Daily Archives: November 12, 2013

Practicing Collaboration in Process and Product: A Response to “Digital Literary Pedagogy”

Kimon Keramidas and Amanda Licastro

Digital Literary Pedagogy: An Experiment in Process-Oriented Publishing

JITP, as well as the certificate program from which it sprang forth, has always focused on the principle that sound pedagogy is based on a praxis-based methodology of putting theories of teaching into practice. As such, we think a lot about process when considering the integration of technology into the classroom, and about the shifts, adaptations, and adjustments that occur during a class session, over the course of a semester and even throughout the duration of a pedagogue’s career. So, when Roger Whitson approached us with his innovative idea of integrating journal editors into his writing process in composing an article for our journal–as well as into the flow of his class–we were excited by the prospect of being able to engage with the project not only near its terminus point, but from its conception. It was even more exciting that the course he was teaching was about the role of technology in literature and that the class would be analyzing fundamental critiques that parallel those at the core of JITP’s mission.

The introduction of online writing spaces into the undergraduate classroom highlights two aspects of composition that have, in the age of print, been de-emphasized in academic writing: audience and design. When Roger invited us into his 19th Century Literature course at the University of Washington, it created an opportunity to experiment with pedagogical approaches to both of these challenges. On many levels this collaboration caused us–the editors, the professor, and the students–to consider how to formulate, support, and produce an assignment specifically designed for submission to an online academic journal. Typically, especially in lower-level literature courses, final projects are submitted to the professor alone, and are rarely manifested in fully digital environments. Similarly, as editors of an academic journal, we are seldom introduced at the beginning stages of a submission with input in the invention, implementation, and production of a piece. Nor do we, in our role as instructors, often find ourselves as deeply engaged in the course of a colleague, particularly one working at a different institution. Entering this project through a collaboration between three scholars from three different institutions, all at considerably different stages of our careers, brought a richness of diversity to the planning and execution of this experiment, making our conversations together, as with the students, dynamic and multidimensional. This was furthered by the fact that almost all of our interactions happened virtually–using Google Hangout–forcing us to negotiate different time zones, technical difficulties, and unanticipated disaster (hurricane Sandy devastated New York and New Jersey during this time). Within these sometimes challenging parameters, we worked as partners with a common goal: to shape a project that would break the boundaries of genre, medium, and authorship in journal publications, much as Roger was asking his students to analyze and challenge those same factors in their coursework.

Because the procedures and parameters that we followed over the course of the semester instilled a sense of collaborative construction, we decided that the work that would be done after the class ended should continue in that same spirit. So, just as Roger brought us into his class to expand upon the framework he designed and the students were executing, this piece provides an alternative explication of the process from our perspective and a focused response to some of the significant topics that Roger raises in “Digital Literary Pedagogy.” It is one of a number of instances in this project where we have tried to blur the traditional roles of authors and editors and expand that relationship beyond formal procedures to collaborative discursive interactions.

First Goal: Audience Awareness

In her report from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) titled “Writing in the 21st Century,”  NCTE past president Kathleen Yancey writes, “With digital technology and, especially Web 2.0 is seems, writers are *everywhere*….In fact, in looking at all this composing, we might say that one of the biggest changes is the role of audience: writers are everywhere, yes, but so too are audiences” (2009, 4-5). Historically, technology has played an essential role in the dissemination of knowledge, and as Roger points out, with the availability of cheap paper in the 19th century this meant introducing published texts to the rising middle class. However, as Jay David Bolter (1991) and others have argued, forging a new readership is very difficult – the audience for a printed text is limited to those the publisher can successfully market toward – typically one that has disposable income and a high literacy level. In the 21st century, the ubiquity of the Internet allows anyone with access to “publish” written texts, but with this ease comes an obstructed understanding of audience. Who is reading what is published on blogs, social networking sites, and online periodicals?

The students in Roger’s class faced this quandary when composing their digital project. In the final class meeting we specifically asked the students how the introduction of a course blog changed the way the way they composed. As student Anne Boothman explains (see 13:00 in video of class conversation), as she wrote blog posts throughout the semester, she found that she altered her tone and form to address her audience. Boothman explains the change as driven by the desire to focus on clarity and brevity, so that her fellow classmates might find her writing more compelling. Anne, as an English major in a mixed discipline course, tactfully (albeit transparently) conveys the perceived need to “dumb-down” her writing, specifically saying she avoided technical terms when writing for her classmates.  This approach was successful for Anne; the class choose her work to feature on their final collaborative project that was designed as a submission to JITP.  Anne’s response strikes us as intuitive, yet problematic. As educators, we laud the use of online writing spaces, heralding the heightened awareness of audience they create, but what this example also highlights is the degree of inequality possible in these spaces. Ideally we want the work of bright, diligent students like Anne to raise the bar and as serve as a model for her peers, rather than diminish the quality of her work to appease a perceived culture of underachievement.  This leads us to wonder how an instructor could facilitate similar low-stakes public writing in a way that would acknowledge these inequities in order to learn from them.

While composition teachers have been utilizing peer review and workshops for decades, framing this work for submission to JITP enabled Roger to push this model further by enlisting students to play the roles essential to scholarly publishing.  This experience speaks directly to Yancey’s observations that students bring their familiarity with informal online spaces into the classroom: “In the case of the web, though, writers compose authentic texts in informal digitally networked contexts, but there isn’t a hierarchy of expert-apprentice, but rather a peer co-apprenticeship in which communicative knowledge is freely exchanged” (2009, 5). Roger supported the transfer of these skills by creating an environment where students evaluate, edit, and promote each other’s work, rather than surrendering directorial agency to the professor. The students functioned as an editorial collective, first selecting work as a group to analyze according to a system of their own design, then breaking out into four specialized roles: the authors of the selected pieces; those students who were assigned to edit individual submissions; the students who designed the digital space; and those who composed the introduction and section headings to aide in the user experience. Each of these groups were faced with the issue of audience in different and important ways within the context of the same assignment. For example, William Reed was able to meaningfully discuss design decisions such as the choice of WordPress theme and the multilayer image used in the header for their final project. Similarly, the group that composed the “About” page discussed their intentions to address a viewer who might come to the site without previous knowledge of this course, therefore contextualizing the project for an uninitiated audience. However, they had difficulty articulating who this audience could consist of, besides those of us present in the conversation. The students were clearly still writing primarily for their professor and did not readily envision a wider academic readership. As Roger says in the video, even if an assignment is designed so that students are writing for an outside audience, it can be difficult to integrate those goals into your pedagogy. This is an important moment of reflection for both the instructor and the students, one that we, as the audience for this piece, can learn from. We can teach students to design digital projects and compose multimodally, but what more can we do to support meaningful audience awareness?

