Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Broadening our Scope: Incorporating New Media Forms into Formal Literary Studies

The study of literature is integrally connected to the study of culture as a whole. Traditionally, literary scholarship has embraced not only a study of texts but also art, music, and other forms. Truly understanding literature and its import within our modern culture, then, requires that we acknowledge the interconnectedness of textual and other artistic forms and integrate novel media forms into our study of literature. Curricula for literature and writing classes within the English department need to instruct students in the use of novel media formats as a part of the formal research process. This includes not only digitally mediated interpretations of traditional forms like music and art but also contemporary forms like user-created videos, video games, blogs, and a wealth of other creative media formats.

Matthew Arnold proposes that great literature is possible only thanks to the “current” of ideas that exists within a given culture, citing Shakespeare’s success as a clear demonstration of this point. This current depends on a diversity of media formats, as Paris’s Lost Generation of Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, etc. demonstrate in their close association with prominent painters and musicians like Pablo Picasso and Cole Porter. Incorporating a broader study of media, both modern and traditional, as part of an academic study of literature will improve students’ understanding not only of the works themselves but also in the cultural relevance within a modern context and will additionally provide for a richer stream of ideas and influences upon which students can build their personal writing. Novel media forms prove especially pertinent in their ability demonstrate the relevance of the literary studies to modern audiences and to adapt seemingly “old” ideas to new contexts. By modifying curricula to include new media studies as a part of a formal study of literature, the English department would thus be able to improve the breadth, relevance, and vitality of students’ research and of the department as a whole.