For the first time in more than 20 years new works entered the US public domain this year, and thus became free to distribute. I only made a few tweaks to the reading list this semester, but one of those was to add a newly available short story, Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street” (not to be confused with her later novel, Mrs Dalloway). The new story went under the character section, while I moved “Miss Brill” from character to point of view. I removed Woolf’s “Kew Gardens” from the list. Also in fiction, I returned Chekhov’s “Gusev” to the reading list under setting; I just missed teaching it.
In poetry I tinkered with the idea of going all public domain but finally decided that the diversity of modern poets whose work is available through the Poetry Foundation is just too important to the course. My only change there was to substitute one Elizabeth Bishop poem (“At the Fishhouses”) for another (“The Moose”) at the end of the unit.
No changes were made in drama.
As I did last year, I’m making a few tweaks to the reading list. Here, for the sake of record-keeping, is an outline of what’s different. I’m looking forward to 2019, when new works enter the US public domain for the first time in years.
LINK CHANGE: I found a Gutenberg text for “Odour of Chrysthanthemums.”
OUT: The short selections from Twain and Joyce.
IN: “The Mark on the Wall” by Virginia Woolf.
OUT: “Gusev.” We never had time to do this one justice, and it only marginally fits into setting.
IN: “Sultana’s Dream.” Represents feminist utopian fiction.
I changed the strategy here, eliminating the two days on the Dickinson-Whitman dichotomy and introducing a day on “modes of poetry.” I moved the form discussion earlier in the unit and added a day at the end to compare two poems from different centuries with a common theme.
As I begin semester three of this open access “Writing through Literature” course, I am taking advantage of the great flexibility that open access offers and making a few changes to the reading list. Only the new selections now appear on reading list pages, so for the sake of record-keeping, here are the changes:
- IN: James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
- OUT: Jane Austen, Emma.
After 25+ years of teaching, it was rewarding to finally discuss a Jane Austen novel. But after two semesters, I decided to find something a more modern and a shorter. Joyce hits the sweet spot right near the end of the public domain period in the US.
- IN: H. P. Lovecraft, “The Colour Out of Space.”
- OUT: H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu.”
While it lacks Lovecraft’s iconic creation, Cthulhu, “Colour Out of Space” is just a better stand-alone piece of fiction.
- IN: Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing.
- OUT: Shakespeare: Othello.
I thought this course needed a comedy!
I sit here on the morning of the first day of classes, Spring 2017, ready to go with another edition of this open access reading literature course. Enrollment is full and I’m excited to begin. I have an excellent report from the first semester. Students reported no difficulties in getting to the readings. They used them in a variety of ways, from simply reading in a web browser to downloading an EPUB file and annotating it before class. I myself used the latter, via Google books, and I’m looking to reusing my color-coded notes for class again this spring. It certainly beats a dog-eared anthology with half-loose post-its growing from its sides. During Open Access week, Janelle Wertzberger, Assistant Dean and Director of Scholarly Communications,visited the class to discuss issues surrounding open access. In November, she organized a panel that I was participated in. You can see notes from that session here. All in all, a stimulating, new expereince.
Here is a screenshot from a Project Gutenberg text, showing download options.This will be typical of your fiction and drama assignments. Poetry, for the most part, we will simply be reading on the web. So, let’s run down the options for accessing the text.
- HTML: You click on the link and read the work on the web. That’s it! This may not be the most comfortable or elegant for longer works, but it’s always simple.
- EPUB (with or without images) This is an open eBook format. These files can be downloaded and opened with various free eReader applications on your computer or mobile. The apps include Google Play Books, many others. This is my own preferred option for anything over a few pages. Here are instructions for opening an EPUB file in Google Books. Note that it’s easier to do the initial upload on a computer; then it should be available on all of your devices. This link should get you to your Google Books Library: play.google.com/books, where you can find the upload button in the upper right.
- Kindle: Like EPUB, but proprietary. If you are used to reading books on a Kindle or Kindle app on a tablet or phone, this may be for you.
- Plain Text: Just what it sounds like. Very ugly, and not any simpler than HTML.
- More Files: This appears to contain previous versions. Nothing to see here.
Are there books I could buy if I want? You are free to buy some of the texts if you prefer. However, there is no one book, or even a reasonably-sized set of books, that would include all these readings. Perhaps you’d like to pick up cheap or used copies of our longer assignments, if that’s how you feel most comfortable reading them. Those would be our novel and Shakespeare play. If you choose to buy the play, make sure it’s Shakespeare’s actual play and not some modern paraphrase. Our other long-ish work is Oedipus the King, by Sophocles. To get a version that is in the public domain, we are reading a 1912 translation from the ancient Greek by Francis Storr. Reading a different translation may make it difficult to follow class discussion and is not recommended.