Media and Literature


Media in Literature: A Multimedia Experiment

" The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Albert Einstein


Last semester I took an English class with Professor Anderson, Literature and the other arts (ENGL 366H), and it challenged my view of what an English class could be. Where I thought we would be writing essays, we were being assigned playlists; where I thought we would write a book report, we were instructed to create a multi modal video that conveyed the story's main theme. I thought I was crazy last semester. Now I know I'm insane. This semester I took an Introduction to Literary Studies class (ENGL 150) with Professor Anderson, again. The two classes were similar and they were not. On the one hand, I was going through all the same motions and I'm already technology-challenged as it is. On the other hand, I was learning how to examine my reactions as well as others when we were exposed to various designs of literature. I intend for this portfolio to act as an analysis of literature in its many forms as well as a reflection of myself and how far I may or may not have come within my year of multi modal literary experimentation and whether or not I am truly insane.

I decided to break my work up into sections that we'd been able to tag our pieces under. My materials section contains the parts and pieces I needed in order to build upon them. I consider things like my first rough drafts to fall under this category. The processes section is more about how I learned to tweak my methods so that they were more fitting for the project at hand. Finally, my outcome section is what I am calling my final projects. These videos and essays are the last in a long process of revisions. Throughout this portfolio, I will also be comparing my work from last semester's class to my work from this semester to judge how similar or different these projects are when one is in the same same mindset of not thinking like one always had.



Below are my poetry essays. In this class and the last I had with Professor Anderson, he made a statement about how he was told a teacher wasn't "supposed to start a class with poetry." I'm still trying to figure out how that can be a bad thing. Out of everything in literature, poetry is easily the most confusing, hard to understand genre out there. I feel like starting with poetry was the only thing to do because we are challenging our tired conventions of thinking. The top is my rough draft and they become more refined as you move down. The last link is to my final poetry essay.

John Donne, The Metaphysical, and "Satire III"

John Donne, The Metaphysical, and "Satire III" (Revised)

Satire as poetry? Hopefully my ENGL150 classmates will enjoy John Donne as much as I have (be it forced or not) #iLit

— jillian cahill (@cahilljillian) January 19, 2016


The fact that we were actually writing an essay really surprised me because last semester we did nothing of the sort! Last semester, everything was very much electronic (we listened to short stories instead of reading them--peak the one by Steph Ceraso we listened to here). The poetry essay almost felt out of place. Almost. I regularly forgot that this was actually on my schedule as an English class. I decided to analyze "Satire III" by John Donne: 1) because I thought there were so many symbolic motifs that could be argued for and 2) we studied it in my British literature class (ENGL 120). My first essay was like any typical poetic analysis. I relayed major themes in Donne's poetry to his upbringing and the struggles he faced in his life as well as identified and analyzed some of the less prominent symbols in the poem. The second essay (revision) reworks the entire essay. I didn't scrap the first essay because I liked the content. However, the feedback I got from my peers suggested that I rework the sequencing of my paragraphs as I had them. And that's exactly what I did.

After the essays, the class shifted its focus to e-poetry. I'm pretty sure I was the only person with an entire semester of prior knowledge on the topic. Still, it was interesting to see everyone's projects and how they changed certain things from one e-poem to the next. Some people (like myself) stayed with one poem the entire time. Other people decided to completely switch it up and pick a new poem to build upon. My very first e-poem I called "Warmer" and it was an improv challenge given to us by Professor Anderson in ENGL 366H. 

Obviously not the most technologically proficient. I still hadn't figured out how to use my system audio on the recording so I was blasting everything from my computer's tiny speakers. Initially, I had started with the Elvis song but I didn't show the video playing/the origin of the sound and my video was taken down for copyright infringement (which was pretty terrifying, no lie). In both English classes, 366H and 150, we had people run into this same problem many, many times. That's when Professor Anderson gave us the citation video project.

We watched a Youtube video about fair use and how to avoid copyrighting and discussed it in class. The video appeared very child-like and really didn't focus on any of the topics we were concerned about. It was interesting to see in our discussion how many of us noticed the agressive advertisement-like tactics that were used to shift our collective focus from our concerns regarding fair use and copyright infringemnt to a moose and bad music. After our brief study, we realized none of us were actually giving credit to the videos we were briefly featuring in our e-poems. As Professor Anderson was preparing to present at a conference on annotations and citations, he tasked us with this: try and find all the videos you can, explain why you needed them, and give credit to the publisher. All of the sources in my citation walkthrough and all the thoughts I talked through in that video were well represented in my original e-poem for this class.

You can see this draft is a little more refined than the first draft of my e-poem last semester and even more so than [what I considered to be] my final e-poem last semester. Both of these were what we called "live poetry" where I had to sequence and act out the same thing every time. That being said, sometimes it would take me ten or twenty tries to get a version that I really loved. 

We also read the book No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy and watched the film adaptation. This is my review of the similarities and major differences I identified between the two.

As a part of our attemot to add dimension to our English class, we read and discussed the graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore. Watchmen is set in an alternate reality that closely mirrors the world of 1980s era New York. The main difference is that superheroes are the norm. The change in history occurs in the 1938. Their existence in this version of America is shown to have dramatically altered the outcomes of real-world events like the Vietnam War and the presidency of Richard Nixon. In keeping with the realism of the series, although the costumed crimefighters of Watchmen are commonly called "superheroes," only one (Doctor Manhattan) possesses any superhuman abilities. The war in Vietnam ends with a U.S. victory in 1971 and Nixon is still president as of October 1985. The  Russian invasion of Afghanistan occurs about six years later than in real life. When the story begins, the existence of Doctor Manhattan has given the U.S. a strategic advantage over the Soviet Union, which has increased tensions between the two nations. Eventually, the superheroes grow unpopular among and the public, leading to the passage of a law in 1977 to outlaw them. While many of the heroes decide to retire, Doctor Manhattan and a veteran superhero known as The Comedian operate as government-sanctioned agents. Another masked crusader, Rorshach, continues to operate outside the law.


John Donne, The Metaphysical, and "Satire III" (Final)

This is the final version of my poetry essay. Like I previously said, the most drastic changes occurred between the first draft and the first revision. This piece took more mechanical than creative work. In the midst of my moving everything around in the last draft of the essay, I overlooked a few technical and grammatical errors. I fixed these and reformatted the paper so that it is nice and neat. 

The next thing I polished off was the e-poem. I had been doing these all year and I am really very happy with this final one. I know it's in no way the best but I remember while I was making it how involved I was and everything about these classes just clicked. After a year of struggling to grasp what in the world was happening, I finally got it. And this is what got me to that point.


Final Reflection

My portfolio from ENGL 366H last semester is pretty similar to this one in the sense that it aims to synthesize all the individual videos and essays into one thematic conclusion. I based a lot of what I did in this reflection as well as in this class on my first portfolio. I even made a reflection for that:

From poetry essays, soundscape short stories, graphic novels, and copyright infringment acknowledgements, I learned more about composing a work of literature in this year of English with Professor Anderson than I had in all my years of prior education. In order to fully understand literature, you have to be willing to dissect it and reassemble it in different ways. I had to think about purpose and intent when I wanted to create something for an audience as opposed to for myself.