WWP The Project Newsletter Archive Volume 3,Number 1 Pilot Courses

Pilot Courses Offered On-Line Using WWP Texts

Professor Carol Barash, Seton Hall University

This spring and summer I am using electronic texts from the WWP textbase in a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses. Working closely with Paul Caton and Julia Flanders of the WWP, I came up with a number of ways to "test drive" the textbase, and see how it might be used in typical classroom situations. My goal was to explore the strengths and the limits of the textbase for undergraduate and graduate teaching, and to provide information to the WWP about the range of ways students can work with women's writing on-line.

My first classroom visit to the textbase was in a graduate seminar on Restoration drama and eighteenth-century popular narrative. The course - which also included works by Dryden, Behn, Congreve, Haywood, Barker, Defoe, Swift, Richardson, and Sarah and Henry Fielding - began with Cavendish and a general introduction to resources for scholarly study of literature available on the World Wide Web.

In the first week of class, students worked back and forth between the electronic textbase and a photocopy of The Convent of Pleasure, by Margaret Cavendish, duchess of Newcastle (1623-73). Students compared the use of key words around ideas about marriage, money, and freedom in Convent of Pleasure and other plays by Cavendish. They studied the use of different words by male and female characters, and in different Cavendish texts. We discussed the different levels of inquiry possible in the two media, and examined the texts' SGML markup, to see how the electronic text is structured, and how the structural markup creates opportunities for teaching and working with the electronic version of a literary text.

This semester I also used the WWP textbase in a pilot of a computing-intensive literature and composition course, to show students how texts are created and structured electronically. Students explored the differences between print and electronic editions (and wrote wonderful papers about the differences in reader response in the different media).

I am most excited about a new Women's Studies course I will be teaching this summer, which uses only texts from the WWP textbase. An intensive four-week course, Gender, Technology, and Research will introduce undergraduate and graduate students to electronic texts and humanities computing, enabling them not only to use but also to produce on-line resources for the study of gender and literary and historical texts. Students will explore how ideas about gender and textuality have been shaped historically, paying particular attention to how gender informs the production and dissemination of different kinds of texts. I'm going to teach students HTML and SGML, so they can add analytical markup to texts in the WWP corpus, and produce their own TEI-conformant electronic texts.

As with any information-technology-intensive course, this one involved a lot of planning and teamwork. I tried to structure the course to address conceptual and pedagogical concerns of the WWP developers and users - how do students work with electronic texts? how are their assignments and discussions structured? how do they work individually and in groups? what kinds of texts work best on-line? I also wanted to enable students - especially women students - to become comfortable both with the technology and with early women's writing.

Over the past 12 months, in addition to ongoing discussions with Julia Flanders and Paul Caton, I have worked closely with Christopher G. Fox and Maxime Gentles from the Center for Academic Technology (CAT) at Seton Hall, meeting weekly to develop the course home page, student assignments, and group work. The home page for the course, which will be available soon at http://www.shu.edu/~barashca/courses. And student projects from the course will be linked to my web site at the end of the summer. I'd love to hear from other people who are using the WWP textbase in their courses, and especially how they are using it and where they'd like it to go. Please forward your comments to wwp@brown.edu.

Note: the WWP textbase will be available for test use starting within a few months. More information on how to get access to the test site will be forthcoming soon.

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