I was offered the course I am teaching while I was on vacation in October. The bookstore needed a book order about a week later. In no way was I ready for that, so I figured since everything we would be reading was in the public domain, I would cull the texts from on-line sources. I have most of them in other books, but it’s an unwieldy stack of books. In prior years I would have made a course pack. Now, the class Blackboard website (provided by the university, and a way to link all of a student’s university life together in one place) serves as a disseminating place for such pieces.
So, along with everything else, I’m scouring the Internet for the best public domain versions of my texts. The texts themselves are all in the public domain, but some of the editions and/or translations are not. The TEAMS editions clearly state that they are available for individual–but not class–use. Fair enough. So I’ve been linking Project Gutenberg and some other Public Domain sites I’ve found. This means many of the editions my students are using are late 19th century. It’s an odd lens through which they are looking. The texts themselves are much older than that, but we are counting on 19th century scholarship to open them up for us. I’m not sure what that says. Obviously, I have more recent editions, and for some of them some of the students do, too (Shakespeare, Chaucer), but we’re doing this with the public domain.
On the advantage side, students are saving money on buying texts. And it’s an experiment in using e-texts and e-readers of all sorts (the dedicated e-readers plus iPads, smartphones, laptops). I’m okay with that. I hope the phone is out to read and not to text, but this is the world in which we live. (Back in 2007, I read a whole lot of Qualifying Exam material on my Palm Treo while nursing/holding an infant. That was a whole lot easier than trying to manage a big, clumsy book. For this class, I’ve been using my iPad alongside my physical texts as I re-read the pieces, and I like highlighting and note-making and having that list of my annotations pop up for me to quickly browse.) I will probably have students write something at the end about this aspect of the class. I’ll also have to think about whether to allow them to use their electronics on the mid-term and final or make it closed book which I almost never do in a lit class.
So there it is. We’ll see what happens.