Emmy Waldman is a Ph.D. student in the department of English at Harvard. Her research interests are in American poetry, graphic narratives, comics, and the visual architecture of the written and illustrated page.
As a Learning Lab Fellow, Emmy has facilitated intense collaboration between the Multimedia, Literacy, and Visualization Team at the Bok Center and the course for which she served as a Teaching Fellow, Professor Lisa New’s graduate seminar, Poetry in the Digital Environment. For Professor New’s course, Emmy helped design and facilitate a multi-part series of projects that taught students the skills necessary to first translate literary criticism into video and then to use the video produced to generate further criticism.
Poetry in the Digital Environment
As a Teaching Fellow for Professor Lisa New’s “Poetry in the Digital Environment,” Emmy facilitated a tripartite project utilizing the media resources at the Bok Center. Early in the semester, students came into the Media Lab to film a close reading of a single poem in order to practice both teaching to a camera in addition to condensing a multi-layered argument about a poem into a two-minute speech. In the second phrase of the project, students broke into two groups and each group engaged in a long, freeform discussion of a modernist poem of their choice. The final part of the project grew out of these filmed discussions: students were responsible for editing the film into a coherent narrative and then for compiling a course packet intended for other teachers who, with these combined materials, could both sample from the video discussion as well as present a week’s worth of material, including pre-learning exercises, journaling, in-class discussion and assessment, on each of the two selected poems.
The course demonstrated an effective model of incorporating simple media processes, such as filming individual or group discussions, into the learning environment. Filming the group discussions, in particular, reinforced the role that digital records can play in generating criticism: the low-stakes nature of the discussions permitted students to analyze the poems in collaboration with one another without the pressure of having to advance a predetermined critical argument, while having the capacity to return to the video of the discussions allowed students to later mine those records for the very ideas that became the content of their final projects, the readings advanced in those materials bearing the richness and complexity of a collective reading. In this way, filming the students’ work allowed them to both distill and expand their own criticism.