When one thinks of a literature class, the first thought may not be an online class. The field of literature has the reputation of being traditional, but many professors are trying innovative technology strategies within the literature classroom to increase knowledge and engagement. This research guide is for instructors new to teaching literature online or those who want to remain current in the topic. It provides both theoretical and practical sources to get started in the challenging but rewarding endeavor of teaching literature in a virtual environment.
Prepared by Carissa Baker
Watch a virtual world created to guide students through Elie Wiesel's novel Night.
Virtual worlds can help increase student engagement and literary knowledge. Here are some examples:
A contemporary avatar meets the virtual Globe Theatre. Watch a video of the animated Shakespeare theatre here.
Read about the possibilities of acting out plays, from Shakespeare to contemporary theatre, in Second Life here.
This presentation is a great example of using a virtual world for immersion learning, in this case to study Hemingway.
Explore the concept of "digitally amplified fiction" here.
The following sources use primarily social constructivist and new media principles to design collaborative, interactive spaces to enhance the teaching of literature. You may want to check some of them out!
Bowers-Campbell, Joy. “Take It Out of Class: Exploring Virtual Literature Circles.” Journal of Adolescent and
Adult Literacy 54.8 (2011): 557-567. Web. EBSCO. 8 Feb. 2014.
Bowers-Campbell argues that virtual literature circles are effective in literature courses because of their ability to “facilitate socially constructed learning opportunities” (565). She cites research in addition to her own study that indicates that this strategy increases comprehension, motivation, engagement, social and communication skills, and “authentic reading experiences” (557). The article is short but packs in theory, context, a study with results, and examples of student discussions.
Estrada, Gabriel. “Native Avatars, Online Hubs, and Urban Indian Literature.” Studies in
American Indian Literatures 23.2 (2011): 48-70. Web. ERIC. 8 Feb. 2014.
In this article, Estrada takes the approach of using technology to enhance the teaching of Native American literature; he does this by facilitating art and activism by linking to “oral traditions, lands, and contemporary Nations” (49). His classes use Second Life, author emails, web pages of native Nations, online texts, and a resource called NativeWiki. This interesting article would be a resource for anyone wanting to teach multi-faceted literatures that link to contemporary society and culture.
Fyfe, Paul. “How to Not Read a Victorian Novel.” Journal of Victorian Culture 16.1 (2011): 84-88. Web. EBSCO.
21 Feb. 2014.
Fyfe documents an unconventional way of teaching Victorian literature: teaching students not to read the text in a linear, traditional way but instead using technology tools to digitize it, break the text into word clouds and then use text analysis engines in an attempt to make meaning. While he admits the activity can be “unsettling” for students and instructors, it can also “defamiliarize” structure and help students become comfortable with questioning and “the condition of not knowing” (85). Though this is a short article, it exemplifies notions of inventive teaching and play.
Harris, Katherine. “TechnoRomanticism: Creating Digital Editions in an Undergraduate
Classroom.” Journal of Victorian Culture 16.1 (2011): 89-94. Web. EBSCO. 8 Feb. 2014.
In this article, Harris discusses a Romantic Survey course that is transformed into “Techno-Romanticism,” a class that uses technology to enhance the teaching of Romantic literature, with a primary strategy of creating digital hypertext editions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. She argues that literature periods are “inherently multi-modal and collaborative,” so the teaching of literature should be too (94). Though this article is short, it is current and relevant.
Kayalis, Takis and Anastasia Natsina, eds. Teaching Literature at a Distance: Open, Online
and Blended Learning. NY: Continuum, 2010. Print.
Kayalis and Natsina break their text into three sections: curriculum and pedagogical development, the challenges and potentials of using technology tools in the literature classroom and specific uses of technology in example classes. The authors in this volume explore technologies including video games, hyperfiction, and interactive cities as options, especially as teaching literature “poses significant challenges when transferred from face-to-face to distance learning” (1). While the volume’s primary audience is instructors of open online education, the theoretical perspectives and examples would be useful to any online literature teacher.
Kunze, Peter. “To Tweet or Not to Tweet: Using Twitter in the Literature Classroom.”
Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice 6.1 (2013): 53-63. Web.
Central Piedmont Community College. 21 Feb. 2014.
In this article, Kunze, a professor formerly hesitant to engage the newest technologies, discusses how Twitter has a transformative effect in his classroom through projects like adapting readings into Tweets, role-playing as novel character Tweets, creating prequels and sequels, reader response microblogs, and co-lectures. He finds that Twitter “empower[s] students as writers, readers, and thinkers,” engages them and “foster[s] textual, visual, and digital literacies” (53-4). This recent article uses current technology to enhance the literature class, so it would be a useful read, especially for reluctant instructors.
Lancashire, Ian, ed. Teaching Literature and Language Online. NY: MLA, 2009. Print.
Lancashire organizes his text into articles on uniting pedagogy and delivery, teaching language online and teaching literature online. The articles encompass multiple strategies (blogging, hypertext, online research, communities, archives, wikis, etc.) and periods to effectively teach literature in a “disembodied space” (5). This text has an extensive amount of valuable information for the potential online literature teacher; it is the most lengthy and detailed book on this list.
McGillivray, Murray. “Online Teaching of Old English: Wave of the Future or Wave Goodbye?”
Literature Compass 9.12 (2012): 983-990. Web. MLA International Bibliography. 20 Feb.
McGillivray explains the discouraging evolution of Old English online; while medievalists immediately embraced technology and it thrived, there has since been a complete reversal in availability and interest because of everything from institutional emphasis on scholarship over teaching to individual burnout and lack of funding. He emphasizes the criteria for both developing and sustaining innovative projects: funding, a “supportive institutional environment,” a “passionate individual commitment,” continuity of support, realistic evaluation of media, and attention to students’ needs (987). While this article is short, it would be a valuable lesson for anyone who wants to attempt a technology project amidst institutional pressures.
Vasileiou, Lykourgos. “Positioning the Implied Reader: Using Hypertext to Enhance Students’
Reading Experience of The Waste Land.” Teaching American Literature: A Journal of
Theory and Practice 4.4 (2011): 87-97. Web. Central Piedmont Community College. 21
Lykourgos uses a hypertext edition of Eliot’s The Waste Land in class; the version is side-by-side with a traditional version and has hyperlinked allusions that fill in knowledge gaps. The author argues that this kind of text helps students understand the implied reader and Modernist writing tendencies while also lessening “historical, social, cultural” distance and unfamiliar or exclusive material (87). This article illustrates the potential of utilizing technology within the course text and not only in the management of the course.
Webb, Allen, ed. Teaching Literature in Virtual Worlds: Immersive Learning in English Studies.
NY: Routledge, 2012. Print.
Webb collects a quality group of articles focused on using virtual worlds to “support and extend the reading of literary works” (vii). The authors describe multiple virtual worlds including intertextual maps, virtual tours, role-playing, alternative reality games, second worlds, textual riffs, and virtual museums. The constructivist and new media literacy principles combined with creative examples from the literature classroom make this a valuable text for teachers who want to utilize innovative technologies; it is, in fact, the only book of its kind.