ENGL 2335: Survey of American Literature

The site for ENGL 2335 is here. This semester, I’m running an experimental version of the survey of American Literature, using all freely available texts. Many of the texts come from Project Gutenberg, the University of Virginia Hypertext Library project, and from a new OER textbook, Writing the Nation: A Concise Introduction to American Literature, 1865 to Present, published by the University of North Georgia Press under a Creative Commons license.

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Flannery O’Connor course

I am very excited to be offering a Flannery O’Connor course in Spring 2015. The course is cross-listed, so students can take it as ENGL 4950 or WGST 4950. It will also be listed as ENGL 6950, so students wishing to take it for graduate credit can enroll in a slightly modified version of the course.

The most exciting part (I think) is that we’ll be working with O’Connor’s home in Milledgeville, Andalusia Farm, to create a special project, giving students experience using the skills they develop in the literature classroom to serve a practical purpose in a public environment.

See the flyer below for more information:


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Modernist Poetry Links

ENGL 3102 students:

D2L is not playing nicely with the poetry links, so if you have trouble accessing them there, here they are:

Williams: “A Love Song”
Millay: “Love is not All” (this one has an ad; sorry)
Frost: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Cummings: “anyone lived in a pretty how town”

Except for the Williams, everything is read by the poet him/herself. As you listen, think about how the poem sounds, whether it’s different from how you would expect it to sound, and why that matters.

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Spring 2014 courses

Registration for Spring ’14 begins Nov. 11 (earlier for Honors students). I am teaching ENGL 3102: American Literature since the Rise of Realism and ENGL 1101: First-Year Composition.

ENGL 3102 is offered only as a hybrid course this semester. The course meets face-to-face on Wednesday afternoons; other learning activities occur online, primarily through D2L.
Textbooks for that course are

  • Bedford Anthology of Southern Literature, vol. 2 (ISBN: 978-0-312-67869-2)
  • Henry James, The American (get the Norton Critical Edition, ISBN: 978-0-393090-91-8)
  • Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (ISBN: 978-0-395083-65-9)
  • William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (Get the Norton Critical Edition, ISBN: 978-0-393964-81-3)
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (ISBN: 978-1-400033-41-6)

ENGL 1101 textbooks are

  • Rules for Writers (ISBN: 978-0-312647-36-0)
  • Writing in Response (ISBN: 978-0-312403-93-5)
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Absalom, Absalom! Timeline

My Southern Literature students created a timeline as they read Absalom, Absalom! this semester, using Timeline JS. While it is not as extensive as this timeline hosted by the University of Virginia, it has evolved into a useful resource, and more importantly, a useful assignment.

There are nine students in the class: eight undergraduates and one master’s student. As they read, all nine students used a collaborative spreadsheet (on Google Drive) to input dates, titles, quotes from the text indicating where the information was found, and tags. I had made a couple of initial entries to demonstrate, but otherwise, the timeline is entirely student-generated.

Having completed the assignment, there are a few changes I would make. First, as I entered the demo items, I assigned tags according to the character, so that information about Thomas Sutpen was tagged “Sutpen” and so forth. As the timeline grew, I quickly realized my tagging system was a mistake. Timeline JS limits items to one tag per entry, so we had to choose whether Charles Bon’s birth was an event in Sutpen’s life or in Bon’s life–but it could not be both. More importantly, tagging events by character isn’t particularly helpful to a reader. What would probably be more helpful is to go back and assign tags according to the narrative from which the item comes, so that a piece of information readers get from Jason Compson’s telling would be tagged as coming from him, while information from Miss Rosa’s telling would all be tagged as such. I don’t know how easily this could be done, and again, where there are correspondences among multiple narrators, only one could be tagged. Perhaps next time I teach Absalom, Absalom! I will take that task on as a project. For now, the tags are not to my mind particularly useful.

Second, we used different editions of the novel, and so while each entry is identified with a page number, those page numbers do not correspond to any one version of the text. Some are from the Modern Library edition, some are Vintage International, and some are yet another edition. In a class where everyone is required to have the same edition, this would not be a problem, but for this timeline, I will have to make edits to bring all of the page numbers into alignment.

The great success of this assignment was that it forced the students to read very closely and gave them an objective for doing so, and it clarified the narrative. Reading a novel that shifts through time and among narrators, students may be tempted to throw up their hands and declare it indecipherable; this assignment helps them sort out the chronology largely on their own (although they were welcome to use whatever sources they could find), proving to them that not only can it be done but that they can do it themselves.

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Digital Edition Summer Project

This summer, I am working with two undergraduate research fellows to build a prototype digital critical edition. Building on the Southern Audiobooks collection at GRU, we are creating an edition that brings together the audio, the text, annotations, and critical commentaries, all in one edition. Our goal is to produce an edition that makes these texts more fully accessible to general readers and students at the college or high school level.

We have started with the audiofiles of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories. These stories prove problematic for readers, especially in a classroom setting, for multiple reasons. First, the dialect makes them nearly inaccessible for some readers, making both the audio and the explanatory annotations valuable for deciphering some of the language. Second, the political, cultural, and historical context of the stories is especially complicated and controversial, so that reading them without accompanying commentary may leave readers with an incomplete understanding of the texts and the stories they seek to represent. Our project seeks to address both of these difficulties, as well as providing additional resources for further study.

From our perspective as builders of a library of digital editions, the Harris stories present a necessary challenge: within these texts, we expect to encounter most of the anticipated difficulties in coding the texts, incorporating the audio and commentaries, and building a platform on which the texts can be displayed and searched. We are using TEI encoding for searchable metadata (allowing users to find all incidences of specific characters, for example, regardless of how they are called in the text).

At the conclusion of this summer program, we will have at least four fully encoded, annotated texts with accompanying audio (divided by paragraph), accessible through a searchable library. We hope to have up to 20 additional texts with TEI markup, with the complete audio (not divided by paragraph), and with commentary and annotations to be developed later.

Watch the projects page for a link to the Digital Editions Library. We plan to launch the prototype texts in July!

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