Discovery and New Experiences
Discovery and New Experiences
ENGL 150 Portfolio by Chelsea Cronin
I decided to take ENGL 150 because it is required for English and Comparative Literature majors, but I can’t say that I was prepared, coming into the class, for what was in store. The multimedia element of the assignments pushed me just outside my comfort zone, but I’m better off now because of it. I did not have a ton of experience with digital literature or the video editing process, but now I feel like a pro.
Until now, I have only ever taken "traditional" English courses-- read literature, analyze it, and then write an essay about it. This class took an entirely new approach to the traditional English classes. After completing the obligatory essay analyzing a poem of our choice, we immediately dove into multimedia portrayals of literature. Each project was a process of discovery for me, whether it was discovery a new editing software or discovering a new way of interpreting literature. I will discuss in each section how I discovered new mediums, new skills, and new appreciation for unconventional literature and project designs. For me, this class was truly a new experience in literature and it has left me with an open mind to the continual discovery of and experimentation with different forms of literature and writing.
As I take a look back at this semester, it is amazing to think about all of the things we accomplished in such a short amount of time. Whether it was a video project, an essay, or just reading and reflecting, each project required the use and knowledge of materials for the project, knowing and understanding the process of composing the project, and understanding that our successes and failures depended on more than just the outcomes of the projects.
During this class:
- I completed three versions of the poetry essay
- I created an E-Poem video and a walkthrough for it
- I revised my E-Poem and created a citation video for it
- We read through several works of fiction including an extensive look at Watchmen
- I watched the movie for No Country for Old Men, read the book, and I made a film review for both.
- And finally, I composed an E-Portfolio video
We have all created so much original material this semester and I'm excited to carry both the projects, and the skills I learned while working on them, to the next level of my academic career. This class has left me with so many new ideas about the creative process and about the use and citation of sources that I wouldn't have ever thought about otherwise.
The first assignment that we tackled was the poetry essay. As I discussed in my E-Portfolio video, I thought to myself, “okay this is more what I had in mind for an 'intro seminar in literature studies' course." It was a predicatble assignment asked of an English major, so I was not too worried about it. I felt that I had enough experience in analyizing poetry under my belt that I could successfully complete the poetry essay.
For the poetry essay, I decided to use the poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley, published in 1888. I had been talking to my roommate about the project and how we needed to find a "related lens" in which to look at the poem. She told me about "Invictus" and how it was one of her favorite poems because it had strong ties to Nelson Mandela and his fight against Apartheid in South Africa.
Thinking about this poetry essay. I think I'm going to go with William Ernest Henley. #ilit
— Chelsea Cronin (@ENGL150_chelsea) January 22, 2016
Though the poem is quite dated, I liked the strong political message about standing up for yourself and deciding your own fate. So, I took this approach in my first draft. I utilized the “boring, but effective” style of writing. It was well written, but it was missing that “hook” element. It was just your typical research and analysis essay. The constructive criticism from both my peers and Professor Anderson allowed me to see what I needed to work on and what I did well.
This picture captures some of Professor Anderson's comments on my original draft that helped me to rearrange the paper and strengthen my argument. He suggested that I start the paper by talking about the first two lines of the poem and what gives the lines their power.
In the revised draft I took the paper in an entirely different direction and focused on whether political poetry is considered art. Rather than starting off with boring background information, I began with a "hook," so that the essay was more "fun" and less academic. This twist allowed me to rework a few key elements of the paper and the result was a much more interesting paper with a good hook at the beginning.
The final draft of the paper required some minor copy-editing, I deleted a section about Walt Whitman that was not helping my paper, and I kept the same focus as the revised draft version. I am proud of how my essay turned out and I feel that even though it was not the direction I was originally looking to go with the paper, it turned out for the better. Writing a more polished, but "less academic" paper actually sort of scared me at first. However, it allowed me to discover that sometimes "fun" papers can still be academic, while not boring the reader.
This assignment definitely helped me to see poetry in a different light. It showed us as students that yes, when an author writes a poem there is an intended meaning, but the best part about poetry is that you, the reader, can decide what it means for you. It is one thing to examine the prosody of a poem, but it is another to dig deeper and create a project that reflects how you see a poem and how you feel when you read it.
