Monthly Archives: August 2015

There is No Hope of Tenure

If you follow me on Twitter, than you know that I’ve recently started a VAP position. It is renewable for up to three years. That is good, especially after adjuncting for the past year. The pay is better. The benefits are better. The resources are better. The creature comforts are good. However, at the end of the day, it is still a contractual position. Yes, it is for the year and I don’t have to worry about receiving a contract for the spring. I’ll be paid during the summer, too. But things happen way above our pay grades. Multi-year jobs used to come with the sense that they were an assured longer-term position. Short of disasters in the classroom, one could expect to reach that full allotment of the multiple years, but now so much is in flux with higher education. I would never count on anything in higher education anymore.

I’ll be going on the job market for the fall. It has nothing to do with the position that I currently hold. It is all about the system. I can’t afford not to do go on the market again. There is no longer the luxury of taking a year off in a multi-year position and focusing on publications and other professionalization activities. Time is running out and we can’t bank on much in higher education anymore. However, I can bank on getting older. I can bank on my PhD getting stale. I can bank on having only limited opportunities to solve the two-body problem. I can bank on continued economic strain.

The silly season of hiring, though small in numbers, is already here. It has been here since the summer. We don’t have to wait for the MLA Job List to come out. We run by the fiscal year now, not the academic calendar. However, there is an uptick in listings on various sites now that the academic year has started. More will come. That more is, of course, relative since there really aren’t that many jobs to be had. We all know that.

In academic job postings for this week, I saw an advertisement for a tenure-track position in the University of Wisconsin system. I think it is clear based on the reaction of faculty in the University of Wisconsin system and commentators on higher education that tenure in Wisconsin is dead. If not dead, then tenure in Wisconsin is certainly dying. It isn’t just the loss of tenure in Wisconsin that matters. The real danger of Wisconsin is that Scott Walker has provided a model for reducing public universities and tenure than can be adopted in all 50 states.

I can’t read that job ad for the tenure-track position in the University of Wisconsin system and believe it. Even though the ad claims this is a tenure-track position, there is no tenure. If there is no tenure in Wisconsin, then there certainly can be no tenure anywhere. If there is tenure now, then there is no guarantee that it will exist by the time a person is at a 1 or 3 year review, let alone the 6 or so years to come up for tenure. Do you want to bet on any of that happening? I certainly don’t.

Having recently moved, I have no cable or internet in my apartment. I packed lightly and didn’t even take my trusty radio that I bought when I was in high school. I did bring my Xbox. But DRM is a pain without the internet. On a whim, just as I was going to hop in the car, I grabbed my DVD of Band of Brothers. I’ve been watching that as I’ve unpacked and set up my apartment. I was struck by the dialogue between two characters in one of the early episodes, Lieutenant Speirs and Albert Blithe. The conversation between Speirs and Blithe occurs in the days after the D-Day. Speirs is the soldier that is unafraid; Blithe is experiencing the emotional effects of combat and is frightened. The dialogue between the two, I think, has a lot to add to our feelings about tenure, the lack of it, and what can be done about it.

Capt. Ronald Speirs: What’s your name, trooper?

Pvt. Albert Blithe: Blithe, sir. Albert Blithe.

Capt. Ronald Speirs: You know why you hid in that ditch, Blithe?

Pvt. Albert Blithe: I was scared.

Capt. Ronald Speirs: We’re all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there’s still hope. But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier’s supposed to function. Without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends on it.

For Speirs “accept[ing] that you’re already dead” is tied directly to “function[ing] as a soldier is supposed to function.” Albert Blithe is afraid, just like many early career academics. The argument early on in academia is to put your head down, don’t make any waves and survive until you get tenure. I think what Speirs offers is a viable alternative to that line of thinking. Give up that hope of tenure and one can function not only better, but actually survive. Given the circumstances facing higher education, putting one’s head down to survive is clearly not working and it isn’t going to work. The early career academic thinks there is still hope of tenure. What if there is no hope, specifically of tenure and we operate under the assumption? If we overlay what Speirs has to say about being a functioning soldier on to higher education, then I think we can get somewhere. Instead of hope and death, think about what Speirs says if we swap out those words for tenure.

Of course, it is problematic to make this comparison between tenure and war, especially when Speirs observes that a well-functioning solider does so “without mercy, without compassion, and without remorse.” One of the arguments for the benefits of tenure is that people can than advocate and stick their necks out for other people, for causes, and for ideals. If we act with no hope of tenure, then can’t we, maybe, act now with mercy and compassion to others, our values, and our ideals? And, more importantly, act with the mercy and compassion that our fields and students need right now?