Design and the Digital

As we’ve just mentioned, comprehensive digital projects such as the one Roger gave to his students aren’t solely written; they are also designed. In their book Digital_Humanities, Burdick, Baumann, Lunenfeld, Presner and Schnapp state that “contemporary Digital Humanities marks a move beyond a privileging of the textual, emphasizing graphical methods of knowledge production and organization, design as an integral component of research, transmedia crisscrossings, and an expanded concept of the sensorium of humanistic knowledge.”(2012, 122) As such, new modes of scholarship and literary practice must take into consideration not only what content is disseminated, but also how it will be viewed and what it looks like. User interface design, platform compatibility, screen sizes and mobile responsivensess are now integral to publication and have a profound impact on the delivery and accessibility of materials. So, when Roger had his students construct a web site for their final project and work together to not only populate a site with content, but also make design decisions about the look and behavior of their site, he was asking them to go beyond the conditions of a traditional term paper. Furthermore, he was asking them to deal with a more profound set of questions than many “digital” courses which have often only taken a single step forward, from the term paper to making posts within a predesigned content management system such as WordPress or Drupal (which he mentions in his paper).

The ramifications of this pedagogical decision are important to unpack fully in light of what it means to do digital literary studies or any work in the so-called “digital humanities.” Making students aware of the new impetus of design in digital writing is critical to understanding the implications of all media technologies, but it is particularly useful in defamiliarizing the design of the book. Because books are so deeply ingrained as a cultural mode, we often forget that they, too, are designed, and that the shape, layout, font and colors in a book are design decisions that while seemingly transparent, ultimately have an immense impact on the reader’s experience. Roger’s integration of the question of design in his course’s project work was particularly well- suited within the content base of the class, which was already considering the important role of changing printing technologies and the development of the book as a form in the nineteenth century. This common theme between content and project had the potential to provide a contextualizing foundation that could help overcome one of the biggest pedagogical problems teachers face when introducing experimental content and assignments: a lack of time.

The biggest balancing act that teachers such as Roger must contend with is how to integrate new modes of communication, composition, and collaboration and still cover the subject material that students are supposed to attain a mastery of. In this particular case, Roger rightly saw the potential of design issues to play an important role in the students’ experience of their project. He was even aware that, as was just mentioned above, the issues of designing a course site paralleled the conversations his students were already having in relation to the nineteenth century novel, lowering the barrier of entry into a conversation about contemporary media design. Nevertheless, finding the space to ask students to think about design in their project is a very different thing from carving out a class or two from a semester to incorporate sessions on specific web design practices and technologies. And that dedicated and focused time is what is necessary when incorporating these new technologies, because the ramifications of design in the digital realm are central and pervasive as well as complex enough to necessitate significant instruction and demonstration.

As Sharmila Pixy Ferris (2002) notes, in digital composition

the organization of the material must be visually appealing and must take advantage of the unique interactive features of the Web. … the cyber-writer often also must be editor and designer, considering issues of file structure, graphic design, and navigability. Writing becomes even more complex because the writer has little control over the paths readers will take through the hyperlinks.

When we visited the class the last time for the final presentation of the site, we both quickly noted a number of simple design enhancements that could have/should have been integrated into the site to take advantage of the multimediality and interactivity of the web as a publishing platform. In a post entitled “Are We All a Modern Prometheus?” (Goetz, 2012) there are numerous textual links to Wikipedia, but no visual cues to tell the story of the Prometheus myth, such as this image of the famous Peter Paul Rubens painting:

 Promethues Bound

Figure 1. Prometheus Bound, Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, 1618.

Similarly a post entitled “Modern Sherlock” (Stuckey, 2012) discussed scenes from the recent BBC series Sherlock and The Princess Bride but only provided a link to one, and in neither case embedded these easily accessible YouTube clips:

Figure 2. Vizzini death scene from The Princess Bride, 1987

Figure 3. A scene from “A Study in Pink”, Sherlock, BBC, 2012

The students also admitted to having selected a theme for their WordPress site that was responsive (meaning that it adapts to the screen size and platform of the browser it is being opened in) without having known that the theme had that characteristic. These are just a few simple design decisions that would have been easy to consider ahead of time or implement consciously in the construction of the site, and they fall into the complex set of design choices that Ferris sets out as mandatory considerations for a cyber-writer.

This all being said, this critique is not meant to denigrate the students’ work as subpar or not successful within the context of the many things that Roger had his class do during the semester. Rather, we wish to highlight how big a concern design is in digital composition and how important it is to frame design assignments with both conversation and practical instruction on the possibilities that the variety of platforms students use in projects like these have to offer. Even a template- and theme-driven tool such as WordPress can be greatly enhanced by a richer understanding of modular writing, non-linear reading as facilitated by hyperlinking and the integration of multimedia elements. To situate this squarely within Roger’s call for a new digital literary pedagogy, if we are to encourage new forms of publication as part of a historicization of literary forms, then that encouragement must be accompanied not only by a consideration of design and its implication on composition, but also by training students in design practice that they can implement critically within compositional frameworks. Where that fits within the already time-consuming demands of content mastery and class discussion is one of the biggest challenges in properly preparing students for the possibilities of digital media.


The questions considered here, mainly concerning audience and design awareness, address only two aspects of many that could be drawn out of this situated pedagogy. Thanks to Roger’s thoughtful course design, we are able to use this class as an example of digital pedagogy, teasing out elements which worked and those that beg further examination. JITP is dedicated to approaching teaching with the same careful critique we apply to traditional research, and this experiment gave us the opportunity to put this into practice.

This project also had a meta-awareness of audience and design. We hoped to target both the students in the course, as well as our readership in designing this experiment. One objective was to give these students a “real world” experience by expanding the boundaries of the classroom to include exposure to the processes involved in academic publishing as well as collaborative work that mirrors both academia and industry. Yet we also wanted to make this project transparent, encouraging students to reflect on their role in both the course and this publication venture. By constructing this project through the use of public facing sites and videos we are able to offer the entire process to you, the audience of this journal, for consideration as well. We think a great deal can be learned through sharing our teaching experiences in a holistic yet critical way, and hope the documentation of our discoveries help you share your digital pedagogical practices as well.



Bolter, J. David. 1991. Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing. Hillsdale, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates. OCLC 22310251.

Burdick, Anne, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp. 2012. Digital_Humanities. The MIT Press. OCLC 793581385.

Ferris, Sharmila Pixy. 2002. “Writing Electronically: The Effects of Computers on Traditional Writing.” The Journal of Electronic Publishing 8 (1) (August). http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?    c=jep;view=text;rgn=main;idno=3336451.0008.104.

Goetz, Brian. 2012. “Are We All a Modern Prometheus?” The 19th Century British Novel. December 5. http://www.rogerwhitson.net/19thcenturyreading/are-we-all-a-modern-prometheus/.

