not without mustard :: teaching philosophy

Teaching Philosophy

My aim as a teacher of early modern literature and textual studies is to cultivate in students a critical awareness of the mutually constitutive relationship between ‘medium’ and ‘message’. Literature is not simply an abstract ideal and artistic construct, nor is it merely the inanimate sum of its formal elements and physical constituents. This requires introducing students to the cultural, historical, and material conditions of textual production, circulation, and reception, and to the technologies that enable these processes. How do different text technologies shape the experiences of authors and readers? What meanings are conveyed by typography, layout, bibliographical format, or colour? What did it mean to be an ‘author’ in Elizabethan England? How does an understanding of the mechanical processes of setting type and other print-shop practices affect our reading and editing of early printed works?

Texts circulated in manuscript, print, and performance during the early modern period. In the intervening centuries, this selection has grown to include a range of ‘new’ media: radio, film, television, music, opera and song, graphic novels, fine art, pop culture, CD-ROM, computer software, the Internet, smart-phone apps, and so on. Thus, to teach early modern literature – Shakespeare, in particular – is also to teach the history of media and technological change. As a result, it is also an invitation to explore literary adaptation and appropriation as creative, cultural, historical, and political processes.

According to Plato, ‘serious things cannot be understood without laughable things, nor opposites at all without opposites, if one is really to have intelligence of either’ (Laws 7.816d–e). Diversity is central to my pedagogy, linking my three teaching goals: (1) To inspire a greater appreciation and understanding of early modern literature and textual studies by exposing students to a range of critical approaches and methodologies; (2) To facilitate the development of independent and collaborative learning skills; and, (3) To ensure variety in course content and assessment in ways that reward student initiative and encourage creativity.

Please email me for a more comprehensive teaching portfolio.


Current Courses

ENGL 4109: Literary Studies and Digital Humanities

ENGL 4109How are digital technologies, new media, computational methods, and electronic resources affecting research in literary studies? What sorts of research questions are possible now that millions of books have been digitised? This honours-level unit introduces students to the history, foundational principles and practices, current critical debates, and future directions of digital humanities as it continues to influence the theory and practice of literary studies.

Topics include: the history of DH; digitisation and remediation; text analysis and visualisation; digital editing; ‘distant reading’, quantitative analysis, and new models for literary history.

Previous Courses

HUMA 150: Tools, Techniques, and Culture of the Digital Humanities

HUMA 150This first-year undergraduate course on the Tools, Techniques, and Culture of the Digital Humanities offers an introduction to the concepts, tools, and techniques of digital humanities, as well as a broad engagement with the impact of computing and technology on society.

Topics include: the social and cultural implications of computing; thinking with/about computers; strategies for online research; building websites and evaluating electronic resources; basic textual encoding; and, the tools for and techniques of digitizing and manipulating materials (text, image, audio).

HUMA 250: Digital Representation and Creation in a Humanities Context

HUMA 250This upper-level undergraduate course on Digital Representation and Creation in a Humanities Context offers students a more focused introduction to the digital creation, modeling, and representation of materials pertinent to humanities research.

Topics include: modeling and knowledge representation; markup and text encoding; metadata; electronic publishing; relational databases and content management; editing and the electronic scholarly edition; hypertext; and, serious games. Students will also examine the impact of computing on scholarly communication and pedagogy.

ENGL 218: Shakespeare: Page, Stage, and Screen

ENGL 218Shakespeare: Page, Stage, and Screen is an upper-level undergraduate course that offers a broad overview of Shakespeare’s drama: from Shakespeare’s life and times and the world in which his plays were produced and consumed, through a range of critical methods and theoretical approaches and their application to Shakespeare’s plays.

The module focuses on the different ways in which Shakespeare’s plays have been interpreted and reinterpreted on the page, stage, and screen, interrogating issues of adaptation and appropriation in and between these various media.

© 2011– Brett D. Hirsch