I’ll be contributing an essay on “Digital Archives in the World Literature Classroom” to a special section on Global Pedagogy in an issue of ARIEL slated for Spring 2015.
The Global Pedagogy section will feature a collection of essays on “the practice, effects, and implications of teaching literature in English in global contexts.” I’m looking forward to incorporating reflections on the World Literature survey classes I’ve been teaching this year in the article to come. See my abstract below.
Digital Archives in the World Literature Classroom
Digitized archival materials open up exciting possibilities for teaching and learning in the undergraduate world literature classroom. Due to the ongoing digitization of out-of-print journals and political pamphlets, correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, oral testimony, government records, and other artifacts at archival institutions around the world, global pedagogies can increasingly benefit from the incomparable sense of context offered by archives. In my “English 316: Survey of World Literature” class at the University of Texas at Austin, I present multimedia lectures that prepare students for the interdisciplinary study and interpretation of world literatures. For example, a unit on Native American literature includes testimony from Native Americans who suffered as children in assimilationist boarding schools administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs; in-class activities include discussion of an image of the child-sized handcuffs featured on Slate.com’s The Vault and housed at the Haskell Indian Nations University’s Cultural Center and Museum, and analysis of “before and after” shots, made digitally available by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale, of Navajo and Sioux students at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.
This article will offer a theory of how to incorporate digital archives in the undergraduate world literature classroom. In addition to generating enthusiastic student responses, building digital and information literacy, and strengthening engagement with course concepts, archival analysis tasks challenge students to draw on secondary sources from a diversity of disciplines in order to better understand the significance of a given primary source. Drawing on case studies from my world literature class, which centers on Anglophone texts that emerge from and speak to specific colonial contexts, I will demonstrate how archival materials can enrich students’ understanding of the historic role of English-language literature as a tool of both imperial assimilation and robust native resistance. I will offer a series of strategies and considerations (both ethical and practical) to assist educators in facilitating meaningful student engagement with archives.