Memorable Movie Death #3: Vizzini From Princess Bride. 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_eZmEiyTo0&feature=youtube_gdata_player.

Stuckey, Colleen. 2012. “Modern Sherlock.” The 19th Century British Novel. December 5. http://www.rogerwhitson.net/19thcenturyreading/modern-sherlock/.

Which Bottle? – Sherlock – BBC. 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huOwYyK5EHk&feature=youtube_gdata_player.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. 2009. Writing in the 21st Century. National Council of Teachers of  English. http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Press/Yancey_final.pdf.








Digital Literary Pedagogy: Teaching Technologies of Reading the Nineteenth-Century

Roger Whitson, Washington State University

Digital Literary Pedagogy: An Experiment in Process-Oriented Publishing


Digital pedagogy is at a crossroads. Many humanist scholars have begun experimenting with digital technology and reporting those experiments on Twitter, in blogs, and in journals like The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. At the same time, our more traditional disciplinary structures limit the amount of critical reflection or pragmatic application those experiments have. Scholars in the field of Computers and Writing, Cheryl Ball for example, have criticized the digital humanities as being “uncritical of its teaching practices,” something she calls “paradoxical,” since DH is “mostly comprised of literary-critical scholars.” Yet these critics are unaware that their “discovery of teaching with technology is relatively new” (Ball 2013). Ball’s Spring 2013 “Logging On” column in Kairos calls most pedagogical sessions at the MLA, THATCamp, and HASTAC “boring,” especially since, unlike scholarly-article length pieces that situate themselves in a field, most digital humanities pieces on pedagogy have a “Here’s What I did in my Classroom” approach (Ball 2013). While I empathize with Ball’s argument that the digital humanities needs more critical reflections on technological pedagogy, I also think that her criticism is symptomatic of an academic institution that has not yet conceptualized the scholarly place for faster-paced conversations like those on blogs and Twitter.[1] Reports of classroom activities certainly have their place in the larger conversation about pedagogy, even if these conversations are not citing articles that have bearing on their understanding of digital practice. This article will show how a scholarly reflection based in actual classroom practice can provide an effective way of bridging Ball’s concerns with the experiences of actual students in my classroom, while doing so from the disciplinary standpoint of literary studies. My fundamental question: what can literary studies contribute to the interdisciplinary pedagogical issues surrounding digital media and online publication?

I decided to collaborate with JITP editors Kimon Keramidas and Amanda Licastro because I wanted to use the academic journal to drive questions of student publication and online participation in a literary studies course. Many DH-pedagogies emphasize the publication of student work. On his course websites, Brian Croxall regularly includes a section to his students titled “Why Blog?” and answers the question by arguing that “f we draw attention from the outside world, it will help us remember that college is not simply preparation for ‘the real world’ but that it is in fact a vital part of the ‘real’ world” (Croxall 2012). I agree with Croxall about the importance that students work have resonances beyond the classroom and the need for student work to make a difference. However much we publish student work online, the vast majority of that work is obscured by everything else that competes with it for reader attention. Most content produced on class websites goes unnoticed unless it is actively promoted by teachers or students, both of whom are often overworked or may not know the complexities of online communication. Posting a blog doesn’t have the same resonance as publishing a book did in the nineteenth century, and for this reason, we needed to explore in our course how editorial oversight might help to make work more noticeable.

I realized that The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy was a perfect choice for finding editors that were invested in the idea of a professional writing environment, but who also understood that the meaning of “professional” was changing rapidly as social media forces journals to rethink their mission and purpose. The need to have an academic “weight” to the material produced by my students and, at the same time, my desire to embrace new forms of scholarly communication in the student’s projects drove my idea that student publication might require a new role for the editor. In many cases, editors are seen outside of the pedagogical process or part of teaching students to become better peer-reviewers.[2] If students published at all, they either created blogs (that might or might not be visited and commented upon by outside readers) or wrote essays that were never intended to have an outside audience. I wanted my students to have an audience and carefully craft their work to be received, retweeted, and reposted by that audience. What if, I thought, I could bring editors in on the process from the beginning? What if editors could help me co-teach the course?

The introduction of digital content, especially guided by a journal dedicated to digital teaching, can contextualize and revitalize the teaching of literary reading. I call this complementary approach digital literary pedagogy: using digital technology to extend what we do in a literary survey class. While this approach can work in other humanities disciplines, particularly courses that examine textuality from a historical viewpoint, I emphasize how literary studies is particularly suited for a pragmatic approach to editorially-guided instruction combined with historical perspectives on editorial apparatuses. My course interweaves the concerns of composition with literary studies: by using technology and cultural research, I argue, we can historicize the emergence of new practices associated with digital media. I’m focusing specifically on literary studies in this article for two reasons. First, literary studies courses are filled with students who have no idea why books from centuries past have any relation to their lived experience. Second, a social media ecology is emerging in front of us that begs critical reflection, and our students do not yet have the tools to know what they are doing when they sign up for a Facebook account or post a blog. A course reflecting on the kinds of “publics” emerging now is urgently needed, and literary studies can use the anxieties over writing and reading in the past as a touchstone to explore how anxieties over social media can be addressed today.

The design of my fall 2012 course at Washington State University, ENGL 366: “The British Novel to 1900,” focused on providing a set of comparisons between two media revolutions: the expansion of middle-class reading and printing in the nineteenth century and the discourse surrounding digital media today.  As William St. Clair recounts in The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, novel-writing and reading during the nineteenth century were associated with a newly-literate middle class. The phenomenon of middle-class readers transformed the literary marketplace, since poetry and novels had different funding models.  Whereas poetry was “supply pushed by authors and patrons,” “[n]ovels were demand-led by book purchasers, by commercial borrowers, and by readers” (St. Clair 2004, 176). The emergence of middle-class reading interfaces with a remarkable number of cultural issues defined by the period: the change in attitudes surrounding the literary merit of novels by different classes, the role of the novel in defining specific forms of subjectivity, and the rise of professional writing and editing. For me, the historical question of writing as a profession is particularly important for defining a literary studies whose historical content can help illuminate technology since, as Paul Fyfe has observed, “the entire production-reception complex of popular literature seemed unprecedented, unpredictable, and immense” in a similar way as digital content overwhelms contemporary users (2009, 2).