E-POEM DRAFT AND WALKTHROUGH
The next project that we worked on was the E-Poem video composition. We had the choice of picking a new poem or using the same poem from the poetry essay assignment. As I discussed in my E-Portfolio video, I chose to stick with the poem Invictus because I had an idea of how to transfer the political and empowering elements of the poem and essay into a video, so the real challenge was going to be translating my vision for the e-poem into reality. This project is what really taught me how to use Camtasia because I learned how to use the effects, functions, and tricks in Camtasia that allowed me to make a strong E-Poem draft. I thought that I picked really good and relevant materials for the draft, but the outcome was not perfect. The editing errors and choppiness of the draft helped me to understand what I needed to work on in the revison process. I struggled to blend the music and sounds while transitioning between the poem voice recording and the videos with background music and sounds. This is what I believe caused a sort of choppy and flat feel to the overall aesthetic of the draft video.
Some constructive criticism of my E-Poem draft helped me to understand what elements of the video that I needed to work on for the revision video. For example, Professor Anderson left this comment on my E-Poem video:
As part of the project we were also tasked with commenting on our peer's videos to help give them useful feedback on what they need to work on. This was my response to Lauren's E-Poem:
I really enjoyed watching my peer's videos and seeing the different approaches and outcomes that everyone took with this project. It was cool to see that everyone was given the same prompt, but the products were all so unique and well-composed.
The second part of this project was the E-Poem Draft Walkthrough. At first I thought that the walkthrough was going to be really redundant and unnecessary, but it turns out that I learned a lot about sources and about the process that I worked through while composing this project. It allowed me to discuss both the challenges and the successes of the draft and how I would be able to use those to strengthen the revised E-Poem. The walkthrough was a really interesting project because it was a new experience in citing sources and thinking deeply and critically about sources and processes that I chose.
For the walkthroughs, again, we were asked to go through and comment on our peers videos. This was Smriti's response to my E-Poem Walkthrough:
It was really cool to see people's responses to the walkthrough videos because I felt that my work was being appreciated by others and that the walkthrough helped everyone to understand where I was coming from or what I was thinking while drafting my E-Poem.
E-POEM FINAL VERSION AND CITATION VIDEO
The second, final version of my epoem focused on creating a more mutli-dimensional aesthetic and a less “flat” feeling. I felt that the original got the message across, but I had a few video editing and skills areas to work on.
finally finished my e-poem revision and I feel really good about it! It's more multidimensional this time, which adds to the quality. #ilit
— Chelsea Cronin (@ENGL150_chelsea) April 14, 2016
When I first started thinking about the E-Poem revision I was worried that I was going to have to start from the ground up. It was no longer a new experience though, I had done this before. So, my confidence in my editing skills allowed me to use my original E-Poem and build my revised video off of that. I felt really good about the final version of my E-Poem. I was happy that I was able to stick to my original theme of politics and survival and the only things that I really needed to change were some of the materials and the editing details needed some work.
The revised E-Poem project also came with a sort of walkthrough project as well, this time we were supposed to compose a citation video for our revised E-Poems. I was actually excited this time to get to talk about what sources I used and why and I think that the addition of a citation video really added to the value of my E-Poem video. This way, no little detail goes unnoticed. Even something as subtle as using a black and white video to start the project and a video in full color to end the project in order to show growth over time and how Mandela grew as a person through his fight against Apartheid.
I can say that I really learned a lot from the totality of the E-Poem project (both versions and the walkthroughs). It gave me a new insight into how to interpret and represent poetry. Again, as I discused in my E-Portfolio video, poetry interpretation takes on a whole new dimension when you, the reader, have to choose materials and sounds to represent what you believe the poem is about. I’m not sure if the E-Poem project was a “lifelong creative experience,” but I do hope to carry the skills I learned from this class with me throughout my career.