If you aren’t into Band of Brothers, and are troubled by the war metaphor, I think the same line of thinking about acting like there is no tenure can be achieved by thinking that “there is no spoon.” I imagine I could have written about the Matrix, but I’ve never seen it and I’m more familiar with Band of Brothers. What I know about the Matrix and the spoon is largely second-hand from memes and the internet, but it seems the idea could fit, too.

I am still thinking about my “no hope” comparison and one thing in the back of my mind as I parse through these ideas is the issue of publication, especially after reading Megan Kate Nelson’s two recent (and excellent and awesome) posts about leaving academia. I recommend that you read them: here and here. They are honest and sincere and we need those voices that are willing to share such stories. I’m unsure about how to balance my ideas from Band of Brothers with Nelson’s recommendation here:

And fourth, if you are a graduate student or an adjunct, Do Not Publish Too Much. One article, maybe two. If you’ve already written a book, keep the manuscript in your desk drawer until you have a tenure-track job. Then pull it out, polish it, and send it to presses.

Under my Band of Brother’s metaphor this doesn’t matter because we are acting like tenure doesn’t exist and that there is no hope. However, Nelson’s point is about being hired in the first place, let alone getting tenure. As she notes:

I was an adjunct with two books. In the rigid world of academic hiring, I didn’t make sense to any search committee out there. I was too experienced for assistant professorships, and there was no way any dean would approve hiring an adjunct with tenure. I had published too much, and I had made myself unhireable.

Clearly my Band of Brothers comparison only goes so far and needs more fleshing out. Maybe there is an asterisk for the publishing issue that Nelson raises. Clearly, I need to think more about these intersections. However, I think my comparison holds up on a host of other issues related to academia. There is no reason to be fearful and not function as an ally, an advocate, or an innovative teacher or public scholar / intellectual. The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re not getting tenure, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a teacher, scholar, or a public intellectual’s supposed to function: With mercy, with compassion, without regret. All of higher education depends on it.

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Kicking off Syllabus Week without a Syllabus

I did not email students a syllabus today. Nor did I upload a syllabus to a course management site. And I did not give students a copy of the syllabus in class.

I am struck by the above sentences because they are filled with authority. I made choices. I did things—or in this case I did not do things. I have power, control, and authority to do things in the classroom, like not hand out a syllabus.

My aim in extending this authority to not hand out a syllabus is ultimately to relinquish some of my authority and privilege to my students. I do this in hopes to make a better class through collaboration with my students.

I’m not sure how well it went today by not beginning class and the semester with handing out a syllabus. I tried this very thing last semester on the first day of classes. It did not go so well. I think today went better than the previous semester.

I did tell students that our class would be themed and that the theme would be higher education. I think having that theme gives some structure to the thought-process of students and myself when confronted with a day without out a syllabus. The things we talked and wrote about in class today had a direction to move towards.

Last semester, I learned a great deal about students and myself by not handing out a syllabus. I realized how accustomed I became to the syllabus as a first day crutch. I learned that students do need a certain level of assurance on the first day of classes. They need to leave the class that day with a sense of some expectation and a trajectory for the course. That is only natural. However, it is also a byproduct, and I learned this by teaching dual enrollment courses, of the public school system where everything is spelled out and students are robbed of any agency.

Since students are likely presented with an opportunity to exert their agency in the classroom for the first time in an educational setting, I knew that my first day needed to be planed out in greater detail than I usually do for the first day of the semester. I came with the day mapped out on a piece of paper. I had questions written down to use as writing exercises. The writing exercises, all questions relating to the course, class expectations, and college, too, provide students an avenue to engage their agency. It provides an avenue to create something of their own when they don’t have a document like a syllabus on the first day. These short pieces of writing and the experience of sharing them in class provide students opportunities to engage collaboratively with the purpose and the direction of the course. I think that is important because an on-the-fly discussion can be overwhelming the first day of class. On the first day of class, in time that would have been eaten by going over a syllabus, students created and shared something that did not exist when they entered the classroom. That, I think, is more powerful than reading a syllabus.