I found that it was helpful for students to understand, for example, that authors like Jane Austen and Edmund Burke incorporated anxieties about novel reading with much the same tone as Nicholas Carr uses when he asks “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”[3] Austen’s Northanger Abbey is famous for an ambivalent approach to novels and novel-reading. On the one hand, it was clear to my students that the heroine Catherine Morland’s obsession with Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho keeps her from reading Shakespeare and Milton, and thus memorizing lines that could be used to prove she is cultured and more able to attract rich suitors. My student Tyler Andrews noticed Austen’s criticism “that life can be the same as fiction, with danger around every corner” by emphasizing Catherine’s narration of her quite commonplace life. “Catherine,” Andrews observes, “mention[s] a robbery-free ride to Bath, and […] assume[s] the best in everyone” (Andrews 2012). On the other hand, my students found Austen’s famous rant against the literary critics of her day very compelling. In the section, Austen sees “almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labor of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. ‘I am no novel reader;’ ‘I seldom look into novels;’ ‘Do not imagine that I often read novels;’ ‘it is really very well for a novel,’ such is the common cant” (Austen 1903, 35-6). The students grew to understand how a social-realist approach to writing in the nineteenth century emerged out of Austen’s and other authors’ ambivalence toward novel-reading.[4] The relationship between this ambivalence and the development of the novel is made in the work of Richard Altick and Patrick Brantlinger, who formed the intellectual core of my course.[5]

Reading the Nineteenth Century Aloud

It was useful for me to complicate my students’ notions of reading with those from the critics and authors of the nineteenth century. Many critics have noted the period’s communal reading practices, including the public readings Dickens gave at the end of his life and the common practice of reading aloud to one’s family.[6] Charles Kent attended the readings and wrote about the audience’s breathlessness upon hearing Dickens’s voice “– the words he was about to speak being so thorough well remembered by the majority before their utterance that, often, the rippling of a smile over a thousand faces simultaneously anticipated the laughter which an instant afterwards greeted the words themselves when they were articulated” (Kent 1872, 20). We read Kent’s book Charles Dickens as a Reader along with Edward Cox’s 1878 guide to public reading, The Arts of Writing, Reading, and Speaking in Letters to a Law Student. Cox gives powerful and specific advice about topics as various as overcoming shyness when reading in front of an audience, affecting different voices and practicing different lines before a performance, and reading aloud when preparing for public speaking. He also examines acoustics, advising his readers to practice in the performance room before their event to make sure audiences can hear them. “If they [the audience] fail to do so,” Cox argues, “not only are the distant deprived of whatever pleasure you can give them, but there is sure to be restlessness among those who cannot hear which will disturb those of the audience within earshot and annoy you not a little” (Cox 1878, 183). The nineteenth-century readings by Kent and Cox inspired me to construct a project that asked my students to record oral reading performances of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey on Soundcloud and write about the experience.[7] Soundcloud is like many online audio distribution applications, except that it makes collaboration between different members extremely easy. The application also assigns each sound a specific URL and has a variety of different widgets that can be used to embed the file into websites. I wanted to have the students thinking about the presence of sound and its resonance both in the nineteenth-century and as an emergent mode of composition within our own digital media space, particularly in the rise of commercial services like Audible and open source community projects like Librivox. Jeff Rice, in “The Making of ka-knowledge: Digital Aurality,” uses both Marshall McLuhan and The Beastie Boys to show how aural modes of composition are central in digital media. These aural modalities, for Rice, depend less on a literate notion of topos for organization and more on aural conventions like rhyme, tonality, rhythm, and voice (Rice 2006).[8] I knew that the knowledge my students would gain from performing the novels in question would be very different from the knowledge gained in an argumentative paper. As such, the book by Brian Cox provided both a historical source and a theoretical guide for our new practice. My students were asked to demonstrate their interpretation of each character in the tonality they used to perform them. Each student picked an individual chapter of the novel, and were encouraged to distinguish the narrator from each of the characters, possibly add music, then edit the recording. They translated the topos often encapsulated in a thesis statement and supporting arguments into the speed in which they read the lines, the surprise or sarcasm in their voice when they performed a character, and the music they used to imply the overall feeling of a scene.

Devin Truchard was particularly good at dramatizing the different voices of the novel, powerfully affecting the naïve enthusiasm of Catherine, the gruff arrogance of John Thorpe, and the anxious loneliness of Mrs. Tilney. The voice he used for the narrator was low, and seemed a little more appropriate for an action movie than an Austen story. It worked well to highlight the darker tones of the novel, as well as Austen’s mocking attitude toward the Gothic. In his written reflection, Truchard writes revealingly about his struggle to differentiate characters with tonality: “Being able to swap to multiple female voices is something I have never tried before.” Truchard continues, “Being able to get at least one feminine voice was trouble enough, but applying a second voice was almost the death of me. I eventually decided to differentiate the two voices by how much strain I put in them” (Truchard 2012). It was quite interesting to see how using an audio project forced my students to write essays about the novel in ways that were unusual to them. Many of the written responses read more like Cox’s how-to manual, rather than the simple response they were accustomed to producing in most literature classes. They needed to know motivation, character, and plot in order to reproduce the characters in a compelling way, but they could not talk about these elements of the novel without mentioning how they impacted the aural elements of the character’s voices in the recording.

Jenna Walter, by contrast, did little to distinguish the voices of the characters, but she added extremely effective music and was clearly quite enthusiastic about the process. She also did a wonderful job syncing the tone of her narrator’s voice with the accompanying music. The connection between her voice and the music is particularly acute when she gets to Catherine’s “desponding tone,” upon noticing that the day might bring rain in Chapter 11 (Walter 2012). The full strings Walter added in the beginning are quickly replaced by a simple piano playing softly, underscoring the delicacy of the “few specks of rain” Catherine sees and the slight depression she feels when she thinks that no one will visit the pump room that day: the center of social activity at the beginning of Northanger Abbey. Walter’s voice betrays a more sincere approach to the novel than Truchard, and perhaps delineates a gender distinction in my class’s reception of its topic. Whereas the men in the course tended to see the conflicts of the novel as inconsequential and somewhat satirical, the women often either empathized with Catherine’s plight or were extremely harsh in their reactions. Walter compares Catherine’s despondence in the novel in which she “may not sleep well […] from all her crying” to “the Twilight series when Edward leaves Bella and she spends half the book in a fetal position, in a majorly depressed state of silence, or a seriously suicidal state.” Given that Walter describes Bella and Catherine as “overreact[ing] to their boy problems,” you can see that she takes the novel much more personally than Truchard seems to with his pseudo-mocking tone (Walter 2012).

