Instructional Improvement Proposal, UCSB, 2001-2002

Date: December 18, 2000
To: Ronald W. Tobin, Associate Vice Chancellor Academic Programs
2150 Kerr Hall
Fr: Patricia Fumerton, Director, Early Modern Center
Re: Proposal for Instructional Improvement Grant, July 1, 2001-June 30, 2002

Abstract

The English Department’s Early Modern Center (http://emc.english.ucsb.edu/) opened its doors for the first time this year. The Center is designed to mobilize the Department’s strength in sixteenth- through eighteenth-century studies, maintained by eleven faculty in the early modern field (Richard Helgerson, Acting Director, 2000-2001, Lee Bliss, Elizabeth Heckendorn Cook, Robert Erickson, Patricia Fumerton, David Marshall, Michael O’Connell, Mark Rose, Elisa Tamarkin, William Warner, Everett Zimmerman). The Center provides these faculty and their students with a specially-constructed space (consisting of a seminar area, resource library, and networked computers) that promotes collaborative research and teaching. We are also developing new ways to integrate advanced relational databases into courses and research. State-of-the-art computing equipment is supported by the latest databases in the field, such as the library’s newly purchased Early English Books Online (digital reproductions of every book published in England up to 1700). The Center has received funding from the College and the English department for computers and material resources. It also has a Teaching Assistant to help faculty utilize online resources in their teaching, supervise undergraduates accessing the Center’s facilities, and organize lectures and conferences, as well as other group activities. But the Center also needs to hire graduate students specifically to assist faculty in preparing new courses that can capitalize on its vast online resources. Two twinned developments described in the narrative below – one taking place in the Department and one in the Center itself – have necessitated a whole new slate of early modern courses, especially at the undergraduate level.

Narrative

1) Specialization

As part of its restructuring of the undergraduate major, the English Department this year offered undergraduates the option of specializing in the Culture of Information or Early Modern Studies (more specializations are in the drawing-board stage). The Early Modern Studies specialization (which focuses on English literature from 1500 to 1800) was developed to encourage undergraduates to take advantage of our faculty strengths in the early modern period and the new resources available through the EMC. Four elective courses in the period are required for the specialization.

2) Annual EMC Theme Courses

The activities of the EMC are planned to make the Department’s Early Modern Studies major especially enticing, varied, and illuminating. Each year the Early Modern Center selects a timely and relevant theme around which faculty develop graduate and undergraduate courses. Under the direction of the faculty, graduate student researchers prepare Web resources on this cluster of topics. Students in courses contribute to the enterprise through research assignments. And all of this work receives focus through the mounting of colloquia or a conference on the annual theme.

2000-2001 Theme

This year the theme is “The Early Modern ‘New’: Discoveries and Rediscoveries.” The Center is fielding five new courses on this topic, three undergraduate and two graduate courses. In the spring, we plan to have a colloquium in which undergraduates together with graduate students play a major role, discussing their exploration into the “new” in their individual courses. The courses offered on this year’s “New” theme are:

Undergraduate “New” Courses:

Elisa Tamarkin, “The American Newness: Studies in Enlightenment and Revolution” (Eng 131ER)

Lee Bliss, “New and Old Thinking about Time in Early Modern England” (Eng 197)

Michael O’Connell, “The Old in the New: Medieval and Renaissance Drama” (Eng 197)

Graduate “New” Courses:

Richard Helgerson, “New Worlds” (Comp Lit 265)

Michael O’Connell, “The Old in the New: Medieval and Renaissance Drama” (Eng 230)

2001-2002 Theme

The theme for next year, for which we are requesting funding, is “Early Modern Visual Culture.” We plan to offer more courses next year based around our visual culture theme than we did this year around the “New” and to open the theme up to a wider spectrum of undergraduates. Departmental courses are in the process of being assigned, but EMC faculty have met and discussed proposing courses on such topics as Shakespeare and Film, Re-envisioning Shakespeare, Literature and the Visual Arts, Ballad Art (1500 to 1700), Iconoclasm, The History of Print, and The Visual in Early America. We hope to field at least 5 such undergraduate courses and 3 graduate courses on the theme. The number of undergraduates taught by these new courses would range from 115 to 135. Also, we are coordinating our theme with Art History, and three early modern faculty in that Department plan to develop related courses – one such proposed course will be an upper division undergraduate course on landscape taught by Ann Bermingham, which she expects will draw about 60 students. The Art History courses will be cross-listed with the English Department’s EMC courses. Considerably more undergraduates will be affected by the Early Modern Visual Culture theme, however. The EMC plans to mount an extensive online picture gallery of early modern images for use in teaching, which will be accessible to all students of early modern studies, including those in our large lecture survey courses (Eng 101 and 102, for example) and in our many other discussion classes. The numbers of undergraduates affected by the picture gallery, once the gallery reaches a sizable mass, could easily exceed 1,000 a year. This gallery will complement Art History’s online projects, mounting images specifically relevant to the literature and culture of England, 1500-1800.

