English 242: Modernism Now
English 242: Modernism Now
English 242: Modernism Now
English 242: Modernism Now
English 242: Modernism Now
English 242: Modernism Now
English 242: Modernism Now

English 242: Modernism Now

Spring 2010 (36 students)

Course Site

The Syllabus


Writing Intensive Course (designed and taught with the approval of the University of Washington English Department)

Full Course Title: “Reading Fiction (Modernism Now: Digital Platforms for Studying Fiction)”

Course Description

This course is a survey of modernist fiction, with a twist.  The content consists primarily of novels published between 1907 and 1953, by authors such as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, James Baldwin, John dos Passos, Joseph Conrad, and Aldous Huxley.  While reading these texts, we will focus less on giving literary modernism a single definition and more on the divergent ways it can be articulated through aesthetics, history, culture, and place.  Since modernism is such a broad topic, we will narrow our attention to three lines of modernist inquiry: an obsession with what’s new, depictions of the city and urbanization, and the rise of certain media and technologies in the first half of the 20th century.  That said, film, audio recordings, advertisements, and some poetry will supplement modernist novels throughout the quarter. With a twist.  And that twist is this: “Modernism Now” is also an opportunity for undergraduates to gain hands-on competencies in using digital tools and web-based platforms for humanities inquiry, specifically the study of modernist fiction.  During one class meeting per week, we will investigate how to produce sustainable digital scholarship through new media and their intersections with several stages of the writing process, including conducting research, gathering evidence, and composing arguments.  By the quarter’s end, students will gain knowledge in how to use the following for academic purposes: Twitter, the WordPress blogging platform, the Zotero research tool, Flickr’s Library of Congress photostream, the Modernist Journals Project, JSTOR’s Data for Research visualizations, UbuWeb, and Google Maps.  No previous experience with any of these platforms, tools, or archives is required. Since English 242 is a “W” course, students will be asked to iteratively develop and revise a web-based, ten- to fifteen-page research paper on a topic of their choice (within the domain of modernist fiction).  By “iteratively develop,” I imply that students will gradually compose their paper as a project over the entirety of the quarter, instead of writing a bulk of it at the end.  I will ask them to incorporate an annotated bibliography, an abstract, and plenty of collaboration and conversation into that process.

Learning Outcomes for the Course

By the end of the quarter, students will be expected to produce an academic essay that:

Is web-based,

Ten to fifteen pages in length,

Includes at least two media (e.g., film, audio, images, and text),

Uses at least eight reliable sources for evidence,

Is based in a persuasive claim and develops a complex argument, and

Is preceded by an abstract.

Throughout the quarter, students will be expected to:

Chronicle the development of their essay, including the changes they make to it, on a course blog and through other web-based media,

Share their work with their peers and offer constructive feedback on their work,

Actively engage in conversations and workshops during class meetings,

Develop competencies in how to use new media in and for humanities research,

Gather a strong sense of how to critically interpret and historicize modernist texts, and

Explain how literary modernism is relevant today.

What I Learned

This was my first sophomore-level literature course focusing on the production of digital scholarship. Throughout the quarter, I refined my in-class workshops on digital tools (e.g., Zotero), and I learned how to write concrete prompts that encouraged collaboration and conversations between students (both on- and offline). I also developed a stronger vocabulary for why digital platforms matter for literary criticism today. At the beginning, many students were skeptical about the trajectory of the course, or at least they did not understand how literary modernism and digital scholarship would converge. For that reason, I also decided to integrate student-facilitated modules (e.g., on Project Muse and the Modernist Journals Project) into class meetings. Since the conclusion of the class in June 2010, I have presented the course design and its digital materials to several audiences, including instructors of media studies and faculty involved in digital learning initiatives. References to the course also appear in my essay, “Tinker-Centric Pedagogy in Literature and Language Classrooms” (2012).

Course Evaluations

Available upon request.

(With the exception of the second image, all images on the left are screen shots of the course blog, which I designed. The second image is a screen shot of the collaborative class Zotero group, “Modernist Studies at the UW.”)