The discussions emerging out of this project were often more interesting than the projects themselves. Students connected the physical experience of reproducing voices to gender issues and imagined their own subjectivity in relation to the male and female characters in the novel. Inasmuch as Truchard distinguished different female voices by using different amounts of “strain,” Emeri-Erin Callahan over-emphasized the arrogant masculinity of Mr. Thorpe as a way of articulating his difference from the female characters. Callahan describes “lower[ing] my voice, and [speaking] in a very short and direct manner. I wanted it to feel like he was aggressively asserting himself with every sentence he spoke” (Callahan 2012). She recounts in detail the way she varied the rapidity of her reading to create this effect. “I noticed that he [Thorpe] drove his attention away for a moment onto Mrs. Allen,” Callahan recounts, “asking how she was, and then voiced an additional question about the ball the night before, but before she could even respond he had already turned his focus onto Catherine telling her to hurry up” (Callahan 2012). The darker side of Mr. Thorpe’s dominance is much more pronounced in Callahan’s recording than the mock masculine tone used in Truchard or the sincere yet ultimately judgmental approach by Walter. Callahan “convey[ed] this act [Thorpe’s domination] by making the portion addressed to Mrs. Allen rushed and quiet before I immediately leapt back into talking to Catherine, as though my speech to Mrs. Allen never happened” (Callahan 2012). Callahan made it clear that she understood how speech could be used as a weapon, and she inserts this awareness into the texture of her recording.

The Soundcloud assignment was effective in my course because it highlighted a practice that was common in the nineteenth century, yet used digital technology to bring that practice into the present. Most of the students understood that reading for a computer recorder was quite different than reading for a live audience, but they also learned the importance of going back to old nineteenth century texts for advice. It showed them how critical interpretation could make a tangible difference in how a text is performed. Mark Sample has argued that having students read aloud in class allows them to “become voices in the classroom, authorities in the classroom, empowered to speak both during the reading, and even more critically, after the reading” (Sample 2011). I agree, but I also wanted to show my students how the practice of reading silently emerged only relatively recently. It is important to engage multiple modes of student engagement when dealing with a subject often seen by them as distant and dry. Asking them to incorporate their interpretations directly into a vocal reading practice empowers students to see how criticism can have a practical application in performance.

Editing the Nineteenth Century

I designed the Soundcloud assignment and the blog posts to get students creating as much multimodal content as possible that engaged with the readings of the course. We would then collaborate with Amanda and Kimon to promote the best content, design it as effectively for online users as possible, and create a final site that effectively presented the work of the semester. The readings of the semester shifted from issues of writing and reading to economic and editorial concerns. I found this portion of the course an opportune time to introduce students to the editorial and design practices of bookmakers during the nineteenth century.[9] We investigated Alexis Weedon’s argument about how print runs were initially based upon tokens of 250 that were used to mark the hourly rate owed to the two men who set up the press and ran the copies. “The print run was calculated as the number of such ‘tokens’ rather than by estimating sales,” Wheedon argues, “a practice that was wasteful and clearly untenable in the more competitive 1830s when steam printing challenged the old system” (Wheedon 2003, 12). Of course, such methods were also tied to the economic triumph of the novel as the literary form of the bourgeoisie, as we noted earlier with the work of William St. Clair and Patrick Ballinger. How might we reconsider design choices today if we understood that such choices are shaped by technological and historical affordances? I agree with Kristin Arola when she says that teachers “must (re)engage ourselves and our students with the rhetoric of the interface and thus the rhetoric of design” (Arola 2010, 7). This means, for me, that we should not only have students rhetorically analyze the assumptions of content management sites like WordPress and Drupal, but they also need to know how these assumptions work in a larger historical and cultural frame.[10] My final project would be framed around students editing the content produced during the semester and collaborating with real editors from JITP to make the work publishable. I wrote Sarah Ruth Jacobs of JITP in April 2012 to see if the journal would be interested in rethinking the role of student publication in the class, as well as reconceptualizing the role of the editor in teaching. In my email, I said that:

I’d like to incorporate editors from the journal into the final project. This may mean a session or two where editors Skype in and talk about scholarly editing, what it means, and how to make a “website” publishable. It may mean that we all (myself, editors, and the students) brainstorm during one of those sessions about what it means to publish a website. I’d like to use the project to reimagine the role of the scholarly publication in digital pedagogy – to see editors as part of a collaborative teaching experience. This in itself could be something we could both write about in a separate article, linked perhaps to the website, about having students publish and the role of the peer-reviewed journal in that process. I wanted to see if JITP would be interested in seeing this process as an opportunity for a different type of collaboration and work through what that may mean for my role as a teacher and your role as a publisher. (Whitson 2012)

The response from Sarah, Kimon, and Amanda was positive. Amanda responded that she wanted my perspective as a teacher to be a major part of what was finally produced.

[A]s we are focused on pedagogy, we would like this project to be framed by a narrative in order to reveal the process that led to the final product. We are envisioning a more “meta” submission that would include reflections from both you and your students and perhaps Kimon and me [Amanda]. The reason we are so interested in this proposal is because of its experimental nature, therefore we want to remain true to that goal throughout the creation and in the final deliverable. (Licastro 2012)

We met subsequently on Google Hangout and decided to have the editors virtually attend the class twice. The first meeting would introduce the journal and talk about some larger issues regarding editing and online publication. The final meeting would have students present their blog posts and projects and get pointed critiques by the editors, as well as give the students a chance to reflect on their experiences throughout the semester.

The first hangout meeting went quite well. Students were introduced to the ways Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are changing the methods scholars use to communicate to one another. We discussed how JITP occupied a middle-space between traditional scholarly publications and blogs. They also previewed their thoughts about the final project, where I asked them to curate blog posts produced throughout the semester, picking four of them for the final website. I asked the students to create at least one post per week, based upon a modified version of Mark Sample’s blogging assignment from his Spring 2011 graphic novel class (Sample 2013). That assignment divided students into four groups, and each group had a different stated purpose to their blogging. First Readers would post questions to the week’s reading by Monday night; Responders would respond to questions from the first readers and post their own by Wednesday night; Searchers would find some interesting resource on the web that related to class and discuss its relevance; finally, the Weekly Roundup group would bring the week to a close by reflecting on discussions happening in class and online. We had been producing posts since the first week of class, so by the later weeks we had quite a pool to choose from. Instead of grading them myself, I wanted the students to start practicing their own editorial skills, think about what makes online content successful, and pick out the best examples that fit those criteria from our class.

I tasked three students to survey the rest of the class about editorial criteria. The results of their survey found that clarity, content, evidence, and credentials were what most (55%) of the students saw as important criteria. Leech, Champion, and Martin excerpted some of the written responses to the survey in their presentation.

One group noted, “essays must be clear in order for readers to understand, otherwise they will lose interest and have no additional motive to finish reading the piece. If an author does not use evidence to support his/her claims, they lose credibility.” Another group came to a similar conclusion, arguing that “clarity and evidence work to organize the content into a readable form and support the validity of the essay. Credentials further support the author of the essay, which allow the audience to take the author seriously” (“JITP Form” 2012). The students did not choose the same criteria I would, but I feel the exercise gave them the opportunity to see how their thoughts about good work could be put into practice when choosing content to display on the site.

