Digital Tools in Teaching Literature.

This proposal would be an outline for my research on developing new methods for teaching freshmen students the basics in literature. The syllabus covers classic novels. Students must choose one novel to focus on during the semester and they must follow the teacher’s sample. For example, I chose Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The project is based on a digital mapping of the book. This map identifies the main character, themes, writing style, and the author’s biography. The highlight of this course is to cover the literature in periods of time like Victorian, Romanticism, or Renaissance eras. Covering essential arts during these eras with historical and social influences can be overwhelming for first year college students. Therefore, the visibility of themes in many novels presented by maps makes analysis understandable. Also, students get a better understanding of the specific terms from the assigned novels that the course aims to convey. Students may notice at the end of their graphs the common themes, motifs, and the metaphoric language which concludes the purpose of this course. Students will closely read their novel to analyze the biography of the writer, the characters in the novel, the thematic proposals, and the symbolic images. They are expected to find these elements and digitally place them in their maps. In the Frankenstein example, the student will explain the novel and discuss with the rest of the class why Shelley made two versions of Frankenstein and her other decisions. Students can examine the social, historical, and economical interactions that toned Frankenstein. John A. Walsh, in his article Multimedia and Multitasking: A Survey of Digital Resources for Nineteenth-Century Literary Studies, says “When studying a work of digital literature, as with any cultural artifact, we must choose where to focus our attention.”  The outcome of this specific map is to show a novel on one screen. It goes beyond the novel to discuss the ideas of it and approach the literary aspects that develops a clear visualization of intangible themes of that Romanticism era.

In Frankenstein, as Shelley picks up the Romantic language style in science fiction, she maintains the biblical traditions and social concerns by quoting Paradise Lost. Even though it is not explicitly stated in the course goals, linking the literature period acts as a platform in studying literature. In reading novels, the reader draws an imaginary graph in his or her mind. This graph links the character in the novel to their actions and links the novel with the author’s life to the surrounding world. This psychologic process allows the reader to imagine the novel and its history, yet with advanced technology today, this can be drawn into reality as a tree or map. By using these tools, students can express their visualization of novels and transfer their thoughts to practical arguments. There is no doubt that these graphs can be debated for their vagueness. However, using digital tools to graph these novels has overcome this issue. Creating digital graphs about a novel where the student can insert website links, explanatory notes, and related topics presents the novel perfectly. Tools such as MindView, TimeLine, and Ngram Viewer are new ways that benefit not only the literature course but digital humanities as a whole. In reading the two editions of Frankenstein, students will begin with comparing the digital version verses the paper copy one. This process can be time consuming, but surprisingly it is the opposite. In fact, students can learn about a number of novels and achieve the goal of the course faster. Due to the simplicity and efficiency of digital tools, students can calculate the language and locate information with primary tools for the course clearly. In the beginning, MindView can be used as a tool where students will learn how to build a digital map of Frankenstein. They can use Ngram to make a clear comparison of the 1818 and 1831 editions and the changes that Shelley took. Also, they can use TimeLine to identify setting and how the changes affect the reading of the text. Towards the end of the course, students can download MapView as a PDF to outline their thesis paper as well as a PowerPoint copy to present to their class. By using these three tools, students can enhance their understanding of the course. Therefore, this will enhance their creativity in writings as well. In conclusion, technology would be beneficial for humanities studies because it would make literature more engaging and interesting to learn.


Moretti, Franco. “Patterns and Interpretation.” Literary Lab Pamphlet, Sept. 2015, doi:ISSN 2164-1757.

Damian-Grint, Peter, Eighteenth-Century Literature in English and Other languages: Image, Text, and Hyertext. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

Saltz, David Z, Multimedia and Multitasking: A Survey of Digital Resources for Nineteenth-Century Literary Studies. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

Saltz, David Z, Digital Literary Studies: Performance and Interaction. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

Wittern, Christian, Character Encoding. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

4 thoughts on “Digital Tools in Teaching Literature.

  1. This proposal has a lot of ambition, and I appreciate the wide-ranging sources. However, I am unclear about exactly what you will be doing and why—will you be thinking about how a mapping tool can help readers explore Romantic elements in Frankenstein? That might be a good way to focus your ideas. Whichever way you go, however, you will need to greatly narrow your focus—and accordingly, your research. Currently, the proposal is too general and abstract. We can talk more about this in conference, as well!

  2. Safa, really good overview of how the digital tools can help the humanities flourish! However, I think the idea is too general and would need some focus. As we’ve used a lot of the tools you’re discussing in class, it may benefit you to use a new tool or use one or two of the above tools in a new way. Maybe focus on one aspect of the literature you would like the digital tool to reveal and hone in on that.

    Last, how would students compare the print to the digital copy? Would they be comparing a first edition? Can you expand?

  3. I think this proposal gives a good idea of what your topic will be, however, it is very broad and should be narrowed down since I think whoever reads your research will be confused as to what exactly you will be questioning and what your focus is on, so I would suggest you focus more on what is it that you want to research. Also, you said that this will be a study on students, so what students were you considering, high school level, university level? Also, how will you have access to surveying them for your research? I think those are stuff you should consider before finalizing the research proposal. You have a great idea but you just need to narrow down on your topic and make sure that there are no obstacles present in this research.

  4. I’d like to first say that I find your understanding and knowledge of mapping to be visually stimulating which I can appreciate to a level. As you’ve written here, the reader mentally drawn those maps (or “graphs”) to link between characters, actions, author(s), and story to the novel; allowing “the reader to imagine the novel and its history…” I’d like to think that this is one of your strongest components and it might do you will to expand or focus on these descriptions when developing your proposal and research among your students.
    Having said that, I agree with some of the previous comments (too broad and needs more focus). I’d like to suggest, however, that it might help to focus on one (no more than two) of the digital tools as you’ve briefly mentioned around four of them in your proposal; this may help with creating more focus into your research as well. Otherwise, it seems you are on your way to an interesting proposal and I wish you good luck.

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