Interactive English Courses at Dartmouth!
Dartmouth coursework is always engaging. Sometimes professors find ways to incorporate multiple mediums into their teaching, allowing students to engage creatively and individually with course material and adding another dimension to the class.
Last winter, I took a class entitled "Desire and Difference in Victorian Culture." It was a fascinating course and, in addition to our readings (which included two nineteenth century novels and a large number of fascinating supplementary texts), that term's iteration of the course gave my peers and me the opportunity to create a public humanities project. This additional element of "Desire and Difference" was based on our consistent engagement with a nineteenth century poet's manuscript diary. Students, organized in small groups, were given free rein to create their own project in response to the text over the course of the term.
The seminar-style class was small, facilitating intriguing discussions in which all of us participated regularly. The course was taught via Zoom, so the emphasis on discussion truly allowed my peers and I to engage with one another, successfully facilitating classroom-style discussion and connections. The group element of this class was, naturally, very compelling. I enjoyed engaging with all my peers during discussions, and with my group members during scheduled project hours. I truly believe this course format, successfully reproduced in several of my online classes throughout 2020 and 2021, was essential to connecting with my peers even as I studied from across the country.
Our group, as we studied the manuscript diary, decided to draw out elements of the poet's home that leapt off the page through detailed, colorful description. We applied for, and were granted, a student license to use a professional architectural software. We combed through the text in search of details: which style chairs were used; the fabric used for pillowcases; the flower varieties featured in each room, and in which style vases; the wallpaper which filled each space; the shape of each window, et cetera. Of course, when reading poetry, one is never guaranteed to find precise square footage or framing estimates, so many elements of the ultimate reproduction are guesses. Our goal was to come as close as we possibly could to an accurate representation, taking into account all the details we were given, and filling in where we had to.
Over the ten weeks this project, which while an incredibly valuable part of the course in no way compromised its analytical and discussion-based framework, became a highly artistic expression of the material we engaged with in class. My groupmates prepared a meticulously researched presentation to accompany our final architectural rendering, which took the form of a walkthrough tour (HGTV-style) through the poet's home, reproduced to the best of our ability. I'm very grateful to this course (even now, a year later!) for illuminating the highly dynamic and interdisciplinary nature of Dartmouth courses.