Students then chose the five submissions that best exemplified the determined criteria, and wrote short answers discussing how the submission fit. One student discussing Anne Boothman’s post noted that her piece was “fresh,” that it left “readers thinking and questioning their own feelings about the book’s ending,” and that it cited research to “support her claim” and “her academic opinion.” Another post by Bryant Goetz “demonstrated going beyond the given text and discussing sources that were used in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” The author of Goetz’s review “thought it was pretty interesting how he linked to Wikipedia right in his article, demonstrating how online writing can reference other sources in different ways than essay writing.” In addition to Goetz and Boothman’s posts, the students picked Colleen Stuckey’s “The Modern Sherlock,” Deven Tokuno’s “Gossip Girl Jane Austen Style,” and Jenna Walter’s “Mary Braddon Drew Inspiration from Her Own Life?” I found that the posts were picked for very different reasons. Deven Tokuno’s analyzed the parallels between Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and the television program Gossip Girl, which fascinated several of the students who followed the show. Anne Boothman’s was favored because it included a good bit of research into the history of madness in the nineteenth century. Students appreciated the contemporary tone of Tokuno’s, while enjoying the applied research of historical documents in Boothman’s.

Surprisingly, the students seemed more interested in the written blog posts than any of the SoundCloud projects completed during the semester. None of the SoundCloud projects were promoted to the final website. In my mind, despite the large amount of time we spent in class discussing the historical differences between written, aural, visual, and non-verbal modalities, many of the students were uncomfortable articulating specific reasons for picking one non-textual artifact over another. The student reaction may be related to the relative lack of educational infrastructure at WSU devoted to analyzing and producing multimodal content in an academic or professional setting. Individual programs highlight multimodal writing, like the 355 course in our Digital Technology and Culture major titled “Multimodal Authoring: Exploring New Rhetorics,” but there are few resources for scholars or students outside of these courses who want to explore multimodality.[11] WSU has a University-wide “Junior Writing Program” that acts as “a mid-career diagnostic to determine if your writing abilities are ready to handle the challenges of your Writing-In-The-Major (M) courses and other upper division courses that assign writing” (“Junior Writing Portfolio” 2013). The program has been remarkably successful in encouraging writing across different majors, but is only now starting to conceptualize how multimodal and digital forms of writing might fit into its requirements. This has effects on many teachers who might otherwise assign multimodal projects, because such projects would not count in the current portfolio guidelines. The effects of student unease in my course underscores the fact that students in different regions of the country have very different needs when it comes to multimodal literacy, and simply giving them the chance to produce multimodal content in one course may not be enough if other courses and programs on campus continue to be dominated by print assumptions about communication. We spent some time reflecting on how this unexpected consequence put into relief our own historical context, that this same course might look very different five or ten years in the future.

The final part of the project asked students to create their own WordPress website designed to display the best blog posts, summarize the themes of the course, and discuss the major assignments. Students were divided into groups that worked on editing the chosen blog posts, writing an overview of the course, composing a piece on the themes and projects covered in the course, and designing the site itself. Students had to be able to articulate just how historical knowledge can impact current ideas and decisions, and they needed to be able to also present the case for learning about reading controversies in the nineteenth century. For example, the novel Frankenstein clearly associates a literary education with bestowing a certain amount of power on the titular scientist Victor Frankenstein. Students wondered whether literature would play such a central part if Frankenstein were written today. Of course, you only have to look at the reception of the character in film and television for the past hundred years to see that the association between the novel’s veneration of literary tradition and its attitude toward scientific innovation has been largely removed from the story.

The last  meeting with the JITP editors allowed my students to connect several of these questions to the larger issues in scholarly communication that concern the journal. Kimon and Amanda asked the design group why they didn’t incorporate more multimodal content. While the site design had a clean interface and visual cues that recalled my own site for the course, it relied largely on the written content that we produced over the semester. The designers did not create video or audio interviews with the authors chosen by the class, nor did they really spend much time considering what kinds of visual images could enhance the content in the posts. The editors also asked the students how collaborative forms of writing were integrated into the process of constructing the site. Much of the site content not devoted to posts or projects was collaboratively written in groups. The students found that the variation between individual and collaborative writing to reflect the writing situations they expected to encounter after graduating from college and getting a job. In all, the suggestions by Kimon and Amanda reflected what might occur in a multimodal composition course: design elements, writing processes, and rhetorical strategies informed much of the early conversation.

The final discussion between the editors and Anne Boothman, however, added a new dimension that was more clearly associated with the literary content of the course. As I mentioned earlier, Boothman had written a piece on the history of madness in the nineteenth century, with special attention paid to Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret. The editors were pleased that her writing led to research in WSU’s library surrounding the questions her reflections had provoked. Was madness always understood in the same way? Amanda’s questions regarding the visual representation of madness were particularly useful for the student and caused her to think more closely about the performance of madness in Braddon’s novel. For me, this conversation showed just how questions of communication and composition can quickly turn into fascinating reflections on culture and subjectivity. If, for example, Lady Audley had acted mad in accordance with the cultural understanding of insanity during Braddon’s lifetime, does this performance allow her to get away with murder? Audley’s performance of madness quickly opens questions regarding gender, the criminal system, even the history of sanity itself.

The Literary in Digital Literary Studies

Boothman’s contribution to the final talk with the JITP editors illustrates just how much digital pedagogy can learn from literary studies. Despite the new methodologies for analyzing texts that the digital humanities have developed, like distant reading and topic modeling, DH itself has little to say about the role of technology in shaping the lives of people throughout history. Students still need to understand how technologies like the novel impacted women, how the rise of women as professional writers challenged what people thought the novel could do, and how novels written by women inspired wider social movements that forever changed the world. And many of the historical issues encountered in a course like the one I designed have analogues in cultural situations students encounter today. For instance, Digital Book World reported on September 6, 2012 that Amazon Publishing Group is looking to market a new set of serialized novels. According to Jason Ashlock, these novels would be “like the serials of publishing generations past, readers can encounter a work of fiction in installments. In classic Dickensian fashion, the long story is fragmented and sold in episodes. A consumer pays one price one time, and each installment is delivered upon its release” (Ashlock 2012). The reference to Dickens is a powerful one, especially if read by students who just finished a twelve-week project reading Oliver Twist from the version of Bentley’s Miscellany found online (Bentley’s Miscellany 1837). Literary studies can show students how history, technology, and marketing collide to bring about a new narrative experience (that may not be so new).

