Category Archives: Assignments to Try

Weeks 9 & 10: Collaborating with COCC and NYPL “What’s on the Menu?”

DH at CC Course Poster

Spring 2017 DH at CC Course goes Live!

It’s hard to believe that it’s Week 10 of an 11-week term! I’m sure my online students are as breathless as I am.  Just as I had expected, there was no way we could fit everything into this term, and so as I wrote to my students with the final sandbox assignment of the term last night, I had to erase the sentence, “This assignment has two parts.” I had so wanted to ask my students to create digital editions of restaurant menus for this last week. Shawna Ross at Texas A & M had given a wonderful workshop on how to create “minimal computing” digital editions, and I was intending to assign this to my students. But I realized that it was too much mental load to expect students could research and curate menus in our area, then scan and OCR them, and then post them in Omeka.

So instead, I stuck with the original New York Public Library “What’s on the Menu?” crowdsourced proofing/reviewing project. While they won’t experience a “whole game” experience of creating digital editions and posting them in their archives as I had intended, they will experience the “whole game” of participating in the development of a world-class digital archive. 

Last week, students from Central Oregon Community College, under the care of Professor Annemarie Hamlin, collaborated with my students on a digital maps project. We had intended for that project to be hosted by the DH@theCC Commons, but we had trouble with the invitations in Buddy Press, so we relied on Google Docs and I have to say it didn’t work badly at all!

Here are the assignment sheets:

Week 9: Cross-Institutional Collaboration

Collaboration with Central Oregon CC Students 

Week 10: “What’s on the Menu?” Crowdsourced Review Assignment

What’s on the Menu Assignment

 

Week 1 of ENG 217: Reading, Writing, and Digital Culture

I feel very privileged that my ENG 217 course “Reading, Writing, and Digital Culture” (Intro to DH) not only “made” enrollment minimums but actually filled to capacity! If your department isn’t under enrollment pressures, then you wouldn’t understand. But, suffice it to say, I tried to offer this course twice before and it didn’t “make,” so I’m thrilled. 

It is now an online course. This means I have had to rethink it and really map out every single step for students, anticipating missteps and gaps in understanding. Many students take online courses because their lives are extremely busy, but their preparation for digital projects can be uneven and frustration can lead to disappearance–this disappearance is for me the biggest threat and worst result of bad online pedagogy.

So here’s Week 1. I’m posting my syllabus with this week’s “Sandbox exercises,” both of which have worked in the f2f classroom as versions of DH labs I’ve taught. Now that everything’s online, my hope is that these instructions are clear enough that everyone has fun, sticks around long enough to read and learn more.

ENGLISH 217 SYLLABUS 

In the spirit of open sharing, I am sharing here the blog I created to provide an example for students–so that they can see what I mean when I ask them to post this or that on their blog. In my Blogger I am not blogging to impress but rather to simply demo: “What would it look like to do this assignment?” 

So here’s the blog prototype. It may not be interesting to you except as an example of an example for students and it’s helpful for me as a record of this work.

Threshold Concepts and DH at the CC

DH at CC Course Poster

Spring 2017 DH at CC Course goes Live!

At the Community College Humanities Association PNW earlier this month, I discussed my development of “threshold concepts” for digital humanities as a way of bridging and scaffolding accessible DH work into community college courses–simultaneously teaching a “whole game” approach that is valuable to all students while also preparing transfer students for a 21st century humanities education. Powerpoint is here: this-digital-life

Actually I retrofitted threshold concepts onto course assignments I had already developed or am in the process of developing for my Spring 2017 Intro to DH course entitled “Reading, Writing and Culture in a DIgital Age.” I took a page from Ryan Cordell’s wise essay and chose a title that refers to concrete practices that novice humanities students and Gen Ed students alike would recognize.

Here are some of the assignments that I’m still tinkering with–some of them are in the process of being developed, some have already worked successfully. One assignment is adapted out of a lengthy and sophisticated assignment in Bruno Latour’s “Scientific Humanities” MOOC and another was inspired by Jena Osman’s Public Figures book and website to provide opportunities for students to practice humanities methods of observation, analysis and creative imagining in their daily lives.

