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American literature



In Spotlight

By Jojo Karlin

Spotlight: Jeff Allred and Research, Interpretation, Play: Billy Budd as Role-Playing Game via Ivanhoe for WordPress

On 27, Oct 2017 | In Spotlight | By Jojo Karlin

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Project director: Jeff Allred
Project: Research, Interpretation, Play: Billy Budd as Role-Playing Game via Ivanhoe for WordPress
Project type: Digital Pedagogy, Writing
Campus: Hunter College
Follow: @jballred
In the 1970s, Roland Barthes famously promoted a “writerly” mode of reading, in which readers no longer consume texts by simply reading them, but “play” texts like (in Barthes’s metaphor) amateurs gathered around a piano performing a score. Using the Ivanhoe concept developed by textual scholars at the University of Virginia in 2000, Jeff Allred (English, Hunter College) recently had students materialize Barthes’s abstraction, transforming Herman Melville’s Billy Budd into a role-playing game. Students chose roles in and around Melville’s text (e.g., characters, like Billy Budd or Captain Vere, Melville himself, editors, critics) and performed a version of the text collaboratively. The experiment generated increased engagement and fun, to be sure, but it also encouraged students to develop more sophisticated skills in the discipline, as they collaborated with librarians to incorporate significant literary research into the play, examining literary critical, biographical, and cultural historical sources to enhance their play.
Allred’s work on this project will be featured as part of a “digital panel” (along with DHI alumna Erin Rose Glass) at the American Studies Association conference in early November. Check out the panel and comment on the paper, which is annotatable via

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In Spotlight

By Jojo Karlin

Spotlight: Bret Maney and Mapping New York Literary History

On 11, Oct 2017 | In Spotlight | By Jojo Karlin

Project director: Bret Maney
Project type: Mapping, Digital Pedagogy
Discipline: English
Campus: Lehman College
Follow: @jbretmaney
Mapping New York Literary History screenshot

Mapping New York Literary History is a digital public writing project produced by Lehman College English majors enrolled in Bret Maney’s American literature courses. The project engages students in original research and writing about New York locations that have a significant bearing on American literary history. Students document these sites through notes, photographs, videos, and interviews, and carry out library and archival research. The result of their investigations is a series of multimodal essays posted online under their names, initials, or a  pseudonym, and organized through a mapping interface powered by Carto and hosted on the CUNY Academic Commons.

The goal of Mapping New York Literary History is fourfold: (1) to foster student engagement with local literary history and American studies; (2) to introduce students to the practice of writing for digital publics; (3) to enhance students’ digital literacies; and (4) to collaborate in the public humanities mission of sharing our disciplinary expertise with the wider community on the web. Through this project, students’ research and writing becomes a permanent contribution to the digital documentation of our city’s and region’s literary history. Lehman English majors have done some truly remarkable work, and we are excited to share it with you.

To begin exploring the Mapping New York Literary History project, click here. Most essays focus on literary sites within the five boroughs, but follow the river north to the Catskills, go west to Weehawken, NJ, or east to Long Island for more literary excavations!

For a scholarly discussion of the digital pedagogy involved in this project, see Bret Maney’s recent Kairos article, “Critics and Cartographers in the Literature Classroom: Using CARTO and WordPress to Build a Digital Public Writing Project.”

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