My students also learned quite a bit about the process of writing, editing, and publishing, yet they did so from a perspective that made them aware of the cultural and technological changes which brought about many of the practices used in publishing today. Historicizing reading is important because it shows just how contingent many of our practices can be, while always also illustrating why they were used in the first place. Most importantly to me, however, the emphasis in my course on both the digital and the literary gave my students a sense of historicity that subverted the digital utopianism and apocalypticism so prevalent in our culture today. Students who are used to seeing their teachers lament the rise of Facebook are often shocked to see that something as seemingly innocent as the novel once inspired a similar amount of vitriol. As digital pedagogy can be used to introduce students to new modalities of communication and new skills that are transferrable to different kinds of career opportunities, so can literary studies give students in digital classrooms the ability to critically and historically analyze the culture emerging around them. For all of these reasons, and many others, we need more teachers in literary studies who are willing to experiment with new methodologies, embrace different forms of technology, and write critically reflective articles sharing their teaching with the rest of the discipline.


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Details for DTC 355 Fall 2013, WSU Online. 2013. Pullman: Washington State University. Accessed September 30, 2013. http://schedules.wsu.edu/List/DDP/20133/DTC/355/01

Fister, Barbara. 2012. “Serial Scholarship: Blogging as Traditional Academic Practice.” Inside Higher Ed. 12 July. Accessed September 30, 2013: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/library-babel-fish/serial-scholarship-blogging-traditional-academic-practice

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. 2013. “Blogs as Serial Scholarship.” Planned Obsolescence. 12 July. Accessed September 30, 2013: http://www.plannedobsolescence.net/blog/blogs-as-serialized-scholarship/

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. 2013.  “The Unpopular.” Planned Obsolescence. 07 July. Accessed September 30, 2013: http://www.plannedobsolescence.net/blog/the-unpopular/

Fitzpatrick. Kathleen. 2013. “Unpopular Seriality.” Planned Obsolescence. 17 June. Accessed September 30, 2013: http://www.plannedobsolescence.net/blog/unpopular-seriality/

Fyfe, Paul. 2011. “Digital Pedagogy Unplugged.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 5.3. Accessed September 30, 2013: http://digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/5/3/000106/000106.html

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Goetz, Bryant. 2012. “Are We All a Modern Prometheus?” The 19th Century British Novel. 5 December. Accessed September 30, 2013: http://www.rogerwhitson.net/19thcenturyreading/are-we-all-a-modern-prometheus/

“JITP Form Results.” 2012. Email to Roger Whitson. 30 December.

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Kent, Charles. 1872. Charles Dickens as a Reader. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott. OCLC: 4820273.

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Morrison, Robert and Daniel S. Roberts. 2013. Romanticism and Blackwood’s Magazine. London, Palgrave. OCLC: 811729078.

Rice, Jeff. 2006. “The Making of ka-knowledge: Digital Aurality.” Computers and Composition 23: 266-279. OCLC: 442994478.

Rubery, Matthew. 2009. “Victorian Literature Out Loud: Digital Audio Resources for the Classroom.” Journal of Victorian Culture 14.1: 134-9. OCLC: 378506896.

Sample, Mark. 2013. “Guidelines.” ENGL 300 The Graphic Novel. Accessed September 30, 2013: http://samplereality.com/gmu/engl300/guidelines-2

Sample, Mark. 2011. “On Reading Aloud in the Classroom.” Samplereality. 14 Sept. Accessed September 30, 2013: http://www.samplereality.com/2011/09/14/on-reading-aloud-in-the-classroom/

Sample, Mark. 2012. “Serial Concentration is Deep Concentration.” Samplereality. 12 February. Accessed September 30, 2013: http://www.samplereality.com/2012/02/12/serial-concentration/

St. Clair, William. 2004. The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP. OCLC: 53886917.

Stuckey, Colleen. 2012. “Modern Sherlock.” The 19th Century British Novel. 5 December. Accessed September 30, 2013: http://www.rogerwhitson.net/19thcenturyreading/modern-sherlock/

Tokuno, Deven. 2012. “Gossip Girl, Jane Austen Style.” The 19th Century British Novel. 5 December. Accessed September 30, 2013: http://www.rogerwhitson.net/19thcenturyreading/gossip-girl-jane-austen-style/

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[1] Hybrid Pedagogy, a publication that exists between a traditional journal and a social media ecosystem, offers a pretty powerful model. Further, Mark Sample, Katherine Fitzpatrick, and Barbara Fister’s discussion of “serial scholarship” is yet another. In a post about “Blogs as Serialized Scholarship,” Fitzpatrick discusses how the academic journal emerged during the Enlightenment as a formalized version of the letters scholars wrote to one another, often without the formal conclusion that exist in so many journal articles. “[W]hen a scholar with a blog writes a bit about some ideas-in-process,” Fitzpatrick notes, “receives some feedback in response, returns with further ideas, reiterates, and so on, we can glimpse again the seriality that has always been at the heart of scholarly production” (2013).
[2] I took a few ideas for the editorial portion of my own class from Cheryl Ball’s editorial approach to pedagogy. Her serialized article “Editorial Pedagogy” illustrates how she emphasizes editing and publishing throughout her scholarly identity. In her first entry in the series, she details how she “teach[es] apprentices to analyze genre ecologies, practice those genres with those contexts in mind, and set up multiple levels of revision feedback specific to the situations in which those genres would be received or evaluated” (Ball 2012). While her set up is useful for someone who also acts as the editor of a well-regarded composition journal (Kairos), I felt that inviting editors from JITP worked better in my specific situation.
[3] Paul Fyfe and Pamela Gilbert guided me through potential readings for the course and suggested some paths I could take in understanding reading practices during the Victorian period.
[4] Emily McCormack noted how “in Austen’s time, reading was not something to be praised. I mean women reading was almost scandalous, especially the types of novels that Catherine would read. But in today’s society, it seems as if the world would be overjoyed if more students picked up something as ridiculous as a Twilight novel. I like the contrast between these two worlds” (McCormack 2012).
[5] Of particular note is Patrick Brantlinger’s argument that novels grew more bourgeois from the period between 1800 and 1840. “That change,” Brantlinger suggests, “has less to do with new readers or the sheer increase of literacy than with, on the one hand, evangelical and utilitarian stress on reforming public morality and, on the other, the industrial and commercial restructuring of the ‘literary field,’ including printers, publishers, reviewers, booksellers, readers, and of course authors” (Brantlinger 1998, 12). See also Richard Altick’s foundational work The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass-Reading Public for further information about the history of book-reading in the nineteenth century.
[6] Maggie Lane has noted that novel reading for families was a common pasttime after dinner. “Most people,” Lane observes, “took it for granted that they must amuse one another during those last hours of the day. In Jane Austen’s own family there was often reading aloud” (Lane 1995, 50).
[7] Matthew Rubery briefly discusses his own reading aloud project in “Victorian Literature Out Loud: Digital Audio Resources for the Classroom.” Rubery writes that “[t]he use of podcasts […] can instill awareness of the ways in which media influence our understanding of literary texts while at the same time providing students with a free audiobook at the end of the semester” (Rubery 2009, 139). Similary, Susan Cook shares the success of her own oral reading project in which she “expurgated A Christmas Carol into a version that could be read in an hour, divided up the text into ‘roles’ – without transforming the text into a script – and arranged for the students to perform a reading for the Southern New Hampshire University community at the end of the semester” (Cook 2013).