Humanities Computing or Digital Humanities is…

—About the Book

…About how algorithms-organize-information-essay-wr122

…About anticipating questions anticipate-your-audience-faqs-assignment-sheet

…About glitches and breaking-stuff-write-like-gertrude

…About non-human subjectivities synthetic-selfies-and-monumental-subjects

..About how words-get-their-meaning-from-other-words

…. About building an audience for your cause writing-studio-exercise-awareness-object-artifact

Thirteen Ways of Doing DH at the CC

In anticipation of this week’s Community College Humanities Association national conference meeting, I am posting this compilation of assignments that I have developed over the past year. These assignments rely heavily on the educational sites that they link to. The procedural instructions are my main curricular contributions.

Check them out here: Thirteen Ways of Doing DH at the CC A Resource Packet

Thirteen Ways of Doing DH at the CC by ANNE B MCGRAIL is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at VARIED EDUCATIONAL .

Poetry Map Blog Entry for Women Writers

A collection of notes from my first hybird “digital humanities” class at Lane.I am teaching this introductory class MW in a traditional classroom, with Friday’s class in a computer lab. Several blogging assignments will encourage students to try out their writing in a public forum, and we will use the Friday class to look at other digital humanities projects, and encourage students to tinker and create digital projects that begin with what digital fluencies they have and build on them.

Here is the Poetry Map Blog Entry assignment that I started out the term with. We have returned to this assignment each week for a few moments in the lab, since some students have had trouble figuring out how to set up their blogs. Some are unused to commands such as “Ctrl V” and instead use their mouse. It has surprised me how many students don’t know about this command.

ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTIONS (IN COMPUTER LAB)

Introduction to Women Writers ENG260 Fall 2012

Doc McGrail

First Blog Assignment: Poetry Map Blog Entry

 HOW TO POST:

Post the URL to your completed blog entry in the Moodle assignment link that says “POETRY MAP BLOG ENTRY”. This is where your grade will show up in Moodle.

ASSIGNMENT DESCRIPTION:

For this blog entry, you will be learning something about the poetry scene in one state in the U.S., and exploring the life and poetry of one of the women poets in that state.  You will then choose a single poem by that poet to write about.  You will post your work to your blog as a Poetry Map entry.  Use the title “Poetry Map: State of {xxx}. Poet: {xxx}

This assignment will probably take you 2 hours to complete, depending on how engaged you are with the assignment, among other things.  The blog entry has two parts. The written part has a short research component (I will direct you to the site) and also a literary analysis component (I will provide questions to guide your response/analysis).  You should plan to spend an hour browsing the website for your assigned state, choosing one of the poets on this site, and one of her poems to write about. You should plan to spend another hour writing up your blog entry about the poetry scene, where women seem to fit into it, and about the poet herself and her poem.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. TAKE NOTES:

To begin, you should have a notepad or an electronic notepad open so that you can record your findings as you go.  It’s always best to write down anything interesting so that later you can write more formal paragraphs from your notes.  Remember that any information you get from any source needs to be documented by pointing to the site.  Here’s a resource for finding out how to cite a web-based resource:

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/08

  1. FIND YOUR STATE:

First of all, scroll to the bottom of this document to find your name and your assigned state.  You will need this information in order to complete the assignment.

GO TO POETS. ORG

Next, go to the National Poetry Map on poets.org here: http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/382

 

  1. BROWSE YOUR STATE POETRY SITE

Click on your assigned state. You will find a wealth of information about poets and poetry from that state.  Spend some time becoming familiar with the different links and resources on your page.  Concentrate on the poets who are women, since that’s what you’ll be writing about.

  1. BEGIN DRAFTING YOUR TWO-PART BLOG ENTRY

My advice is to create a draft in your word-processing program or on paper and then post your polished work on your blog as a final step. You will be creating a two-part blog entry (you can separate it with headings):

PART I:  THE POETRY SCENE IN YOUR ASSIGNED STATE

Give your Blog readers a sense of the “poetry scene” in your state by writing a paragraph or two in which you answer the following questions:

1. What is your assigned state?
2.. What are the names of the women poets from your state?
3.  What kinds of reading series, conferences, and literary festivals are happening in your state? What specific mention is made of women poets?