Building the online picture gallery will be the most important enterprise launched for the Visual Culture theme year. With graduate student assistance we can create a substantial gallery of early modern images. This online gallery will truly revolutionize the way we teach visual culture. In my Literature and the Visual Arts course alone I typically show about 500 slides in the quarter. But in past classes my students could only see those images once, in class. I was thus hampered in the kinds of assignments I could make and the students were hampered by the amount they could gleam from the quickly passing images. With a full online picture gallery (available only to UCSB users) students can at their convenience access the web and study in depth the images presented there which were also the subject of the class discussions. The students’ ability to appreciate and cultivate the visual and its relation to the literary will thus soar. But mounting such slides on the web is an extremely onerous task that takes hundreds of hours of work. Added to this intensive labor, will be the need for some instructors to search out slides as well as videos for digital conversion. It is a task far beyond the normal parameters of course preparation time, and one that can be accomplished only with graduate student assistance.

In addition, we need graduate students to help us prepare online readers for the Visual Culture courses (by downloading Early English texts from the EEBO database and creating other online links) to supplement the hardcopy readers we will be preparing for our students. This is another crucial feature of the EMC courses from which the students will immensely benefit. With facsimile reproductions gathered for them in an online reader, the undergraduates will be able to work at a level of sophistication hitherto inaccessible to them, given the limitations of the UCSB library. It will be as if the students were virtually situated in the rare book room of a major research institution.

“Accessibility” is the key word here. The EMC intends through its courses to make accessible to undergraduates a collaboration with faculty and graduate students as well as the primary materials of early modern literature and culture. With such resources in hand, our undergraduates will work at a far higher level than has been possible to date and will thus reap far more out of their studies of English literature. These unique prospects for our English majors also make them more attractive to graduate schools and to prospective employers, for they have an additional achievement and focus. In sum, enhancing the possibilities for courses within the specialization to incorporate the yearly theme and our digital resources will make our undergraduates stronger and more well-informed students.

Evaluation

The Early Modern Center plans to add a section to all evaluations of theme courses asking students to judge the success of the course and to suggest possible improvements in material and especially in the use of its digital resources. We also plan to invite scholars from other Centers in California, specifically, from UCLA and Claremont, to visit the Center and review our procedures.


Update to the above Proposal

TO: CETIS IIG Review Committee February 13, 2001
FR: Patricia Fumerton
Director, English Department Early Modern Center
RE: 2000-2001 Instructional Improvement Grant Proposal – Update

I am writing in response to your request that I provide you with additional information to elucidate certain points about my Instructional Improvement Grant proposal for the English Department’s Early Modern Center. My original proposal is separately appended to this update.

First, I would like to clarify the nature and function of the Early Modern Center. As far as I know – and I’ve researched all other such Centers listed on the web – the UCSB English Department’s Early Modern Center is the first-of-its kind to create a space for collaboration between faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in the advancement of cultural studies of England, 1500-1800, through state-of-the art computing resources. I should emphasize that the work of the Center (as of most of the English Department’s faculty these days) is to advance cultural studies, that is, studies of literature in the context of cultural phenomena (painting, architecture, politics, religion, navigation, food consumption, etc.). Such cultural study characterizes the very cutting edge of literary criticism today and is, by definition, involved in an interdisciplinary enterprise that often involves other campus departments, such as Art History. What makes our Center unique is the sheer number of faculty in the English Department engaged in such studies of the early modern period (no less than 1l), our timely extension of the term “early modern” to include Renaissance as well as Eighteenth Century, and our placing the faculty and their students together in a facility that puts at their disposal the most advanced electronic equipment and databases available in the profession to date. But we aim not merely to provide a “lab” for computing and collaborative work. We aim to provide (and have already laid the groundwork for) a large and deep archive of electronic resources that will continue to grow and be used by faculty and students for years to come. Our web page can be found at http://emc.english.ucsb.edu/. Since you may not have a computer in front of you as you read, I have printed out some of the pages from the site, to give you an idea of the kind of archive and services we provide (these printouts include the EMC homepage, the Undergraduate Specialization page, this year’s Annual Theme page (on the “New”), Richard Helgerson’s “New Worlds” course page; our Calendar of Early Modern Events page; and our Early Modern Resources page, including the link to the Picture Gallery page, with one sample page of images).

The funding we are requesting is specifically to advance our theme for next year, which is “Early Modern Visual Culture.” We expect to field 6 undergraduate and 4 graduate courses on this theme and to cross-list with at least 3 undergraduate Art History courses. Our yearly theme courses are one of the ways we contribute to the early modern archive. Instructors offer courses around a compelling topic – this year it is “The Early Modern New: Discoveries and Rediscoveries” – that allow for a lively exchange between faculty and students, both graduate and undergraduate. The instructor’s usual hardcopy syllabus and reader are supplemented by an online syllabus prepared by a graduate student assistant that provides links to web pages relevant to specific works on the syllabus and, when helpful, an online reader (drawing primarily from the library’s new database, Early English Books Online). The student also adds a general resource page of especially helpful online materials for the course. This is further supplemented by a general resource page on the topic selected for the year. All these materials remain in the EMC archive helping to build its resources.