There are several immediate benefits to not handing out a syllabus and they have, I think, some profound pedagogical impacts, especially for the composition classroom. In prefacing the brief writing we did today, I encourage students to be themselves, to write what they wanted to write, and to not write a correct answer, or an answer they thought I would like. It seemed, to me at least, that I received some knowing head nodding in response. Hopefully my encouragement worked. Perhaps it didn’t. However, I think such encouragement is more likely to work when it isn’t prefaced by a 10 page document of authority, policies, though shall not and don’t do this. Even the most student centered syllabus, void of language that allows, permits, and gives permission, is still a powerful contract with a great deal of authority. I’m not sure there is a way around that authority of a syllabus, but not giving out a syllabus on the first day of class certainly helps.

Having learned from my experience on the first day of class last semester, I knew that I needed to do something today that would also provide students a level of comfort and expectation for the class. We did two things in class to help address these concerns. First, we briefly looked at the course description and outcomes for class that are hosted on the website of the first-year writing program. I shared with students how to find it and I’ll be emailing the link to them today. I also briefly discussed the requirements for the course that are dictated by the program. I also described some of the areas in the course where we can collaborate on the policies. Second, I invited students to write down any questions or concerns that they had about the course. Those will be useful as the course and the syllabus comes together. I also suspect they will be more honest when not prefaced by an extensive presentation on the rules and regulations contained in the syllabus.

I certainly think today could have been better, but it went okay. My class today was my first 50-minute class in years. I’ve grown accustomed to the pacing of longer classes. I accounted for this in my class preparation notes by triaging certain things that I wanted to do in class. I will follow up with these items on Wednesday. For the longer classes, I suspect we will be able to cover what I did not cover in the class today.

Walking back to my office I had the chance to overhear many instructors handing out their syllabi. The more classes that I passed, the more that I overheard things, the better I felt about not giving out a syllabus today. I overheard one instructor tell their class that they like to go over the syllabus line by line. I certainly did not want to go over a syllabus line by line. While today could have been better, I am hopeful that it was a better experience for the students and myself than going over a syllabus line by line.

Note: My thinking about not handing out a syllabus is largely shaped by following Jesse Stommel and many, many others on Twitter over the past year or so. I’ve also found that reading materials shared on Hybrid Pedagogy has also been helpful, too. I’ve found a great community via Twitter; I’m thankful for that.

I realized in writing this post that I used we a lot—as in we wrote about this and wrote about that. In writing this post I am aware of the fact that I did not write anything in class. For class on Tuesday, I will certainly do my own writing. Not writing today was a mistake on my part.

Yes, there will be a syllabus. I’ll have it posted by the end of the week. It will be crafted based on what comes out of class discussions over the course of the coming days.

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Some Thoughts on the Death of Cecil the Lion

I didn’t have a chance last week, but that I have some free time I wanted to write about Cecil the Lion. Specifically, I want to address the vitriolic reaction that some had on Twitter and elsewhere online to the fact that people were up in arms about the death of an animal.

Honestly, I was surprised by the reaction. I know many people feel that there are other issues to be upset about and that certain things demand a call to action. Any of the events in the United States and the globe from the past year should be enough to make people become socially and politically active. That isn’t how humans work and we aren’t wired that way. It just isn’t the case. We have an affinity for animals.

We should care more about Michael Brown. We should care more about the events that transpired in Baltimore. We should be angry about what is happening in Syria. We should be mad about what is happening in Greece. Again, that isn’t how humans mostly work.

But the death of Cecil the Lion wasn’t about a missing plane. It wasn’t about the birth of a royal baby. And it certainly wasn’t about deflated footballs. It was an event that mattered to people. And, I can’t say this enough: the plight of animals and the environment resonates with people. The death of Cecil the Lion presented the opportunity to care about poaching, conservation, the trade in illegal animal parts. It was a moment to look beyond the screen of a tv, a cellphone, or a video game. It resonated with people. Donations in the wake of Cecil’s death meant that one anti-poaching endeavor, at the brink of running out of funding and shutting down, is now fully funded and continue their work.

People cared about something, but for many people that didn’t matter because they cared about the wrong thing. An undercurrent to the negative reaction to Cecil’s death was the unstated argument that some things matter more. Specifically, what matters more are the things that others care about and advocate for in their lives. Furthermore, the reaction suggested that the perceived temporary outrage about Cecil the Lion didn’t matter and it wasn’t as valuable as the issues that other people are concerned about addressing.

