[Vwoolf] NYTimes: The Future of College Is Online, and It’s Cheaper—and teaching Woolf?

Cheryl Hindrichs cherylhindrichs at boisestate.edu
Wed May 27 12:38:26 EDT 2020

Hello all,

Madelyn's suggestion of an assignment along the lines of "On Being
Quarantined" actually happened for me this last semester. I had a truly
remarkable semester this spring teaching our Major Author's course on
Woolf. It was an exceptional group of ten graduate students - literature
MAs, several MFAs, and an art MFA. I've taught this seminar twice before in
my career, each time thinking I'd been spoiled, but this cohort surprised
me from day one in their readiness to engage deeply in a critical and
creative dialogue with the many touch points of Woolf's work. I'd like to
think that some of the syllabus choices I made in setting up the course and
my sense that this might be a last song opportunity had something to do
with how well things were going. However, I would be gravely remiss not to
point to the excellent mix of students and a certain chemistry that
happened when we all came together. Woolf was the strong invisible web
threading our lives in the in between time and there was a real sense of
eagerness to share and discover what the rest of us had in the interim of
our meetings.

On March 12th we met to discuss "On Being Ill," marveling over the
uncanniness of reading it in that moment. The next day the university
closed. I was teaching an online Intro. to Lit course at the time as well,
so teaching online wouldn't be an impossible transition for me, but the
loss of our classroom presence for the Woolf group was heartbreaking both
for them and for myself. In our next meeting, the following week on Zoom,
we spent a half hour processing all that had happened and then planning the
rest of our weeks. I presented them with a way we could complete the
syllabus as planned using Zoom and other means, but then I also presented
two other possible paths. The original syllabus was designed to lead us
through two more major texts (Three Guineas and Between the Acts) along
with work (group and individual) involving letters, diaries, and
contemporary connections, all building blocks to final essays that might be
helpful to them in a portfolio or possible publication opportunity. In
coming to a consensus about the schedule, we came back to what had become
the granite in all our myriad conversations had revealed itself as: the way
that art served Woolf as a means to engage. The original syllabus/final
essay design included a creative option for the final project, but this
option had rarely been invoked in the past. It was clear to me and to them
that they had a real hunger to continue on with Woolf - the reading felt
important, vital, and therapeutic for its intense vision and complexity -
but there was also a very real exhaustion that made research and orthodoxy
seem impossible. In contrast, the desire to create, to make and respond,
question and express, inspired by Woolf's work and her sensibility of
perception was overwhelming. Thus the final project could be a formal
research essay or it could be any form of substantive creative engagement
with Woolf's work, including a reflective analysis. The week before these
projects were due, students would also be submitting a Self Reflection that
analyzed one of the ongoing projects they were doing - keeping a diary or
correspondence during the course. It included three example entries/letters
and a short introduction and reflection on the experience. For the other
meetings of our final weeks we devised a Choose Your Own Woolf Adventure
schedule. Everyone would participate in the discussions of Three Guineas;
at these two Zoom meetings we discussed the work and then spent time on
each student's evolving plans for their final project. Students then paired
off into "rooms" according to the similarity or interest in their projects
and spent the final fifteen minutes of class brainstorming and offering
feedback. Two students both interested in quarantine blogs ended up
partnering and produced a truly rich blog and instagram page. With their
permission, I've copied links below. I had offered to drop Between the Acts
given the stress and work all of them faced in the coming weeks and gave
them the opportunity to email me a vote yes/no to decide. The vote was
exactly split, and the resolution was simple - those who wanted to read
would, and those who didn't have the mental bandwidth could be absolved. In
our Zoom meeting we spent a half hour on projects, then the five who had
gone on with Between the Acts stayed and the conversation went on.

Having spent the best of a decade researching the influenza pandemic and
modernism and finally having moved on in the last years, it has been an odd
time for me. It also felt like the cruelest fate to be torn away from such
an exceptional opportunity with Woolf and that group of students. However,
what is clear now is that the choices we made (and were guided by Woolf's
philosophy) and the enforced interruption of our participation in the army
of the upright worked only to intensify the experience. The best work I've
ever read in my graduate courses came out of that class. The conversations
started there are ones that have continued - stretching to Kentucky,
California, and Ohio from Idaho well after the final week. Zoom, as banal
as we all now find it, worked beautifully for us (and my own failing
health), but I also realize that the magic number 10 had a great deal to do
with that. The experience has taught me a great deal about how using
creative work can be done with academic rigor and the highest degree of
critical thought when done with frameworks that facilitate such
productivity, and Woolf's work in all its variety and depth is exceptional
precisely for that.

Of the projects produced, the variety was quite impressive. A screenplay of
The Waves. A short story by my English student who offered a contemporary
pastoral of his home village - the work has just been published. A word
translation/art project. A creative nonfiction essay on motherhood and
marriage. One pseudo-academic paper that uses a Woolfian assay rhetoric to
interrogate genre boundaries.

Best regards,

Cheryl Hindrichs

>From Katie Wright and Madison Jansen:

   1. This is the main blog, "On Being Quarantined". The entries are
   divided between my own, Madi's, and our guest posts. You can clink on the
   filter tabs above the entries (Madison, Katie, Guests, etc.) to see
   specific posts. If you'd like our posts delivered in a Word doc format as
   well, just let me know.
   2. We were also both posting writing/images on the connected Instagram,
   so here's that link as well. You can see the Instagram posts on the blog
   itself by clicking on any of the images in the line of pictures on the main
   page (scroll down and you should see it).

On Wed, May 27, 2020 at 6:52 AM Detloff, Madelyn via Vwoolf <
vwoolf at lists.osu.edu> wrote:

> HI all,
> I hope you are all safe and healthy.  I will miss seeing you at the
> conference.  As we Chicago Cubs fans are fond of saying, "Wait until next
> year!" :)
> I teach online but usually WGS courses, so I don't have specific modules
> set up for Woolf. That said, I think that an online course might be a good
> opportunity to do some interesting work on her letters, since they present
>  a form  of communication that presumes the need to connect across
> separateness.  It might also be interesting to read "On Being Ill" together
> with a class this fall. I could imagine an assignment where students create
> their own updated takes on On Being Quarantined, or something similar.
> Take care, all, and... I can't wait until next year!
> Madelyn
> On Tue, May 26, 2020 at 6:47 PM Kllevenback via Vwoolf <
> vwoolf at lists.osu.edu> wrote:
>> Has anyone exciting/interesting approaches to on-line teaching of VW and
>> Bloomsbury?
>> Stay safe, be well—
>> Karen Levenback
>>  The Future of College Is Online, and It’s Cheaper
>> https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/25/opinion/online-college-coronavirus.html?referringSource=articleShare
>> Sent from my iPad
>> _______________________________________________
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> --
> <http://miamioh.edu/about-miami/recognition/index.html>
> Madelyn Detloff
> Chair and Professor of English
> Professor of Global and Intercultural Studies
> Miami University
> 356 Bachelor Hall
> Oxford, OH 45056  O: 513-529-5221 | MiamiOH.edu/English
> WebEx Office: https://miamioh.webex.com/join/Madelyn.Detloff
> *I am agnostic about pronouns as long as they are respectful, but she,
> her, hers will do in a pinch*
> _______________________________________________
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Department of English
Boise State University
1910 University Drive
Boise, ID 83725-1525

office: (208) 426-7072
home: (208) 901-5500
cherylhindrichs at boisestate.edu
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