Terms of Engagement: Strategies for Engendering Critical Online Discussions of Literature
Although teachers of literature in many countries are being called upon to translate their teaching of literature to the online medium, many are skeptical about how they will know when their students are truly engaged. At this point in time, and until technology progresses to interactive visual and aural approximation — itself a "cool" substitute for face-to-face dialogue — the only proof of engagement is through writing. This fact provides opportunity for those of us interested in linguistic and rhetorical text analysis. This presentation thus analyzes examples of cybertextal strategies used by students to demonstrate their enthrallment to literature, examples that show identity, imitation and emulation. The presentation also offers organizational strategies for teachers that encourage such engaged dialogue. Briefly, teachers may structure collaborative teaching and learning opportunities, opportunities for identification, and continuing opportunities for linguistic play, even and especially irreverent play. As almost all commentators observe, conversations between students and teachers are transformed in cyberspace. Yet I hope to show that such transformed conversations nonetheless may be authentic, emotive, and memorable, and appropriate for the task at hand: instilling a love and knowledge of literature. Some of my examples are drawn from modern American poetry courses and courses in women's literature in English. However, I plan to focus most of my examples on ethnic-American literature courses, where the ethnic diversity of my students and the range of literatures offers several opportunities to explore the question of student identity.
Keywords: Teaching and Learning of Literature, Online Teaching, Virtual Communities, Text Analysis, Ethnic American Literature
Dr. Mary Minock
Professor, Department of English and Communication Arts, Madonna University