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN: BOOK AND FILM REVIEW
The No Country for Old Men (NCFOM) film review was the one project that I put off for a really long time because I genuinely did not know where or how to start the video. I enjoyed the movie, but didn't particularly like watching the movie before the book because I felt that it ruined the suspense of the book. So when I finally mustered up the courage to sit down and dedicate a few hours to composing this video it surprisingly began to flow pretty quickly. I chose to talk about how suspense in books and suspense in movies is created differently and how many times, in movies, music is added as an effect to create a sense of tension and suspense in the audience. There was no music in NCFOM, so I tweeted about that theme and discussed it in my review video.
Music does a lot to drive the plot of a movie, but it also represents themes and gives clues. #ilit
— Chelsea Cronin (@ENGL150_chelsea) March 3, 2016
Maybe in No Country for Old Men the absence of music does just as much to influence the audience? #ilit
— Chelsea Cronin (@ENGL150_chelsea) March 3, 2016
An interesting take on suspense. Rather than adding fast-paced music to create suspense, it was purely visual and psychological. #ilit
— Chelsea Cronin (@ENGL150_chelsea) March 3, 2016
As I said in the last tweet, the suspense exists, contrary to what I first thought, the suspense is just purely visual and psychological rather than multi-dimensional and needing music to create it. In all honesty, this was probably my least favorite project only because in my opinion, the novel was dryly written and without music the film was hard to enjoy at first. Despite this, I did learn some more editing techniques with the project as well as completing some research on the topic of film adaptation.
When we first began discussing Watchmen as a class, Professor Anderson warned us that it may be difficult to read at first if you weren't used to the graphic novel medium. I was never really into comic books as a kid, so reading watchmen was definitely a new experience for me. I personally really enjoyed reading it. The narrative flowed for me and I never felt too lost. I did notice that I wasn't catching on to the small hidden clues and things, but nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it. I discovered that even though I hadn't encountered this type of medium in a novel before, it was actually a really interesting take on the traditional novel.
I had no issues reading Watchmen. It was a bit slow at first while I adjusted to reading and analyzing drawings at the same time, but it didn’t take long for me to pick up the pace and really dig in. It was fun trying to keep up with all of the characters and the messy plot lines.
E-PORTFOLIO VIDEO REFLECTION
The final project for this class consisted of creating a video that discussed the conneciton between the poetry essay and the E-Poem and how we went about composing those projects. I enjoyed making this video and reflecting on what I learned from writing the essay and revising it and what I learned from composing the e-poem, the revision, and the walkthroughs. I learned more than I originally thought from the poetry portion of this class, so here are my reflections:
Many of the ideas from the E-Portfolio video overlap with the ideas and reflections in this Portfolio Project, but I think that it is necessarily redundant. It reinforces what I learned and how I grew as a student and video composer throughout the class.
I can say that after completing this Portfolio project, I learned so much more than I first realized. On the last day of class, I left feeling as though, sure, I made a bunch of literature-based videos and learned how to work Camtasia more proficiently, but that was all. I now realize that "all" of that was actually a lot of stuff. With each additional assignment and project I learned more after completing each one. The poetry essay taught me that being "formal" in writing is not always the correct approach, sometimes it helps to work outside the box. The E-Poem videos taught me how to use the video editing software, but they also taught me that constructive criticism is important; your first attempt is not always going to be perfect and through trial and error you can create exactly the project you originally hoped for. The Film Review of NCFOM and reading Watchmen allowed me to discover new mediums of literature as well as how to appreciate a work of literature, even if it is not my favorite genre or if I am not familiar with the genre. And finally, this Portfolio project has helped me discover that I have learned such a great deal in this class--new literature, new mediums, and new skills. There was so much to reflect on because we created a vast amount of original material that required quite a bit of time and effort. Through each project I learned how to make the next one better and how to use the skills I had learned for another class project. It is cool to see where I began, with a very choppy first draft of my E-Poem, to finishing the semester with a well-polished and hopefully successful E-Portfolio video. Until today, I did not even know how to properly embed a video on a page, but now I can add that to my set of skills. Each project was a new experience for me and with each new experience I discovered new skills and abilities that will only further help me in my college career. I am so proud of all of my projects, even the drafts with more errors than were intended and the projects that were not my favorite to create. Thank you, Professor Anderson, for this unique opportunity to make literature fun again. Despite procrastination and a lack of ideas at times, I learned so much and I am immensely proud of all of my creations.