This course considers ways that people take works of literature, classic or otherwise, and transform them into something new. We read literary works ranging from “The Yellow Wallpaper” to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as cartoons, poems, videos and text conversations that remake, remix and transform those literary works. We think about what makes something literature, what makes something fan fiction, and what fan fiction can show us about classic works of literature. We also create our own literary transformations, analyze the role of the Internet in fan culture, and experiment with transformative technologies.
Over the course of the term, we will hone the skills necessary to literary analysis, focusing on close reading, strong arguments and precise claims and evidence. Because revision is an essential part of the writing process, you will have several opportunities to revise your writing.
Literary analysis is grounded in close reading. This term, you will write a short, focused close reading of an important passage in a text. The goal of this assignment is to look in depth at a small part of the text, rather than reflecting generally on the entirety. You should be able to identify a few paragraphs—a page at most—from which you will draw your evidence and focus your analysis. Your goal should be to connect the insights you draw from a short and well-defined section of the text to the work as a whole—that is, you will draw most of your evidence from a single passage, but your thesis and conclusion will attempt to show why your ideas about this one section are relevant to understanding the work as a whole.
We will spend a lot of time this term examining the ways that transformative works can make arguments about literature. In this short paper, you will compare an original text and a transformative work to show how the transformation analyzes the original work. In other words, you will make an argument about the way a transformative work makes an argument. Doing so will require both a close reading of the original work and a careful analysis of the transformation.
Your final project will be a transformation of a literary work. Both the work to be transformed and the form of your own transformation will be up to you. You may choose one of the texts we have read as a class, but you may also choose an entirely different text that you find interesting or compelling. Similarly, you may model your transformation on some of the examples we analyze as a class, but you need not use one of those models if you have something different in mind. Several of our lab sections will be devoted to planning and executing your final project, and you will submit a project proposal and several other short assignments prior to submitting your final project.
Your transformation should be a substantial work, both in length and in form. Though you are not required to produce a transformation that involves new media (web site, blog, video, audio, etc.), you are certainly encouraged to do so, and the labs over the course of the term will help you develop the skills to produce a multimedia or digital transformation.
In addition to producing a transformative work of your own, you will also analyze your work to show how your transformation makes an argument about the original work. Your analysis will follow the format of the comparative analysis from earlier in the term, and will draw on evidence from both the original work and your transformation to support your analytic claims.
Your final exam will be a 20-minute oral examination that asks you to synthesize the concepts, discussions and readings from the term. We will discuss what to expect from the exam, and you will have an opportunity to work with your classmates to draft potential examination questions.
At several points throughout the term, I will ask you to reflect on and write about the material in the course. These reflections are intended to help you think about the readings in relation to one another and to the themes of the course as a whole, as well as to give you an opportunity to plan for upcoming assignments. The reflections are not intended to test your knowledge of the reading, and I will not be evaluating them for content or correctness.
As we'll discuss in class, one of the most popular platforms for transformative works and fan participation is Tumblr. Early in the term, each person will set up their own Tumblr account and we will establish a Tumblr community to share posts, images, videos and other transformations of interest. You will be responsible for posting regular responses to the course reading to your Tumblr site throughout the term.
Half way through the term you will create a short transformative work based on one of our readings. The form of this work will be up to you, and it will be an opportunity to experiment with the ideas we’ve discussed thus far.
You will write a short, thesis-driven analysis of one of your classmates’ short transformative works. This, too, will be an opportunity to try out the ideas we’ve been discussing in class, and to prepare for the more extended analysis of your own work you will be required to complete as part of your final project.
Because revision is an essential part of the writing process, you will have the opportunity to revise your close reading and comparative analysis and re-submit them at the end of the term. Your revisions should each constitute a significant change from the previous draft; revisions that do not contain significant changes will not be accepted.
Because this is an intensive Spring Term course, attendance is essential to your work in this class. We meet only 16 days all term, so even a single absence results in a significant loss of instructional time. Unexcused absences will have a negative effect on your final course grade, and more than three absences will result in a failing grade.
Our course will make heavy use of technology as we read, write and analyze. If you have a laptop, you should bring it to class with you each day. If you do not have a laptop, consult with me and we will arrange to borrow one on the days when we will be conducting hands-on technology workshops.
When classroom activities call for laptop use, you should make every effort to remain focused on the task at hand. To help you stay focused, you should close all windows and tabs that do not contain material related to class: close out Facebook, shut down your messaging program and email and close down any shopping or news tabs. Keep your digital environment streamlined so that you can keep your attention focused.
When we are not actively using computers in class, I ask you to consider carefully your use of technology and whether it serves as a distraction from your participation and attention to your classmates. If using a laptop or tablet is a marked aid to your note-taking process, then you may do so, but I encourage you to put electronic devices away whenever possible. In addition, there should be no audio or visual recording of the class without my explicit permission and that of your classmates.
Washington and Lee defines plagiarism as “the use of another’s words or ideas without proper acknowledgment.” You are responsible for familiarizing yourself with what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it. For assistance, see the resources available on the library website and consult with me during my office hours.