PART II: CHOOSE A POET AND A POEM

The second part of your blog entry is more detailed.  Choose ONE WOMAN POET from your state and read what the website has to say about that poet.  Take notes on things about this poet that interested you.  Then read some of that poet’s poems (there should be some links to poet’s poems on the site.)  Get a general feel for that poet’s style and subject matter.

Next, choose ONE POEM by that same poet.  You will write a brief (250-word) response/analysis of the poem using what you are learning in class to talk about the poem.

Here are some questions that can guide your analysis.  You can begin by first drafting answers to the questions and then use your answers to write your analysis/response in paragraph form.

1.  Who is the speaker of the poem? Is it an adult or child? Man or woman? Happy? Lonely? Puzzled? Other?  Remember that the speaker in a poem is NOT the same thing as the poet (the person actually writing the poem.) The speaker is a creation that the poet has

2.  Who is being addressed in this poem? Sometimes a speaker will address a specific audience, sometimes a more generalized group.

3.  What is the situation being described in this poem?

4.  What is the tone of this poem?

5.  What is the poem’s argument or main point?

6.  What are some remarkable features of the meter, rhyme scheme or line length/line breaks that you think are important for understanding the poem?

7. Is there something in the poem that makes you think about what you are learning in class about women writers in their social and historical context? If so, discuss that.

Once you have answered these questions, you can begin to develop your two-part blog entry, using the answers to construct your essay.

GRADING CRITERIA: (Satisfactory Grade Range: 70-80; Strong Grade Range: 80-90; Exemplary Grades 90-100)

  1. Follows instructions
  2. Blog entry demonstrates a thorough and correct if brief overview of the “poetry scene” in the assigned state (satisfactory). All sources are correctly cited either by linking to the site or by creating a works cited list at the end. Strong entries do all this and also make useful connections with course terms and course readings and discussions. Exemplary entries do all this and provide original or creative insight and/or connections.
  3. Blog entry demonstrates a general understanding of the chosen poet and the poetry posted on the site for that poet (satisfactory).  Strong entries do this and utilize course terms and work to discuss the poet and poetry. Exemplary entries do this and provide original or creative insight or connections about the chosen poet and course terms and discussions.
  4. Satisfactory blog entry provides a clear analysis and detailed response to the chosen poem, using literary terms and reading skills learned in the class. The analysis answers the questions. Strong analysis does this and provides depth and connections; exemplary analysis does this and uses the analysis as an occasion for an original or creative insight.
  5. Prompt posting assumed for all satisfactory grades. Late posts lose a 10% per day late.

YOUR ASSIGNED STATE: (list of students’ names and states here)

SETTING UP YOUR BLOG
You should do this as soon as you can so you can begin working and ask questions if you come into difficulty.

  1. Get a gmail account if you don’t already have one. Go to blogger.com and click on “Get Started.”
  2. Go to blogger.com here http://www.blogger.com/home and sign in with your username and password.
  3. You will find yourself on the “Dashboard”. Click on “Create a Blog.”
  4. Name your blog. Choose something descriptive. Your first name and Eng260 is easy to remember too.
  5. Choose a template
  6. Start blogging. You can begin by going to the “New Post” link at the top of the page.
  7. Go to “Design” to find the “Settings” tab. This is where you can set your privacy setting. To keep it private while still sharing it with your fellow students, you can upload the link to your blog in the assignment forum “Poetry Map Blog Entry.”
  8. Here’s my own beginning Poetic Anthology Blog, entitled “April is the Cruelest Month”….http://docmcgrailsfavepoetry.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

 

Notes on First Digital Day in Women Writers

…In which the instructor’s careful planning is undermined by the brick and mortar realities of teaching in a classroom….

The best thing I did on this day: I wrote on the whiteboard:
Digital Humanities Rules of Engagement

Be courteous and generous at all times with each other. (I forgot to include “patient.”)

No texting, IMs, tweets, blogs, surfing except for ENG260

 

This text was accompanied by a mini-lecture to everyone that is indebted to what I’ve learned about DH in twitter and elsewhere: we are experimenting, we are doing something new, and we need generosity and courtesy in order to proceed fearlessly. It was lucky that I wrote this up on the board first thing, because the way things unfolded for the next 50 minutes, I ended up relying on these rules of engagement several times.

 

Our first class met in a really nice computer lab space. My goal was to get every student to establish a new blog for work just on our class, and to introduce them to our first digital assignment: The Poetry Map Blog Entry.

