Hybrid Praxis and Collaborative Culture in an E-Lit Classroom

1 hour 15 minutes
In this paper, I share my experiences and some strategies developed while teaching my first E-lit course at a small urban liberal arts college. Mills College at that moment, had no campus digital curricular resource center for faculty or students and the English department’s approaches to digital humanities were, by necessity, hyper local and “small batch.” As the first E-lit course offered at Mills it was designed to be both an introduction to E-literature and criticism, and to literary critical practices and it was also to have a creative component that allowed students to develop their own born-digital projects.

The course drew students from literature and creative writing majors and non literature majors and enrolled both graduates and undergraduates. It was an exuberant group who brought a tremendous range of skills to the table. Figuring out how to teach this cohort and this material was a creative-critical challenge of its own. E-lit as topic and medium invited me to think in new ways about my pedagogy.

I had taught creative writing workshops (in poetry) and had some experience of the workshop model found in MFA programs -- though I felt it wasn’t a model that worked well. I had experience teaching literature and theory at both an advanced and beginning level and had found that often the best way to teach someone to write about literature was to have them try to write it first. For this course, I needed to come up with assignments and structures that helped students to develop as both literary critics and as creators of E-lit.

Some of my students had deep technical backgrounds and skills; they could code and were familiar and comfortable with the technologies they might use to create E-lit projects. Others had almost no computer experience outside of facebook and email -- which meant that they needed help identifying technologies that they might use to build E-lit which they could learn to use within a short matter of time. Some of the students were fairly adept at academic writing/reading conventions or interpretive strategies, but most were not. Also, I was teaching in an institution that required a final “grade” and in a department that had specific learning goals in close-reading and thesis driven argument, and so I faced challenges regarding assessment.

This presentation is designed to be helpful both to those who are thinking about how to design assignments in classes when teaching E-lit in spaces without structured institutional support and to teachers who want to think about pedagogical tools for E-lit, who might want to use or amend a couple of the assignments which I hope may be useful to others. I will share examples of student work for both of these assignments, and share what worked particularly well, and where I encountered challenges. I will end by asking a couple of questions about E-lit and pedagogy. I hope this presentation leads to a larger conversation about teaching practices for E-lit.

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