[8] Rice sees the dislocation of topos in aural composition as its contribution to digital pedagogy:

What makes ka-knowledge valuable to any type of writing pedagogy concerned with technology and communication, is how it moves attention away from the dominant topos-themes of knowledge acquisition in terms of power (either empowerment or resistance to power structures) or the still prevalent topos concept of literacy. Ka-knowledge is the digital rhetorical practice of assemblage. Whether it is used for empowering the subject or forging a political or cultural position or acquiring financial stability and professional success is not relevant (though any one of these points may occur). What is important is the recognition of a different method of forming ideas and presenting such ideas. (Rice 2006, 277-8)

[9] Unfortunately, time and the reading demands of the course made it difficult to incorporate such readings into the schedule. If I teach the course again, I will be more direct about the importance of design and editing to the history of reading in the period. The letters of the second John Murray, Byron’s editor, would form an important aspect of the course, as would essays from Robert Morrison and Daniel S. Roberts’s collection Romanticism and Blackwood’s Magazine. Blackwood’s Magazine published original work from many of the authors in the nineteenth century including Coleridge, Percy Shelley, Thomas de Quincey, George Eliot, and Elizabeth Clementine Stedman.
[10] One example is the fact that WordPress sites are designed around the blog as an organizational device. It’s one thing to criticize the decision to design a management system around the blog; it’s another to see that choice within the larger cultural history of the blog as a means for disseminating information quickly, or, as I mentioned earlier, the blog as repeating the Enlightenment practice of exchanging letters between scholars. The much more open design of Drupal, organized as it is around endless and sometimes incompatible modules, offers another possibility. Historically, it would be useful to make an analogy between WordPress and Drupal on the one hand, and commercial printers and DIY-printmakers like William Blake on the other. While WordPress offers some design choices, users ultimately have to sacrifice control for ease of use like authors did with commercial printers in the nineteenth century. Drupal offers much more control, but to make a Drupal site you need to become skilled at hacking their modules. Blake, as the inventor of a technique called relief etching, where etchings were produced as a negative of the desired image, had much more control over his prints. Yet these prints were never adopted by the larger printing industry since they were difficult to reproduce quickly, nor was Blake’s work ever really commercially-viable as a mass produced product. See the work of Michael Phillips, Joseph Viscomi, Robert Essick, and Mei-Ying Sung for more information about Blake’s printing methods.
[11] The 2011 WSU course description for DTC 355 says that it investigates “[w]riting for new computer-based media; multimedia authoring project; examination of new rhetorics of information technology” (Details for DTC 355 Fall 2013, WSU Online 2013).

Digital Literary Pedagogy: An Experiment in Process-oriented Publishing

Roger Whitson, Kimon Keramidas, and Amanda Licastro


Digital Literary Pedagogy: An Experiment in Process-Oriented Publishing

What classroom roles do journal editors have in the digital age? Roger Whitson invited JITP editors Amanda Licastro and Kimon Keramidas into his class on “The Nineteenth-Century Novel” to explore how editors can supplement traditional classroom instruction and investigate the purpose of design and digital publishing in literary period courses. The course involved a history of reading and book-design in the nineteenth century, along with assignments that encouraged students to experience reading and writing in different modalities. Over the course of twenty months this project has resulted in a wide variety of content, both formal and informal. To display that process and those materials, the authors have designed this project in the form of the interactive timeline below, which gives the scope of the project as a whole. Included in the timeline are date markers of specific milestones and events that took place during the process but don’t link to any specific product, links to documents and multimedia elements created in the evolution of that process, and links to the final formal articles published in the journal.



In the timeline, the authors have presented the website Whitson made for his class; the site designed by the students for the final project; a final reflective Google Hangout between the JITP editors, Whitson, and his class; drafts of the authors’ work in progress on Google Docs; and links to the final written pieces for the journal. The two articles by Whitson, Keramidas and Licastro reflect on the process and products of this collaboration. Whitson’s “Digital Literary Pedagogy: Teaching Technologies of Reading the Nineteenth Century” explores the unique way literary studies can contribute to digital pedagogy by highlighting the historical and cultural contexts of editorial and publication practices in the nineteenth century and comparing them to similar media shifts occurring today on podcasts, in blogs, and on streaming video. Keramidas and Licastro’s “Practicing Collaboration in Process and Product: A Response to ‘Digital Literary Pedagogy’” frames the class from the perspective of journal editors who contributed to the teaching of the course and illustrates the complications of teaching students to combine audience awareness, multimedia design, and period-specific literary content. Together these separate elements reflect different stages and manifestations of the process of instruction, reflection and production that occur as teachers and students consider and execute the role of technology in pedagogy and publication.


About the Authors

Roger Whitson is Assistant Professor of English and Digital Technology and Culture at Washington State University. Most recently, he is the author (with Jason Whittaker) of William Blake and the Digital Humanities: Collaboration, Participation, and Social Media (Routledge 2012). He has written “How to Survive a Graduate Career,” published by Workplace: A Journal of Academic Labor; and “Altac and the Tenure-Track” for The Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as a number of pieces about Blake and the genre of steampunk. He is currently working on a special issue of Romantic Circles devoted to “Blake & Pedagogy” and a book theorizing steampunk within emergent practices of critical making, digital humanities, and alt-history.

Kimon Keramidas is Assistant Professor and Director of the Digital Media Lab at the Bard Graduate Center, where he is responsible for the development and implementation of digital media practices across academic programs and for the Focus Gallery project. Kimon also serves on the Editorial Collective of The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy and is Director of Digital Initiatives for the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center where he leads new initiatives in the integration of digital media in support of the center’s programs. Kimon’s academic research centers on two areas of study: the role of intellectual property in contemporary theatrical production and the sociocultural impact of interface design in personal computing. Kimon has had articles published in the journals Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy and Currents in Electronic Literacy, in the collections Objects of Exchange (co-authored with Aaron Glass), Theater und Medien: Theatre and the Media, and Studying the Event Film: The Lord of the Rings (co-authored with Henry Bial and Ryan Reynolds), and on the sites Profhacker and Mediacommons’s The New Everyday.

Amanda Licastro is a doctoral candidate in the English Program at the Graduate Center, CUNY and is an Instructional Technology Fellow at Macaulay Honors College. She is currently working on her dissertation, which focuses on student writing in online open spaces, and recently completed her certificate in Interactive Technology and Pedagogy through an independent study involving her work on the Writing Studies Tree. Amanda is also a co-director of the CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative and serves on the Editorial Collective of The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy.

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