This semester, one of the gateway courses to the Literature major — Introduction to Narrative, commonly known at Lit 120 — is undergoing substantial changes.
The course now includes a weightier writing component, with students submitting creative responses for some of the texts read in class. The professors also introduced a course website to create a forum for students to share their thoughts with each other.
The course — which, according to Yale’s Online Course Information website, “examines how narratives work and what they do” — will now be co-taught by four professors: Marta Figlerowicz, David Gabriel, David Quint and Ayesha Ramachandran, who serves as course director.
“It’s a huge philosophical difference that all of us who teach the course are already committed to and the department is more committed to [now],” Ramachandran said.
Ramachandran added that the changes seek to maintain an innovative curriculum for the course.
The addition of the creative writing assignments to the course is intended to make students better analytical writers, Gabriel said.
Writing Center Director Alfred Guy said that students can learn more about a writer’s technique by imitating it than by analyzing it, which students will be doing in some of their assignments for the course.
Dane Underwood ’17, who is taking the course this year, said he appreciates how the creative writing assignments have enabled him to hone his analytic paper skills. The assignments, he added, illuminate a larger picture of what goes in to making literature.
But Hannah Krystal ’17 said she had hoped the course would be more accommodating to students who had taken more advanced courses in the Literature and English departments.
“I wish the pace were a little faster,” Krystal said. “I think the focus on the writing is a bit more elementary than it needs to be.”
The newly created course website, which has a portion available to the public as well as a private section for students, has enabled students to share their work with each other and give feedback on shorter assignments.
In addition, the course has a teaching fellow dedicated to technology — David Carper GRD ’17, who is a fourth year graduate student in Comparative Literature and is responsible for managing the course website.
Ramachandran said Carper’s presence has been particularly valuable because, by responding to student online assignments, he has given the professors more time to meet with students and prepare the course.
Though he said he was generally optimistic about the course website’s potential, he said it has provided one particular challenge.
“The crucial problem is there, which is how do we strive for an organic connection between [class] participation and participation online?” Carper said.
Alyssa Patterson ’18 said she enjoys reading her peers’ insights on the course website. Ruier Ma ’17 said she felt the website is particularly helpful in organizing the course material and she has found it to be much more reliable than Classesv2.
The creation of the course website, Carper added, fits into a new trend of using technology in humanities courses.
But Edward O’Neil, a senior instructional designer at Yale’s Academic Technology Services, which consults professors on the best technology for their courses, said humanities courses are doing nothing new. Technology pertains not only to websites, but also to everyday class tools, he said.
Students who had taken the course during previous semesters said they saw the benefits of altering the curriculum.
“A lot of people thought [the course] was unorganized because there was no flow of one lecturer,” Sarah Holder ’17, who took the course last year, said. “The syllabus was a little too random.”
Will Theiss ’16, who also took the course last year, said he thought a creative writing component would be helpful for the class because it would enable students to look at the literature in the syllabus in a new way.
Lit 120 was the first undergraduate Literature course taught at Yale when it was introduced in 1970.