As an example of one such theme course, I have provided a printout of Richard Helgerson’s “New Worlds” online course materials from this year’s “New” theme. Works in italics represent a link to a web resource. Could or should the professor have prepared this material himself? Given that our faculty teach 5 courses a year and already scramble to assemble a hardcopy syllabus and hardcopy readers for their courses – which these online resources do not replace – it is unreasonable to ask them to put in considerable extra hours researching the web for relevant sites to the materials they are teaching. Also, many of our faculty simply don’t have the technical expertise to mount pages and make links on the web. Could an undergraduate do this kind of work for the professor? Perhaps a very advanced undergraduate with technical skills could. But the level of knowledge needed to select appropriate materials for web mounting is high, higher than that of most undergraduates. Not only would the student need to know the field of inquiry intimately, but he or she would need to make judgment calls about which sites provide the best resources. A Google search of “Sir Thomas More,” for instance – an author on Professor Helgerson’s syllabus – offers 470,000 entries. The graduate assistant who created the online links to Sir Thomas More for Professor Helgerson’s course was able to discern the best 7 entries from that enormous list and thus provide a manageable and effective resource for the students studying that author. This is something few undergraduates could have done well, though they can well benefit from the online resources provided. I should add that hiring graduate students to do this kind of work provides them with experience important to their own educational advancement.

In order to advance the Visual Arts theme courses, we also need graduate students to help build-up the EMC’s online Picture Gallery (the page is printed in the “Early Modern Resources” packet I have included, together with one sample page of pictures). The gallery will house first and foremost digital images of all slides used in courses and research by UCSB early modern faculty and graduate students. These images cannot simply be accessed from other sites on the web because they represent the corpus of images our individual faculty and students use in their individual courses. My teaching of literature and visual culture, for instance, draws in one week on about 50 of the sketches made by Inigo Jones for court masques. Only a few of these images are available via other web sites and, even if I were only to need those few images, skipping around from one to another link would be cumbersome and time-consuming. We need to build an archive of images that is quickly searchable and specifically suited to UCSB English Department courses.

In order to build the Picture Gallery much time will need to be spent by graduate assistants seeking out pictures for digitalizing, since many of the faculty know of images they would like to use but don’t have ready access to them. In my budget, I did not separate out this activity from that of mounting images on the Picture Gallery page because I believe that the latter process is also very time-consuming – when I said in my original proposal that such mounting was onerous, I was not exaggerating – and involves a high level of expertise. Though some undergraduates might be employed sometimes in this activity, it is largely work that, once gain, requires at least graduate-level expertise. Let me clarify. When I began the Picture Gallery, I mounted about 30 images myself in order to set a template for the graduate students to follow. It took me about 45 hours to do so. The process involved me first scanning in a slide, then modifying the image in Photoshop, and then creating two different sizes (one image for quick viewing; another, larger image, for close-ups). [We plan to go back over these images and add a third size suited specifically for projecting on a screen.] I then loaded the image in its different sizes into Dreamweaver. Most of this an undergraduate could do. But then it gets tricky. The image then needs to be identified with the following information: painter, title, date, issues of content and/or provenance, size, and location. For most of the 30 slides I mounted, I had to hunt through several art books in order to find all the information needed. Knowing where to look and how to look was crucial, and that takes advanced knowledge in the field. Also, deciding where to mount the picture in the Gallery involves similar expertise. Under what category, for instance, does one place Edward Barlow’s coastal charts in his autobiography? Or an aerial view of London?

I should add that the total 350 hours of graduate assistance, which I have requested for retrieving and mounting slides (during the summer, fall, winter, and spring of 2001-2002), will be devoted first to the theme courses on Early Modern Visual Culture and then to other courses needing visual aids. Though this might seem like a lot of hours, it marks just the beginning of the EMC’s Picture Gallery as we imagine it. We plan to build a substantial and ever-expanding library of online images that will service not only ongoing courses but also new courses as they develop in early modern cultural studies.

Finally, when I mentioned in my original proposal that graduate student hours included time spent for “maintaining” links to online materials for course readers, I meant that, since the web continually mutates and grows, so must our links to it. Graduate assistants must revisit sites to make sure that they are still operational (since life on the web can be brutally short). They must also re-research the web periodically in search of new online materials valuable to a particular course, to the year’s general theme, and to early modern studies in general (for our general Early Modern Resources page).

These activities are all involved with other projects provided by the EMC that undergraduates, together with graduate students and faculty, might use and to which they might contribute, such as the online Bookshelf and the Annual Program and Calendar of Events. The Early Modern Center is just that: a Center focusing a wide range of collaborative activities which will undoubtably profit thousands of undergraduates.

I hope I have clarified your concerns about my proposal. If you have any other questions, I’d be happy to address them.

cc: Mark Rose