It was a comical start to my project, for all my careful preparations. After having loaded all of the instructions onto Moodle, I entered the classroom with my passkey, ready to open up the Moodle site in the sleek new computer classroom and carefully walk each student through the steps involved. However, I forgot the tiny key for access to the keyboard. A fatal error. By the time I came back to the classroom with the key, students were logged into Moodle and some of them were hopelessly lost. Some hadn’t used Firefox and so couldn’t access the page correctly. Some started to print out random pages, sending the printer into paroxysms of production in what should be a paperless session. Luckily, there were also some very generous and digitally fluent students who started helping others out, and I walked around the room trying to put out fires.

Then Moodle seized up entirely, kicking everyone off of the site and sending everyone in a panic. Sigh. I then scrambled to instruct 26 students, each at a different stage of creating their blog, in next steps

As the class descended briefly into chaos, I had to point to the white board a couple times….Some students were defiant: “I don’t do blogs. I hate blogging.” [To which I fearlessly had to reply, “You don’t have to like blogging, you just have to do it for this course.”] Why don’t we used Facebook instead?” Some were derailed by Google’s insistence on their adding friends to their G+ account (which gave me the opportunity to discuss online privacy).

Lessons learned:
Bring all keys
Ask students not to turn on their computers until everyone is on the same page.

 

Word Clouds and Harriet Jacobs

IN-CLASS WORD CLOUDS AND Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

(Note: After I had taught and wrote about this, Jacob Heil @dr_heil led me to Ryan Cordell’s more developed work with word clouds and Paul Fyfe’s “How to Not Read a Victorian Novel.” My next foray will benefit enormously from their work.)

Each Friday we have an hour in the computer lab. Today, we went to Wordle.net and spent half of the class selecting chapters from Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to create “beautiful word clouds.” I am charmed by word clouds, and I think that they provide an engaging and unintimidating way to introduce data visualization–its affordances and its pitfalls–to students, even those who are struggling with how to use “Ctrl V” or who don’t know why we have to use Firefox as our browser.

I was guided by Ted Underwood’s blog on “Where to Start with Text Mining,” to introduce students to the purpose of text mining. I knew we wouldn’t go anywhere near the primary research he and his colleagues are working with. But getting students to have a sense of these categories of text mining helped them see what “big data” can do in the humanities. Underwood’s list pointed the way: Categorize documents.  Contrast the vocabulary of different corpora.  Trace the history of particular features (words or phrases) over time. Cluster features that tend to be associated in a given corpus of documents (aka topic modeling). Entity extraction. Visualization.

So we began with visualization. No one in the room had heard of “wordle”–which surprised me. And so we went went to UNC’s website where a full-text version of the book was available in a single page, and I asked them to select “all” and copy this into the wordle window.  The wordle we all came up with, more or less, looked like this:

 

We quickly saw that “Page” was not a word that would help us to interpret Jacobs’s book, and so this led us to a very clear idea of the methodological problems that might come up with text mining: all words in a book don’t “mean” the same, and so finding ways to filter those words out is key.

I walked them through the quick process of “find” and “replace” in Word, such that we got rid of the offending “Page,” and a new wordle emerged:

 

A wordle using the text of _Incidents_ with the word “Page” removed 297 times.

Everyone now saw that “children” was the most frequent word in the book. While “Flint” and “master” and “slave” were also prevalent, this word “children” supported our discussions all week about the book: that Jacobs had a rhetorical purpose in mind: she wanted to build a bridge between herself and her audience, and being first a child and then a mother helped her to do this with her white audience.

I then asked students to spend the rest of the class selecting portions of the book–chapters that had intrigued them or interested them–and see how creating a wordle supported their initial interpretations. We all wrote up our comments in the live forum in our LMS.

During class, one student went and found a text by Sojourner Truth and created a wordle and reported on the prevalence of “God” (smaller in Jacobs’s text).

 

A wordle from Sojourner Truth’s narrative.

I think that I will use this wordle exercise again–and maybe extend it to the ngram viewer so that we can look more closely at relationships among words over time.

Definitely a useful introduction–very small steps, just enough to intrigue the students but not overwhelm them. Something to build on this term.

