Greetings from OER-Land

Nephtalí de León La virgen de Guadaliberty

Neftali de Leon, La Virgen de Guadaliberty (1999)

Not that anyone, even anyone reading this post, has likely wondered why I haven’t posted here in a while, but: I have missed posting here, even if you have not missed them.  So, excuse some self-indulgence.  I also thought it would be worthwhile to say something here about the current project I and some colleagues have been collaborating on at my school–which, as it happens, is one of the main reasons I’ve not posted here.  Also, apropos of book-project news, I recently encountered this image you see here that contributes to and expands the visual and semiotic languages engendered by the Virgen de Guadalupe, a discussion that will be part of Domestic Issue.


Two years ago, our college’s English department wrote its first OER text, a book we use in our first-semester traditional Comp. class; we soon followed that with the text we now use in the second-semester Comp. class, the “research paper class.”  You are probably familiar with the chief reasons we made the decision to undertake this massive task: saving our students money (already close to $1 million just in these two years); and editorial control: the ability to add what we want when we want it.  Now, I and three other colleagues are wrapping up the drafting of chapters for an Intro. to Literature text.  If all goes well, it will be available this fall.  Already, we have tentative plans to build OERs for the first halves of the American Lit. and Brit. Lit. surveys, respectively.

(A bit of cheerleading here: I’m quite proud to be a part of my college’s English department, and one of the reasons for that is that during my time here we have initiated several projects that in various ways have taken root in other departments.  Writing our OERs is a case in point: because of their success, other departments are taking a look at writing their own now.)

Our Intro. to Lit. OER will be something of a hybrid text.  The physical text will have chapters on the traditional genres and chapters on mass media (radio, film, and television), graphic novels, and various non-fiction narratives, along with brief introductions to various theoretical approaches to reading and writing about texts; it will also contain a small reader.  The vast majority of the reading selections, though, will be links to online texts that are in the public domain, and faculty will have considerable leeway in incorporating other selections into their classes.  It won’t be perfect (for one thing, we thought we’d have another semester to work on it), but we like the basic idea and, as I noted above, we can change it any time we want.  Still, our group’s chair says she’s already getting some pushback from faculty who’d like to have a more self-contained text (which, of course, would be nice if we weren’t up against physical limitations–the physical text can’t be more than 400 pages long).  Her rebuttal, though, is a good one: you’ve been trained in this discipline; you should be able to choose texts that can introduce students to those features and concepts of literature that you want them to know about.  She’s right about this, of course; even better, though, I think this more open structure will allow for some creative re-imagining of the traditional intro. course that will both do what such courses should do and let the profs be a bit more self-indulgent than our current text encourages.

I’ve drafted chapters on the following: oral tradition/folk tales; the novel up to, more or less, the turn into the 20th century (more contemporary things are discussed elsewhere); a short chapter on things to keep in mind when reading translations; and a chapter on formalism/”close reading.”  To come will be the film and television bits in the chapter on mass media. I’m happy with my work on the whole, especially the chapter on the novel.  While it’s woefully inadequate (how can one adequately survey a history of that genre in 25 pages?), I think I’ve done a good job of laying out that history and, in the course of spending a couple of paragraphs each on, in particular, Don Quixote and Madame Bovary, I’ve been able to elucidate the (importance of the) novel’s appeal to the middle classes and to women in a way that I think will be appealing (as well as informative) to students.

All of which is to say that anything like serious work on the book project has been set aside for the moment (though the reading list has continued to grow–funny how that works).  Everything with the OER needs to be wrapped up by the end of June, so I anticipate getting back to good old Domestic Issue in earnest after that time.  In the meantime, though, thanks in particular to academic types I follow on Twitter, I continue to run into books I should at least have a look at and, in the case of the image that appears at the beginning of this post, I see things that inspire me to keep going.  In my own small way, I have returned the favor to those folks by talking about things I’ve read and passing along things I have learned, especially how theories of the Baroque seem especially useful when thinking about this hemisphere.  A while back, I was also able to recommend to someone, who was putting together an American Lit. survey with a Caribbean angle, Edouard Glissant’s reading of Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! as a Caribbean novel.  So, while I’ve not done any writing, and very little reading, for a while, other kinds of “work” on this project keep happening.

Well.  It was fun to post here again after so long an absence.  I hope my next one will be appearing sooner rather than later, and will be a bit more substantive.

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