Instead of criticizing what people care about, we should foster that concern and hope that they become concerned and aware of other social, political, economic, and environmental issues. These concerns should be fostered because they aren’t separate. Many of them are interconnected.

Personally, the negative reaction that I saw to the positive response of Cecil’s death also resonated with me. If you read my blog and follow me on Twitter, then you know I have a thing for meerkats. That personal interest of mine has had consequences. My Twitter account hemorrhaged followers when I wrote a post about meerkats and academia. I don’t think that had anything to do with my take on academia; I think it was the meerkat metaphor. I sometimes have a drop in followers when I share things about meerkats on Twitter. It hurt at first, but now I don’t care. To riff of The Smiths: Academic Cats and Shit Academics Say are on your side. While meerkats are on mine.

I started following zoos, conservation groups, and other concerned parties on Twitter and Facebook in order to get my meerkat fix. I’ve learned a lot about meerkats over the past few months. And I’ve learned a lot about many other animals facing extinction due to illegal poaching, environmental destruction, and global warming. I don’t like to think that I am ill-informed, but I’ve learned a lot. And it started with meerkats.

My interest in meerkats might seem misguided, even in the realm of the animal kingdom, let along in relation to social and political issues involving people. Meerkats aren’t endangered. However, their homes, and by extension the homes of many other animals, are under threat from the actions of people. Additionally, meerkats could also face future threats from tuberculosis contracted from the expanding domestic livestock industry in southern Africa. I know from learning about other animals that the threats faced by meerkats are significant and capable of undoing even the most robust populations of animals, and, for the most part, they are caused by the actions of people.

In learning about meerkats I’ve become aware of the social construction of their mobs and the important role played by the dominant female and male in the group. Knowing about the social structure of meerkat mobs made me more aware of the importance of Cecil’s death in relation to his family group. (I’m not up all aspects of lions, so excuse any terminology or mischaracterizations.) Cecil protected his family from a range of threats, especially other roving male lions. From what I’ve read, power struggles amongst lions can be a bloody affair leaving cubs and other members of a pride dead or isolated. Cecil’s death is an example of the butterfly effect because, just like with meerkat mobs, the death of a leader means a possible disintegration of the family group.

Without knowing about meerkats I would not have known about the myriad of factors related and connected to Cecil’s death. I wouldn’t know about the difficulties faced by sanctuaries in Africa. I wouldn’t know about the dangers of poaching. I wouldn’t know concretely about the threats animals face by the destruction of their environments.

Social, political, economic, and environmental action starts somewhere. For me, it started with meerkats. For others it started, and hopefully continues, because of the death of Cecil the Lion. When people awake to an issue that resonates with them we should foster it. We should not belittle it and chastise them for not caring about what we think is important.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this song by the punk rock band, NOFX. I posted it last week on Twitter, but I think it worth posting again.

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Call me Ambitious: A Composition Class on Moby-Dick and its Contexts

If you’ve seen my Twitter posts the past two weeks, then you know I had the good fortune to attend an NEH Summer Institute hosed by The Rhode Island Historical Society. The Summer Institute was titled “Early American Women’s History: Teaching from within the Archives.” It was awesome and glorious. The institute was under the direction of Elyssa Tardif (Director of the Newell D. Goff Center for Education and Public Programs at the Rhode Island Historical Society) and Suzanne McCormack (Associate Professor of History at the Community College of Rhode Island). Marie Parys, also of the RIHS, was the coordinator of much of the logistics and an awesome contributor to the institute, too. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be revisiting my time at the Summer Institute through blog posts on various outlets.

Whale Swag. The two cds of sea shanties are still in the car.

Whale Swag. The two cds of sea shanties are still in the car.

Intermixed with my Twitter posts over the past two weeks you likely saw a lot of posts about whales, whaling, and Moby-Dick. I didn’t realize until I arrived in Rhode Island that I forgot to account for the weekend in the middle of the institute. We’d have two days off to do as we pleased. I immediately knew I was going to go to Mystic Seaport and to New Bedford. I’d never been to New Bedford and it had been a long time since I’d been to Mystic Seaport. I travel to Cape Cod almost every summer and passed these places. I’ve wanted to stop, but when you travel with shih tzus life is amazing, but travel is difficult.

This was my time to go to these places.