 

Walt Whitman–Drafts and Revisions

Adapted from Ed Folsom’s Classroom Electric: Dickinson, Whitman and American Culture

INSTRUCTIONS TO STUDENTS:

Read the instructions below and then post your response to the Moodle forum. If you have time, respond to your peers and begin a conversation about Whitman and how his poetic device of cataloging can help us become better readers and interpreters of American Literature.

For today’s Digital Humanities Lab, your job is to explore this “e pluribus unum” work of “Song of Myself” and think about the mechanisms of continuity, unity, fluidity in Whitman’s manuscripts alongside the discontinuities, deletions, substitutions and redirections that run through the surviving drafts of his poem.

  1. Go to the Whitman Archive page “Whitman Manuscript Drafts of Song of Myself” (1855) here. Read what author Ed Folsom says about the collection of manuscript drafts of the poem.
  2. Next, open a second tab and go to one completed version of “Song of Myself” online (this one from University of Illinois’s Modern American Poetry site–a really useful one to bookmark).
  3. To complete your perusal, you will spend some time toggling between these two sites. Start with the original draft manuscript fragments located in the left frame and find lines that interest you.Select just a short phrase that you think might have found its way into the final form. (If you choose too large a phrase, it may be hard to find.) Click on the example below to enlarge:
  4. Then see what you can find in the final draft form that matches the draft phrase or words. To locate words or phrases that you find in the drafts in the final form, go to the final poem and type “Control F” and a box will open on your screen. Type in those words and see if they are in the final poem. Click on the example below to enlarge:
  5. Click on the DIGITAL HUMANITIES LAB RESPONSE link in Moodle to post your responses.

QUESTIONS FOR EXPLORATION of the SITE:

  1. EVERYONE ANSWER THIS QUESTION: A question of composition:  What scraps and patches of poetic drafting eventually find themselves in Whitman’s final poem?  What does this collection of digitized manuscript fragments—and their subsequent scattering in four archives—tell you about the composing process?

THEN CHOOSE FROM THESE QUESTIONS:

  1. A question of formal devices: The poetic device of cataloging that Whitman uses here and throughout his ouevre provides a dynamic model of inclusiveness, as if the goal of his poetry is to collect everything under a single “roof” of poetry. What are the advantages of this device? What are its limitations?
  2. A question of poetic nation-building: What aspects of Whitman’s fragments and final poem “Song of Myself” situate the poet and poem in larger themes of American literature and culture—the sense of a “boundless dream” and hunger for new beginnings?
  3. A question of comparison: For those of you familiar also with Emily Dickinson: compare Whitman’s sprawling freedom with Dickinson’s tightly bound intensity and talk about how they are both somehow “American” by talking about the emerging national literary characteristics or persistent themes, tone, concerns, focus etc.
  4. Which of the scraps (“the cocktail napkin drafts”) in this collection are most interesting to you and why?
  5. If you’re interested in the printing/publishing aspect of literary enterprise, you may want to read the entire article by Ed Folsom, University of Iowa. What does he say about the value of the “HRC manuscript” to literary scholars and why?
  6. Think about your own writing and thinking and revising process. What is the significance of this collection of fragments to you?

 

 

Voices from the Gaps in Women Writers Class

A quick update on this assignment. While as with many mini-research assignments these can elicit very formulaic responses to questions, I also discovered that for several of the students, this was exactly the kind of assignment that drew them in and gave them a sense of ownership and discovery. One student talked movingly about how discovering a Filipino American author affected her and made her wish she had known about this writer when she was growing up Filipino in America; another mother of five wrote about an African American mystery novelist and discovered that while she hadn’t always admired the genre she could see how the work of this novelist could have a positive political dimension.

 

Introduction to Women Writers ENG260 Fall 2012
Second Blog Assignment:
Voices from the Gaps: Women Writer Discovery Blog Entry (mini-research/critical essay project posted onto your course blog) (10%) http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/
POSTING DUE DATE:

Friday, Due Friday October 26 at midnight.

HOW TO POST:

Post the URL to your completed blog entry in the Moodle assignment link that says “VOICES FROM THE GAPS: WOMEN WRITER DISCOVERY BLOG”. This is where your grade will show up in Moodle.  To find out what your URL for this blog entry is, go to your actual post and copy and paste the URL that shows up.

