Personal Growth and Classroom Connection Through Multimedia Engagement


Personal Growth and Classroom Connection Through Multimedia Engagement

Reflections on English 150: Introductory Seminar in Liturature Studies 

“Literature has lost its hegemonic position within culture, which means that it can no longer be imposed on students as something that everybody should know; but I believe that it [Liturature] can acquire new life by being viewed as a member of a complex media landscape, and by being studied from a comparative point of view – a point of view that not only relates the literatures of different languages, but also compares the expressive power of different media.”

Iversen, Stefan, Henrik Skov Nielsen, and Jan Alber. Why Study Literature? Aarhus N, DNK: Aarhus University Press, 2011. ebrary. Web. 3 May 2016.

When I signed up for Introductory Seminar in Literature Studies, I was expecting to read novels, conduct traditional research, write essays, and engage in literary analysis. What I was not expecting was a semester engaging with a completely new form of communication: video editing. I will admit, when I first realized that I had signed up for a multimedia class, I was worried and intimidated. Professor Anderson made it clear that no prior experience with video editing was necessary, and that everything would be alright, but I was still pretty unsure of myself for the first few weeks.

As silly as it sounds, my partner and I were even intimidated by our first simple practice video assignment! At the time neither of us had any clue where to start. Now, I feel comfortable and confident making videos that convey exactly what I mean them to.

More than anything else, this class has taught me the value of stepping out of my comfort zone. We all know that we grow the most when we are just a little uncomfortable, but knowing this, and actually taking the plunge are two very different matters. I’ve learned many things in this class--about literature, poetry, different mediums for storytelling, video editing--but most importantly, I’ve learned how just how valuable a challenging experience can be.


Poetry Essay and Revisions Process

While, I’ve written a number of essays for various classes over the years, I found this assignment especially interesting. Many of the essays I’ve written for English classes have been centered around character analysis, or discussion of a novel's themes, but I had never been asked to write an essay about a poem before. While I was excited to write this essay, I was honestly expecting to have trouble writing five pages about a few lines of poetry! As it turned out, drafting and editing this essay was really enjoyable because I got to chose a poem that interested me. Because I was able to choose a poem that I was truly interested in writing about, it wasn’t difficult to draft an engaging essay on W.H. Auden’s poem “The Fall of Rome.”

First Draft

First Revision

As I was reworking my own essay, I found it was helpful to have feedback from Professor Anderson, as well as from my classmates. After reading their feedback, I included more quotes and inserts from the poem and added a few extra lines to strengthen my arguments. In the last revision, I focused in on grammar and was able to make my essay more readable and logical with Professor Anderson's Helpful feedback. 

Final Draft 

Here are my classmates' comments on my essay:

Here's another of my peers' coments on my essay

I genuinely enjoy reading and writing essays, so I'm glad I was able to read over some of my classmate's essays as developed my own. It was nice to be exposed to such in depth examinations of these author's poems without doing extensive research on these poems! I learned a lot from both authors and (hopefully) gave them some helpful feedback as well.

E-Poetry Experience

By creating this E-Poem, I was able to express myself creatively, as well as learn about video editing--something I had never tried before! I really enjoyed putting this project together, because it didn’t feel like school work! Really, it wasn’t. While I was making my E-Poem I felt like I was making a cool, artsy music video. I was also happy to see that I could create something original and unique with only a beginner's video editing skill. Although my reflections on this project were most helpful to me in terms of truly understanding and delivering the meaning in my own work, this project was the most fun for me because it allowed for a new kind of expressive creativity that is distinct from the creativity that is encouraged in more traditional english classrooms.

E-Poem First Draft:

Professor Anderson's comment on my E-Poem inspired me to take a closer look at my project and think about new, more artistic ways of presenting the images in my E-Poem.

Ultimately, I felt these changes disrupted the flow of the original draft, but Professor Anderson's comments were helpful because they motivated me to think more critically about my own work, which inspired changes in later revisions. 

E-Poem Final Draft:


E-Poem Walkthrough and Citations Vidoes

While I didn’t end up changing very much about my original video, the walkthrough and citation video assignments were especially helpful because they inspired me to really think about my reasoning behind the images I used in my E-Poem. Before being asked to reflect on this E-Poem assignment, I admittedly included images simply because they fit with the theme of the poem and because they were aesthetically pleasing. In my Walkthrough video, I mention searching for images of “people doing interesting things,” but It wasn’t until I made my citations video that I realized I had set up a contrast of “people doing interesting things” (i.e. camping, playing with pets, playing instruments, dancing), and people being quiet and introspective. These more quiet and personal shots inspired me as a viewer to feel more self-reflective, and I wanted the viewer to come away from this poem with the same sense. After making my Citations video, I decided to give my E-Poem more direction and a sense of conclusion by incorporating more of these still images towards the end of the poem. While the beginning of the E-Poem focuses more on busy, fast paced shots of people being active, the end of the E-Poem features images of a man sitting alone--quiet and reflective--on the edge of a mountain, and of a man holding a camera directed at the viewer.