I love New England and that is an understatement. My mom traveled far and wide in New England. Growing up traveling to New England is what we did as a family. While working on my PhD at the University of Missouri, I often found myself homesick for Pennsylvania. That is expected. What I didn’t expect was being homesick for New England. Part of that homesickness grew out of spending so much time with Harriet Beecher Stowe. Stowe loved New England. Again, an understatement. And my intense feeling for New England manifested in strange ways. When cranberry season came along I’d buy the smaller and more delicate looking cranberries from Massachusetts. Not those monster cranberries from Wisconsin. I tracked down Bell’s Seasoning. I started planning for a New England Thanksgiving that acknowledged the various strands of history and culture that infused the foods of New England. I started this planning in October. Eventually, my mind started turning to Thanksgiving once August rolled around. I hunted down beers from New England. If I could have found decent oysters and knew how to shuck them, I’d have done that, too.

If given the opportunity to visit sites related to a quintessential aspect of New England culture, history, and tradition—then I was going to do it. I had a lot to make up for after being in Missouri. Don’t get me wrong—I love Missouri and I don’t have any of the angst that many people feel about the middle of the United States.

The active life of the Summer Institute meant that I didn’t have a lot of time, but I had a lot to do. The folks at the institute kept us busy with lectures, site visits, and welcoming us to the community of the Rhode Island Historical Society and the city of Providence. They also did not overwhelm us with too much and that meant spending a great deal of time with the participants of the institute outside of scheduled meetings and functions. Forming a community with participants is an important aspect of these NEH summer institutes and seminars; it is equally as important as what happens in the classroom. One thing that I needed to do was create / pitch a class to teach this fall. I was already thinking a lot about Moby-Dick. I was thinking a lot about the archives and what we learned about in our workshops. I was beginning to put these things together. My visits to Mystic Seaport and New Bedford helped to make my class idea come together.

Cotton Bale

Cotton Bale

One of the most striking features of the exhibits at Mystic Seaport, NewBedford Whaling Museum, and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park is the emphasis on a telling a complete story of whaling in the United States. Each of these institutions emphasized a story of whaling that brought together science, industry, technology, and people both on and off shore. However, what I found fascinating about these exhibits was how they each wove together the story of American whaling with aspects of the story that can easily be forgotten in the wake of the whale hunt. These exhibits told stories that brought together slavery, free African-Americans, the experience of women at home, the immigrant experience, Native Americans and many others. It was a long, rich history of connections that spanned the scope of whaling. I was also overwhelmed by the just how much the whaling industry touched the lives of people as consumers of products. I think all of the exhibits that I saw made it clear that there would be no New England textile mills without the human horror of slavery and the ecological horror of whaling.

Whaling and Textiles

Rise and Fall of Two Interconnected Industries

As I thought more about American whaling and how I would develop this class, I realized that people participating in whaling and its larger cultural influence didn’t need words like hemispheric, transnational, transatlantic, or oceanic studies. I felt that these people knew how much whaling touched their lives and it is manifested in the print and material culture that remains. The way whaling touched the lives of people also shows up in the sea shanties of the time and the numerous variations for many of the songs—and I think that is a powerful aspect of the sea shanties.

A global reach connecting locations around the globe: From New England to the coast of Africa

A global reach connecting locations around the globe: From New England to the coast of Africa

The influence of rhetorical studies on my teaching leads me to see “everything as an argument” and that everything is a text. In the light of my pedagogy, then the industry of whaling struck is a vast intertext— an interconnected world, one saturated with meaning and connections for the whalers, the industries, like textiles, that relied on whaling, and those on shore that were left behind or participated as consumers. The search for that intertext is what would drive the research and writing component of the class I was thinking about developing. Yes, we would read Moby-Dick, but it wouldn’t be about Moby-Dick, it would provide an opportunity for students to follow threads from the book that likely resonated for readers of the novel at the time and those that didn’t read it. Most importantly, I envision this course as an opportunity for students to pursue what resonates with them. I had in mind an opportunity for students to explore this subject of whaling based on their own interests. In this way I’d have the opportunity to draw on the amazing ideas and resources from the Summer Institute to collaborate with students in uncovering connected threads from Moby-Dick.

The Modernist resurrection of Moby-Dick gives it this aura of just floating out there in the world as a piece of art. I think that makes it hard to get to the heart of what resonates culturally with the book’s depiction of whaling. It isn’t Ishmael and the crew floating in the middle of nowhere. Moby-Dick and the whaling industry are tethered to the commerce and culture of the time. There is no escaping it. Even something as simple as a sea shanty is a testament to the same connections and pressures.

