Part of the initial inspiration for student projects came from a class taught by the wonderful Dixie Goswami in summer 2011 at The Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont: “Interpretive Communities: Using Social Networking and Digital Tools to Engage Readers and Writers.” I was inspired by the way Dixie shaped the course and by the kinds of projects students created, one of which was about Robert Stepto’s A Home Elsewhere: Reading African American Classics in the Age of Obama.
I asked students to create final projects that would incorporate the collections of fiction we were reading in some way. I didn’t want them to write traditional research papers only I would read. (And I didn’t want to read forty undergraduate research papers.) I wanted their writing to be available to a much wider audience, an audience that included the writers whose work we were reading and researching. Several of these writers kindly read and answered questions for our class, and allowed us to record the readings/interviews. I also spoke with our class about the lack of scholarship on Black women’s short fiction. I wanted students to understand how necessary their projects were, that people might read and use their work, and that it would help sustain Black women’s literature. And I wanted students to have fun with what they were doing. There was also a lot I had to learn–weebly, tumblr, wikis, blogs–but I know more than I did when I started thanks to the amazing class of undergrads I was lucky enough to work with (special shout out to Cheyenne!), as well as folks at Creativity Exploratory (big ups to Danielle, Scott, and James).
Below is a description of the assignment, which like all the student projects and all writing is a work in progress.
ENG 353 SS2012
Final Project Assignment
You will work in groups (same class members from the Class Session) to complete a final project, which will then be posted on a class blog. Your final projects are a chance to explore and research some aspect of the collection of fiction your group has chosen, and to assist in creating “an online repository of historical, cultural, and multimedia resources” (Goswami). You are welcome to choose a topic we spend significant time on or something we did not spend as much class time on. It is crucial that you use both course content (readings, concepts, videos) and content you find with your group (interviews, readings, video clips, media articles) to inform your exploration of the text and writer. Some areas you may be pulled from readings by Patricia Hill Collins and other writers. Some examples include:
- Black sexual politics
- Motherhood/other mothers
- The Black female body
- Controlling images/stereotypes
- The uses of the erotic
- Self-definition/articulating one’s voice
- LGBTQ representations/concerns
- Texts as critical fiction
- Writing and activism
- Color-blind politics
It’s important to remember that while you might focus on a particular area, chances are you will include several areas. It’s also important to remember the text is still your main focus. It might be best to wait until you read the collection of fiction before deciding how to proceed. See what themes emerge. What ties the stories together? How can you best contextualize the text?
The format of your final project is also somewhat open—you will not be writing a traditional research paper. Podcasts, digital storytelling, Wikis, or some other web space are all possibilities. You might also choose to interview people (teachers, students, authors) around a subject related to the collection of fiction and create a short documentary. You might decide to review recent news media on a topic and put it in dialogue with the text/writer in some way. Some of the writers we’re reading might be open to being interviewed. An interview with them could be incorporated into your final project, or the interview itself might become the final project. It is possible and probable that you’ll combine several of these formats. Whatever the format, all projects must, in some formal way, reference our course readings, other materials, and reference outside readings and materials. All projects must display your understanding of the text based in our course material and outside material. All projects must also include a bibliography of the writer’s works, a bio of the writer, a summary of the text, and a description of the book’s reception (for example, reviews).
You will be asked to present your small research project to the class in our final meeting. A brief, two page, individual written reflection on your learning/research will accompany your group project. I will dedicate significant class time for you to work in your project groups, but you will also need to meet outside of class. Keep in mind that the project will take shape as we talk more about possibilities, as you talk more with your groups, and as we figure out what resources we have available to us at MSU. I’m really excited to see what you’ll do with these texts. I know the writers will appreciate the serious consideration that you’ll be giving their work. Two writers have already agreed to read to our class!
*All written work should be double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt. font with normal margins. Paper copies please. APA or MLA format accepted. Please adhere to page limits, as I will mark down for longer papers. Projects that are online should also be emailed. Video and audio projects should be submitted in appropriate media.