I’m currently taking an Introductory English Literature course and a project is part of the coursework. This is the first blogpost.
I remember the first week of this semester. September. I hadn’t even settled down yet and life kinda slapped me in the face when I realize I wasn’t graduating on time (considering my financial situation). Fabulous. Running around trying to get my courses only added to the strain I felt. And so when I went to my first English 205 class (I missed the first one because I wasn’t registered for it yet), the announcement of having to do a project didn’t seem as daunting until my professor delivered the gist. You see the comfort of mixing my Nutrition courses with humanities is exercising my analytical and writing skills and maximum doing a presentation and so i didn’t expect a digital humanity project for an introductory English literature class. Overwhelmed, frustrated,and emotions not in check, it felt the project had been dumped on me.
Sentiments aside, what is digital humanities?
It is essentially an intersection between computer sciences and the humanities in the field of public humanities.Which is interesting because both fields seemed so distant to me before knowing this. Specific to the project, students were instructed to collect data from random people about the books they had read in high school, the condition being that they graduated from a Lebanese high school. The purpose and with the help of visualizing tools is to observe and derive a topic related to canonicity within the Lebanese context. We had the freedom of constructing our own interview questions as long as it followed the criteria specified on the excel sheet (i.e. genre, book title).
This seems like a project I would prefer doing on my own but it’s group-work and I’m always hesitant in participating in group work because of the risk of working with a group of people who would leave most of the work for me to do. I can’t be the only one who feels this way and I know I’m not the only one.With that hanging at the back of my head, the act of picking a group was nerve-wracking. Not to mention, I’m a socially awkward jellybean – but it worked out. I ended up with 3 girls who were on the same page as me – confused and curious. I knew Mariam way before taking this class and so I was already comfortable with her and with the fact that we would be working together. I’d never met Maria or Dana before but they turned out to be friendly and supportive. Presently, I’m comfortable with working with my group. We’ve even help each other out on matters outside the project, which is comforting.
Data collecting doesn’t sound exciting but I find interviewing fun but my limitation of only being fluent in English makes me nervous but so far, so good. Considering all the answers I’ve gotten, I believe the most interesting answer I got was that one of the interviewees didn’t actually finish reading any books while in high school. She was interested in math and biology more, which is cool, but her school didn’t have a strong English literature program either. Also, she essentially didn’t read during her free time as well. She joked that she didn’t finish a book during her high school years but it unfortunately links back to the stigmatizing perception that the arts are still considered inferior to the sciences. Sigh.
It’s normal to wonder how a project like this could be relevant to the course. I was too until the following occurred to me: This class is an introductory course to British literature, where we cover works that are still considered important despite their age. And so this hunt for literary works within the Lebanese context may show which literary works are important in Lebanon, widening the scope of canon literature that isn’t British.
Working with this group reminds of another project I did. In my gender and sexuality course, Women in African Literature, my group and I had to pick a book and update its Wikipedia page. We each divided the work and then updated the old content on a Google doc and then submitted it. In comparison, the project from my gender and sexuality class was relatively simpler and shorter unlike this project that started since week 1 of the semester and requires me to be way more analytical and observant.
Reflecting on the work done so far, I do believe each of us in the group has the knowledge and the skills to contribute to this project but with each of our hectic schedules, progress has been slow but we are getting there. My group and I will most likely be focusing on generations and what books were reoccurring. At our next meeting, we will work on a further analysis of our data and the work will properly be divided.
It’s that time of the month where all the work I’ve procrastinated on is piling up. I’m gonna need something stronger than tea. French Press Maybe?