Monday, August 31, 2015

The Literary Past Meets the Digital Present: eRenaissance (a student ebook project)

a mockup cover
for our prospective eBook
Two years ago my students and I created this blog (and other online resources) in an effort to create an ebook connecting the study of literature from the European Renaissance of the 15th-17th centuries with our current digital renaissance. It was our belief that one good renaissance deserves another, and so we titled our work eRenassiance: Literary Past, Digital Present. I am now inviting a second group of students to build upon this foundation and complete that project.

The European Renaissance was a long period filled with many false starts; this will always be the case when some watershed event in culture (like the arrival of a new medium) overturns familiar assumptions and practices. So I do not feel bad that in 2013 we failed to complete and publish our book. In fact, in the meantime (working with other students) I've found an improved ebook publishing platform (LeanPub), and had students successfully publish a book somewhat similar to this one, Digitally Disruptive: Current Topics, Historical Perspectives. Given that success, and the foundation laid from the prior students, I am confident we can complete and perfect what they began.
Students recently published
this ebook in 2015 on

As always with my courses, I invite my students to make their process public, precisely so that others can (as we are doing with a prior generation of students) build on what now do.  That is why we will be blogging our way toward publication.

In addition to the blog, at our disposal is the Open Renaissance Wiki where prior students collected and organized content and ideas. And we can, of course, communicate directly with those previous students and even invite them along if they have interest in resuming participation. We may engage other online tools, too, to help us reach our destination.

I am confident that over the course of the next few months we will in fact produce a completed book that will not just document student learning; it will become a resource for others' learning and a contribution to the conversation about how we come to terms with a world being radically revised by its communications media.

Six Themes
I have identified six themes, lenses by which we can understand Renaissance literature. These have proven to be handy concepts for understanding our present day, and also for conceptualizing our own project:

  1. Ad Fontes: Recovering the Past and Returning to Sources
  2. Brave New Worlds: Travel, Science and Social Change
  3. What a Piece of Work is Man: Humanism and Rhetoric
  4. Plough Boys and Bibles: The Protestant Reformation 
  5. Typographia Conservatrix: Printing's Cultural Impression
  6. Sprezzatura: Courting Culture
Each of these will be introduced separately. As this project coincides with the course at Brigham Young University where students are studying Renaissance literature (English 372), I am structuring our course to imitate these six themes. Our initial class periods will each address these themes in turn. Students at this stage will be mostly in the learning stage. When we return to those themes, we will have an eye on composing, creating, and teaching those concepts by way of our project.

Along the way we are going to enact these very themes within our course: going back to primary sources, braving new worlds through virtual travels and new media; examining the evolution of humanism and the digital humanities; revisiting the spiritual and religious dimensions to a radically democratizing medium; using and evaluating online tools and weighing their potential and influence; and bringing to this a kind of wit and timeliness, if we can, in order to make what we do reflect well on ourselves and bring honor to our topic and our institution.

No comments:

Post a Comment