Curriculum Lab

Director: Abigail Droge

Latest Curriculum Lab Post

Reading with Scientists: The Time Machine and Environmental Science (December 4, 2018)

What stories do both literary and scientific texts tell about the environment? This question motivated a “Reading with Scientists” unit that paired H. G. Wells’s famous novella, The Time Machine (1895), with four selections representing different aspects of environmental science: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything (2014), and the websites of two pedagogical programs, the Environmental Humanities Initiative (EHI) at UC Santa Barbara and the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER) at Stanford. By directly placing a literary text beside works of science communication, a main goal was to highlight potential commonalities across disciplines. I also wanted to increase students’ awareness of the environmental humanities as a robust interdisciplinary field.

During our class session, I arranged the students into four teams, each focusing on a different text. (We grouped the two websites together as the province of a single team.) Each team was tasked with answering the same question: what story is your text telling about the environment and how is that story told? I asked students to focus on three key elements: character, plot, and narrative tone. On the board, I made a chart with a column for each text and a row for each literary element. After discussing among themselves, groups came up to the board to fill in their respective columns. The main premise that I wanted students to engage was that scientific texts could be read in a meaningful way according to a literary rubric. Though ostensibly factual rather than fictional, science writing still relies upon narrative….(read more)

Welcome to the Curriculum Lab, a home for teaching resources affiliated with the WE1S project. Our goal is to unite scholarship and pedagogy in the same conversation. We start from the premise that if we put the conceptual issues raised by our project in dialogue with our teaching practice, the two can mutually inform one another. How might knowing “What Everyone Says” about the humanities change our own frames of reference as humanities advocates in the classroom? And conversely, how might we interpret and act upon our project’s digital research results in light of our own teaching experiences?

The Curriculum Lab takes a lead on data collection and analysis related to the student experience of the humanities. We also compile sample syllabi and lesson plans related to themes such as the Public Humanities, the relationship between the humanities and other disciplines, the history of the humanities, and Digital Humanities methodology. The Lab contributes regularly to the WE1S Research Blog, giving live reports from ongoing courses and providing reflections on the intersections between the conceptual work of the project and the practical opportunities and challenges of teaching. (See an archive of Curriculum Lab blog posts.)

The resources and reflections here are meant to act as a pedagogical laboratory running alongside the WE1S project and providing a tandem venue in which to work through our core issues. By starting local and addressing questions in our own community, we hope to be able to share syllabi, lesson plans, activities, and course notes that can be adapted and scaled for different audiences and different contexts.

Proposed WE1S-affiliated courses at UCSB for the 2018-19 academic year:

Fall 2018

English 148: Society, Culture, and Information
Reading with Scientists: How to Export Literature
Abigail Droge

This course considers an experiment: what would happen if we assigned literature in a science classroom? What questions, for instance, could a well-timed excerpt of Frankenstein help you to explore in an Artificial Intelligence course? We will discuss what is to be gained and lost by making literature more mobile. How would such a model of teaching ask us to rethink the lines that we draw between disciplines, or between general education requirements and specialized majors? For the final project, teams of students will work together to choose an audience they want to reach, an issue they want to address, and a text they want to “export” in order to address it. Our collective goal will be to compile an open-source collaborative portfolio of our ideas that can be shared with communities beyond our classroom.

Droge – Reading With Scientists – Syllabus – Fall 2018

Winter 2019

English 11: Literature and its Uses
Literature in the Real World: How to Solve Problems with Books
Abigail Droge

Should literature be applied to current social issues? If so, how? If not, why not? In this class we’ll consider the pros and cons of connecting the study of English to present debates, such as environmental policy, education, gender equity, legal representation, housing reform, and economic inequality. Through readings of nineteenth-century authors (which could include William Wordsworth, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Ruskin, William Morris, and Oscar Wilde), we will ask whether “relevance” is the right question, or whether “art for art’s sake” is a valuable alternative. As a final project, we will put on a half theatrical/half analytic public colloquium, in which teams of students impersonate different historical figures and act as a “board of advisors” for current issues. What would Elizabeth Gaskell have to say about climate change? How would Charles Dickens implement an after-school tutoring program? Our main goal will be to discuss and debate whether or not we should take such advice, whether “advice” is an appropriate outcome of literary study, and what relationships we might draw between historical literature and present problems.

Spring 2019

English 197: Upper Division Seminar
Reading in Santa Barbara: Past, Present, and Future
Abigail Droge

How do we come to be studying literature in a UCSB classroom? What’s the difference between why we read at all and why we read in school? In this class, we will consider the historical interactions between reading communities, both inside and outside of the university, in order to analyze present relationships between such communities, and imagine future reconfigurations. As a class, we will undertake a sustained collaborative research project in Special Collections: a deep engagement with the archival records of UCSB’s own academic history. The main goal of the course will be to curate a public humanities project (such as an exhibit or performance), based on the archival research we have done. The final showcase should in some way model or foster the relationships that students want to see between reading communities of different demographics, backgrounds, and ages. In this way, students will be better able to reflect on what it means, has meant, and might mean to be a reader at UCSB.

WE1S-affiliated courses at CSUN for the 2018-19 academic year:

Fall 2018

English 525DH: Graduate Seminar in Digital Humanities
Scott Kleinman

This course provides an introduction to the questions and methods used in the field of Digital Humanities (DH) with a special emphasis on the study of literary and other textual materials. The course embraces the project-based approach prevalent in the Digital Humanities, in which students are active participants in high-level scholarly research. As part of their participation in the course, students will contribute to one of two ongoing multi-institutional research projects, WhatEvery1Says, or the NEH-funded Lexomics project for literary text analysis. The aim will be to provide students with the opportunity to collaborate on cutting-edge DH projects that are not bound to traditional course assignments. Students will jump into projects already in progress, and will have the opportunity to continue to contribute after the end of the course. Both projects share commitments to the cultivation of digital methods of establishing meaning and to providing widened access to the methods they are exploring. Students will be charged with studying the scope of the projects and their place within the DH ecosystem, and they will as groups conceive of ways in which they can make a contribution to activities in process or extend the projects in new directions. The overall aim of the seminar is to foster the ability to learn by doing, to experience the production of scholarship at an advanced level, to students a greater stake in their work, and to provide an opportunity for them to make a lasting contributions to Digital Humanities knowledge and infrastructure.


The WE1S Curriculum Lab is directed by Abigail Droge, a postdoctoral scholar with the WE1S project.