Annotation Project

Undergraduate Research Initiative Pilot Spring 2014

Project Overview

Three faculty—Gabe Alkon, Ely Shipley, and Christopher Trogan—are participating in this creative pedagogy project, aimed at fostering engaged research and new approaches to reading in the Great Works of Literature classroom. The three instructors are all teaching English 2850, Great Works of Literature II, in spring 2014.

We are using the following three texts for the annotation assignment:

  • “The Wise Neighbor” (1679/1766) by P’u Sung Ling
  • “La Belle Dame sans Merci” (1819) by John Keats
  • “Zabalawi” (1963) by Naguib Mahfouz

The instructors are discussing annotation with students: why editors annotate literary texts, for what purposes and audiences. And we are asking students to work in groups to annotate the three chosen texts for the following purposes:

  • To look up and explain local references
  • To look up and explain historical references
  • To look up and explain words and their usages in different time periods and cultures
  • To look up and explain belief systems (e.g. provide background on religious or philosophical schools of thought)
  • To contextualize a piece of literature with art or music (or other art forms) with links and discussion of the connections
  • To justify or argue against translations choices
  • To execute close readings and explorations of ambiguous or otherwise noteworthy passages
  • To call attention to important moments in the text that should be registered

The groups will present on their annotations, discussing what they chose to annotate and why. We intend for the work to combine students’ own existing cultural and linguistic knowledge, their skills and perspectives as readers of literature, and the act of engaged research.

Each instructor will write up the results of the project in the classes, including: successes, problems, suggestions for future development of the assignment, their general reflections on how it works in the GW course, and some sample stellar student annotations. We will use these reflections as part of future grant applications.

Our longer-term goal is to develop a global literature online commons featuring annotations and translations done by Baruch students. This semester, we are starting this effort by creating a website that will contain a student-annotated version of each of the three texts for use and development across various Great Works sections in the future. Anyone with access will be able to add to and comment on the annotations students do.  We will add more texts with student annotations and translations as the project continues. I am working with Luke Waltzer, who developed Blogs@Baruch and now heads the Center for Teaching and Learning, and Meechal Hoffman on the online initiative. To develop a comprehensive site to make this a true digital humanities initiative, we are seeking additional funding to hire a graduate student web developer and undergraduate research assistants.

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