course again two years later, I incorporated a digital assignment–an online edition of the “lost” literature using a Word Press blog. WordPress worked well because it was easy to learn and use, but was not an ideal platform. In fact, I had considered eliminating the digital project for the fall 2015 course because I had been unable to find an appropriate tool.
However, when I teach this course in fall 2015, I will use this Mellon grant to enhance the student digital project with Scalar, a publishing platform that will allow my students to create e-book versions of their digital editions of a recovered work of literature. With Scalar students will be able to integrate more types of technology into their projects—a concern I had with WordPress. Students will be able to make a visual argument about literature that shows the connections among various literary, cultural, and historical contexts, a contrast to the linear format of other tools.
Many of the concerns I had about WordPress as a tool and a platform for student work are resolved with Scalar. I hope that my students and I will be able to consult and work with Mo Petzel as we learn how to use Scalar. I am planning to have this class present and discuss their projects at that Austin College Scholarship Conference in spring 2016. I will also use this grant to stay updated in the field of digital pedagogies and DH as I teach English 450 and all of my classes. Indeed, Scalar is a tool I could see myself incorporating into other classes.