ASSIGNMENT DESCRIPTION:
For this blog entry, you will be using the same blog that you created for your poetry map, only you will add a new post to it and title it “Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers Discovery Blog.” This assignment gives you the opportunity to explore a woman writer you may not have heard of before and to read what a fellow college student  has researched and wrote about her. You will then write about this artist in your blog, following some questions below. This blog should give you a sense of discovery.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. BROWSE THE VOICES FROM THE GAPS PAGE TO SEE WHAT CATEGORIES ARE AVAILABLE AND WHICH ONES INTEREST YOU: http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/

You can choose whichever artist you are interested in as long as she is not one of the writers that we are working on in class. You must use the artist pages that are on this site as your source of information. If there are related links within the site, you can use information found on those sites as well, being sure to mark your reference in your blog by using hyperlinks.

  1. TAKE NOTES:

To begin, you should have a notepad or an electronic notepad open so that you can record your findings as you go.  It’s always best to write down anything interesting so that later you can write more formal paragraphs from your notes.  Remember that any information you get from this or any source needs to be documented by pointing to the site.  Here’s a resource for finding out how to cite a web-based resource: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/08/

  1. BEGIN DRAFTING YOUR BLOG ENTRY

My advice is to create a draft in your word-processing program or on paper and then post your polished work on your blog as a final step. Your blog should answer the questions below. You should use an essay format, however, with your intended audience being your fellow students and other blog readers in the blogosphere who may be interested in reading what you have to say about this author.

  1. Who is the artist you have chosen?
  2. Why were you drawn to this artist?
  3. Summarize this artist’s major accomplishments. If you can, find something that they have created and describe it or discuss it.
  4. Talk about what is unique or unusual or interesting to you about this artist.
  5. Talk about how what you learned about this artist relates to some of the themes that we are exploring in our class:
  • about women’s identity as artists and difficulties they have;
  • about the role that race and ethnicity have played in the identity of this artist and also in their work;
  • about the relationship between money and a “room of one’s own” and this artist’s life and/or work
  • is the issue of a “single story” at play in their life or work? If so, how?

i)        What do you think of the student researcher’s work?

ii)      Be sure to provide a summary of your overall findings.

Once you have posted your entry, post the unique URL for this post to the Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers Discovery Blog link in the Moodle 5th week course block.

GRADING CRITERIA: (Satisfactory Grade Range: 70-80; Strong Grade Range: 80-90; Exemplary Grades 90-100)

  1. Follows instructions
  2. Blog entry demonstrates a thorough and correct if brief overview of the woman artist s/he chose (satisfactory). All sources are correctly cited either by linking to the sites. Strong entries make useful connections with course terms and course readings and discussions. Exemplary entries provide original or creative insight and/or connections.
  3. Blog entry demonstrates a general understanding of the chosen writer and her work (satisfactory).  Strong entries utilize course terms and work to discuss the artist and her work. Exemplary entries provide original or creative insight or connections about the chosen artist and course terms and discussions.
  4. Satisfactory blog entry provides a clear analysis and detailed response to the chosen artist page(s), using literary terms and reading skills learned in the class. The analysis answers the questions above. Strong analysis provides depth and connections; exemplary analysis uses the analysis as an occasion for an original or creative insight.
  5. Prompt posting assumed for all satisfactory grades. Late posts lose a 10% per day late.

 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Material Culture

ASSIGNMENT: UNCLE TOM’S CABIN AND MATERIAL CULTURE

This assignment uses resources from the University of Virginia’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture archive.  Students read a few chapters of the novel in their Norton Anthology and the goal is to get them to see the influence the novel has had on American culture in general and racist stereotypes in particular. The assignment was designed as a series of Moodle forums.

For DH Lab: Please choose at least TWO forums below to browse and answer questions in.

BACKGROUND:

In class on Wednesday, we started to look at how Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sentimental form supported her novel’s rhetorical purpose: to protest the institution of slavery in America.

At the time of its writing, most black Americans responded enthusiastically to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Frederick Douglass was a friend of Stowe’s; she had consulted him on some sections of the book, and he praised the book in his writings. Most black abolitionists saw it as a tremendous help to their cause. Some, however, opposed the book, seeing Uncle Tom’s character as being too submissive and criticized Stowe for having her strongest black characters emigrate to Liberia.  To this day, it is difficult to fully comprehend the complexities of racist feeling in America in the wake of Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s publication and the Civil War that followed it.