Another confluence of whaling and the textile industry occurs in “Johnny Come Down to Hilo.” Johnny is rather taken with a “down east gal with a down east style,” but the song likely originates with African-American work songs from the Gulf Coast. A low stakes digital humanities project in the classroom could map the locations mentioned in different versions of this shanty and others.

One reason that I was also drawn to the idea of class that would provide students the opportunity to explore the intertext and contexts of Moby-Dick is that there is a wealth of digital collections available online. Students wouldn’t have to rely on database access to historical collections. Access to resources is at the heart of how I plan my classes. I want students to have an opportunity to rely on databases and the library, plus other sources. However, as we well know, not all libraries have a wealth of resources. Thankfully American whaling has a robust digital presence thanks to some amazing work by various museums and archives.

At this point a reader of this post might be thinking “You spend all of your time thinking about Harriet Beecher Stowe. Couldn’t you do this with Uncle Tom’s Cabin?” That reader would be right: I could do this with Stowe. I am sure I will at some point. I do have selfish reasons for focusing on Moby-Dick. I do spend a lot time thinking about Stowe. This Moby-Dick class is something different. I think it is healthy for me pedagogically, mentally, and intellectually to do something with Moby-Dick and not Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

My selfish reasons aside, I do have an even bigger reason for pitching a class on Moby-Dick. I’m thinking of this as a course to be used as composition class. Yes, a composition class (and I’ll come back to this in a moment). In developing themed composition classes I’ve tried to create courses that would provide ALL students, regardless of interests and majors, to make their own connections and follow their own path of inquiry through research and writing. This idea of creating a space that empowers students to follow their own path is an important part of my pedagogy. In creating a class on Moby-Dick and not Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I’m thinking about the range of students that I’ll encounter, specifically STEM majors and students not in the humanities. In this regard, my selection of Moby-Dick is inspired by the full story of American whaling as told by the museums that I’ve visited recently. At these museums the story of whaling encompasses hundreds of years and the move towards conservation and the protection of the environment today. The legacy of whaling links biology, science and technology, and environmental activism. Yes, Uncle Tom’s Cabin possesses that same resonance today; however, I’m still thinking about student access. I think it is potentially easier for students to connect with the legacy of whaling today as opposed to the fact that slavery still exists throughout the world today.

Science, Whales, and Museum Advocacy

Science, Whales, and Museum Advocacy

At this point, gentle reader, you might think I am Ahab mad for creating a class like this to run as first-year introductory writing class. I’ve thought a lot about that issue. I know of instances where Moby-Dick has been used successfully as a one-read or in the composition classroom. I take solace in the fact that there are a lot pedagogical resources that I could draw on when implementing this course. Honestly, I don’t think I could have conceived of this class three weeks ago. I owe a great debt to the presentations at the summer institute. I might owe an even greater debt to all the amazing participants that I met. I have such an amazing boost in my confidence as a scholar and teacher since attending this institute. I had the opportunity to pick up so many amazing teaching tools for using the archive and working with difficult texts. I feel confident that I could do this class.

I’ve also thought of this Moby-Dick class as one that could scale based on student need and ability. I envision this course not as being about Moby-Dick, but a course about the connections and knowledge that students create through research and writing. To that end I’ve given thought to the texts I could use. There is of course the excellent Norton Critical Edition of Moby-Dick with a great deal of illustrations and contextual materials. The California Press edition of Moby-Dick is also another choice with its wonderful illustrations. Lastly, there is the option of the abridged (gasp) and illustrated edition of Moby-Dick from Spinner Publications. You can see rather large sample of the Spinner Moby-Dick here. The Spinner Moby-Dick is filled with wonderful primary images, maps, and documents. It isn’t clear from the sample pdf, but these are high quality archival images in color. It is a beautiful text.

I want to create a course that allows students to make their own connections and to explore their ideas based on their own interests. Moby-Dick is a hard text, but I think the way I’m conceiving of this provides students a safe location for the hard and rewarding work of self-discovery and the creation of knowledge through writing and research.

And we could all look forward to a field trip to see this:

Note: I have thought about various assignments for this course. Multisource argumentative essays would be one of the main sets of assignments. A creative multimodal assignment is another option. Lastly, I think a course like this would lend itself well to low stakes digital humanities projects that could be completed individually, as small groups, or as a class. Tools like for distant reading, like Voyant and Wordle, along would mapping tools, like Google Maps, would be just a few things to consider.

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