Graded Work

Class Participation (25%): This course's success depends on students' eager, committed pre-class preparation, their intense, patient, thoughtful in-class discussion, as well as their self-directed, passionately curious laboratory research after and between classes.  The instructor cannot independently "make" this material interesting, coherent, easy, or fun. It's doubtful these materials ever were "coherent," but we will study how humans tried to make them seem so.  This is NOT easy work, but then difficult work yields precious rewards.  "Fun"--well, if you subscribe to my motto, "no fun without danger," then there is so much danger to be had in the delicate materials we are working with that a sensitive person might be prone to constant hilarity, were it not likely to interfere with having a steady hand and rapt attention for the objects before us.

        When your energy fades, as it must at some point in the semester, think of the books and manuscripts and digital texts whose well-being we serve as we study them.  The old and new texts we are working with are too vulnerable, too fragile, too important for any of us to demand that they entertain us.  The digital texts may be the most fragile of all over the next century.  But the old books and MSS are the keys to the kingdom of archival research.  In return for our reverent engagement with them, they will help prepare us to enter the realm of private or scholarly libraries around the world where experience with old documents is the only possible qualification for entry. 

        Unless students bring interests to the course, or discover them quickly in the add/drop period, it would be better if they just dropped the course and found something more to their liking, no harm done.  I would be happy to meet with students individually to help develop or focus well-intentioned attempts to become interested that are frustrated by lack of experience with the materials.  Just call or email me to make an appointment.

Written documents (75%, total):  You may choose to write in any medium, including parchment, paper, HTML, MS-Word or RTF digital documents, but all assignments must be available to me in a digital surrogate emailed to my inbox unless you have a compelling reason why a hard-copy of some sort is required.  There are such reasons--I'm not just throwing that in to seem fair.  But I also would like to limit my need to drive to campus to pick up artifacts for evaluation while allowing students the maximum flexibility and time to prepare their writing.  In all cases, I have suggested relatively short maximum lengths for the resulting documents.  Experience has taught me that, usually, page length does not correlate meaningfully with quality of thought and efficiency of communication.  The main test of quality is whether the document accomplishes what it sets out to do for a known readership.  (E.g., if you say you are going to explain why a given type of Website works as it does, make sure you have enough examples to adequately represent the type, spend enough time on each major attribute of the type to fully explain it, and help students of the Web understand why this knowledge is important.)  If you really need a page count, try to keep them at around eight (8) to fifteen (15) printed pages, not counting documentation and illustrations (e.g., figures, charts, tables, images, etc.).  Use MLA format.  (See the course style sheet for a summary of MLA format rules and examples of Works Cited entries.)