GAMES HELP CHILDREN AND ADULTS ORGANIZE THEIR WORLDS


Games provide epistemic frames for children and adults to understand how the world is or should be organized.  An “epistemic frame” is a cognitive and emotional structure that organizes and orients each person’s ways of knowing the world. It is made up of the values, knowledge, skills, identities, and rationales for decision making. An epistemic frame is highly relational: it provides hierarchies and relational connections among the people, places and things in our orbits.

UNCLE TOM’S CABIN: A NEW EPISTEMIC FRAME

Because of its pervasive popularity, Uncle Tom’s Cabin provided a new epistemic frame for white Americans (and Europeans) to comprehend the humanity of black slaves in an abolitionist context. For whites in America—Southerners and Northerners alike–this epistemic frame was grounded in Christian piety, the cult of true womanhood, and domestic individualism.  For example, when Eliza demonstrates powerful maternal devotion she provided white women with a model of identification, which changed those women’s epistemic frame.

A FRAME IMPOSED ON BLACK AMERICAN SLAVES AND FREE MEN AND WOMEN

Of course, for black American slaves, this epistemic frame was objectifying and imposed from without; it infantilized black men and valued male and female submission to “God’s will” as understood by white Southerners and Northerners. Thus, while we can admire Stowe’s rhetorical skill in mobilizing sentiment for a just cause, reading this novel we also bear witness to the racist effects of her choices.  If we can hold both of these contradictory ideas in our minds at once—Stowe’s achievement and her production of racist sterotypes—we can begin to understand this book’s place in our American Literature Survey.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR TODAY’S LAB:

For today’s DH Lab, FIRST click on each of the links below and follow the links to the web archive, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture, maintained by the University of Virginia.

Once you’ve scanned everything, decide on a forum and answer the question(s) there. Feel free to enter into conversation with each other by replying to the original question and/or the responses of your classmates within the forum. But you should post about at least two sites.

TOY VILLAGES:
Check out the two “Toy Villages” –Play Village Version 1 and Play Village Version 2. Notice that these villages include an “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” feature. Answer both of these questions:

QUESTION 1: What do you make of this feature of a village game in a 1905 child’s toy?

QUESTION 2: The curators suggest that this is a “plantation recreation” game, even though not explicitly stated. How does this village contribute to the “epistemic frame” within which children would understand American history? The division of white and black roles in a given “village”?
_____________________________________________________

BROWSE THE SITE

To see the variety of cultural objects inspired by Uncle Tom’s Cabin, you may want to browse the entire collection here.

How does it change your perspective to see not just children’s games but “adult toys” and other forms of entertainment emerge from Stowe’s novel?  Taken together, how do these artifacts–created over a period of 80 years–contribute to a cultural epistemic frame?

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PAPER DOLLS/RAG DOLLS

The profound learning that occurs with manipulable toys such as village sets and dolls goes beyond the narrative structure set up in Uncle Tom’s Cabin the novel, create an infinitely variable reorganization and reinforcement of the social structure.

Review the collection of paper dolls, cut-outs and rag dolls here. Then continue your reflection on how these objects of material culture contributed to the epistemic frame launched by the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Note the DATES each of these was produced: only one in 1865; the others were in the early 20th century.

QUESTION: In what contexts can you imagine these figures reinforced the lessons Stowe intended? In what contexts can you see these figures reinforcing emergent racist stereotypes that Stowe may not have intended? What significance could the dating hold?

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UNCLE TOM CARD GAME #1

Read the introduction to this game here click on the “Directions” on the left pane. Click on each of the different character cards, paying special attention to the different “whole families.”

QUESTIONS: What kind of epistemic frame does this card provide for the players?  How does it differ from the frame created in Uncle Tom Card Game #1?

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UNCLE TOM CARD GAME #2

First click on “See the Cards.” After you have seen the four sections of cards, go back and click on “Read the Rules,” and follow how the game is played.

QUESTIONHow does this card game reimagine the world of the novel? Do you think it’s true to the spirit of the novel? What advantages might such a game have in the abolitionist fight against slavery? [Note that it is published the same year as Uncle Tom’s Cabin.]