Wrenching Things Awry: From “Explication de texte” to Cybertext in the College Literature Classroom

By Josephine Koster, Sara Jane Blumenschine, William M. Folden, Eric W. Hill, Randall H. Mahan, Jr., Samantha A. Sigmon, Christopher Smith, Kevin Stone and Megan Wasson.

Published by Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

As literature instructors face classrooms full of digital natives (Prensky 2001), we must interrogate the methods used to teach traditional literary analysis and evaluate whether they may be enhanced or even supplanted by using digital technologies to supplement traditional print-based assignments. Our collaborative paper details an experiment in an upper-division literature class to analyze and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the traditional literature class assignment to “explicate the meaning of a poem” by having students create parallel versions—one a traditional, print-based essay and the other a multimedia presentation using Microsoft PhotoStory 3. In this paper, the instructor (Koster) will delineate the purpose and requirement of the assignment; a majority of the students completing the assignment (Blumenschine, Folden, Hill, Mahan, Sigmon, Smith, Stone, Wasson) will contribute their analyses of composing in these different modalities; and Koster will draw preliminary conclusions based on the class’s overall results in completing the assignment. We argue that while the traditional print-based text allows closer attention to literary language and form, multi-media texts allow students to examine the nuances of tone, diction, and imagery in richer and more imaginative ways by choosing visual and auditory reinforcement of their interpretative scripts. In addition, we argue that the addition of the students’ own voices (as narrators) allows them to develop and portray an authorial ethos in ways the traditional “student writing to teacher” print essay does not. Thus, while both forms of the assignment have great value for students of literature, the multimodal text allows more opportunities to demonstrate synthetic skills and to facilitate deep learning (Marton & Saljo 1976). We recommend that students in literary analysis classes be given the opportunity to explore the possibilities both kinds of assignments offer for learning. Materials from the assignment, including samples of student print and digital work, will be available for review at http://faculty.winthrop.edu/kosterj/scholarly/ubiquitous.htm.

Keywords: Cybertext, Literature, Analysis, Pedagogy, Digital Natives, Deep Learning, Ethos, Multi-Media

Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.1-6. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.540MB).

Dr. Josephine Koster

Associate Professor of English, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, USA

I am a medievalist and poet who teaches literature classes in both traditional and multimedia formats and a variety of writing courses that incorporate digital learning. I received my Ph.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1985 and have published widely in medieval studies, composition and rhetoric, and poetry, as well as working as a technical writing consultant with organizations such as Bell Labs and the BOC group. Currently I serve as department Web coordinator and am a member of my University’s E-Tech team, charged with finding and evaluating cutting-edge technologies appropriate for our classrooms.

Sara Jane Blumenschine

Department of English, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, USA

I am an undergraduate English major at Winthrop University.

William M. Folden

Department of English, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, USA

I received my B.A. in English from Winthrop University and am pursuing my M.A. in English, also at Winthrop University.

Eric W. Hill

Department of Political Science, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, USA

I am an undergraduate Political Science major at Winthrop University.

Randall H. Mahan, Jr.

Department of English, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, USA

I am pursuing my B.A. in English with an emphasis in Writing at Winthrop University.

Samantha A. Sigmon

Department of English, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, USA

I am a senior English major at Winthrop University, graduating in May 2009.

Christopher Smith

Department of English, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, USA

I am pursuing my bachelor’s degree in English at Winthrop University.

Kevin Stone

Department of English, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, USA

I am pursuing a B.A. degree in English at Winthrop University.

Megan Wasson

Department of Mass Communication, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, USA

I am completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications at Winthrop University and seeking a career in Broadcast Journalism.