Making this E-Poem definitely presented creative and technological challenges for me, but in the end I feel I learned the most from my reflections on the original project. These reflections not only inspired the improvements I made to the original project, but also allowed me to appreciate the E-Poem as a creative piece even more.

I found I had a similar reaction with regards to my classmates E-Poems after watching their E-Poem reflection videos. For example, in the E-Poem “Mirror,” I noticed shots that were especially and original and creative.

 I knew that these shots were aesthetically interesting, but I was even more impressed by them once I watched the authors' Citation video. 

As much as I enjoyed watching my classmates’ E-Poems, I found some of their walkthrough and citations videos even more engaging and thought-provoking. Personally, I learned even more from reflecting on my E-Poem than I did from actually making the original E-Poem.

E-Poem Walkthrough:

E-Poem Citations Video:


No Country for Old Men

In this assignment, I compare both the novel and film version of “No Country for Old Men.” I decided to focus specifically on how both McCarthy and the Coen Brothers deal with the element of suspense and how the Coen brothers convey the theme of fate from the novel. I was especially impressed with this film adaptation, and I think McCarthy’s style of writing makes this novel particularly well suited for a film adaptation. I loved Javier Bardem’s performance as Chigurh, and I think his performance in this film is crucial to delivering McCarthy’s theme of fate.

I found this Film Review to be the most difficult assignment of the semester, because it forced me to compare two mediums that are, unfortunately, not always seen as comparable. I appreciate the fact that our professor challenged us to compare a novel and a film without passing judgement on which was superior. As I discuss in this film review, both mediums convey the same themes and deliver the same riveting (and sometimes even terrifying) experience. 

No Country fo Old Men Film Review:


Thoughts on Watchmen 

When Watchmen was first assigned, I groaned. As often as I have taken an English class, it seems I have been assigned a graphic novel, and I have to admit I have never been a big fan. However, this graphic novel truly changed my perception of the art form. I would argue that writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, craft a story through pictures (and speech and thought bubbles) that is as complex as any novel. Admittedly, I had expected to be bored and annoyed by this graphic novel, but at times this form of communication inspired as much emotional response as an ordinary novel would. Rorschach's story in particular left me shocked and horrified. While this certainly was not a pleasant read, it elicited the emotional response that makes literary engagement so rewarding, and I’m glad it had helped to change my narrow opinion of graphic novels! 


Transfering Camtasia Skills

Defining Blackness Final Project

One of the most rewarding moments of my video editing experience this semester, was when I realized that I could apply the skills I learned in English 150 to an assignment in another class. I was assigned a research project in my “Defining Blackness” seminar for which I should present a final project to the class. I was excited to hear that the teacher welcomed video presentations as final projects. My research group and I put together a final video project that explored the representation of blackness in popular art. In my portion of the video, I discussed popular rap artist Kendrick Lamar and his representation of blackness. By the time this project was assigned, I already felt pretty confident working with Camtasia and was able to put together a good quality video. My professor was impressed with our project and it was so cool to be able to apply my video editing skills outside of our English 150 classroom! 


Portfolio Video and Final Thoughts 


One especially delightful thing about this multimedia class was the sense of engagement and connection that it facilitated. In no other class have I had the opportunity to view my peer’s work as I have in this class. It has been very helpful for me to have my classmates’ feedback on my own work, but I think more importantly, my classmates’ work was inspiring to me.  

Because much of our engagement was happening online, students could remain connected very easily. I enjoyed reading my classmates’ thoughts on our class assignments and enjoyed sharing my own thoughts on twitter as well.  

This class has definitely stretched my brain in ways that I haven’t experienced in other English classes. While this class was not anything like what I was expecting, it has challenged me and made me a more well-rounded, confident, and experienced student. This multimedia class has exposed me to many different forms of communication that I was previously unfamiliar with, and has given me new skills that I will carry with me even when this semester has ended. I have truly enjoyed this semester of creativity and connection and look forward to using my newly refined communication skills in the future.