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Dear Students,

Thank you for participating in this online conversation among students from one Swedish university and one American university, representing several academic levels and subject areas. Please read brief descriptions of the Participating Classes and Colleges. We believe this letter exchange will increase your understanding of poetry, poetic language, and the various ways readers in differing contexts come to understand and appreciate poems. To learn more about this ongoing project, visit the Cross-Cultural Collaborations Website.

Sincerely,
Magnus Gustafsson, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
Donna Reiss, Clemson University, South Carolina, USA
Art Young, Clemson University, South Carolina, USA

 

Project Overview

We are reading five poems by nineteenth century American poet Emily Dickinson. You’ll be corresponding with small groups of students and will be able to read each other’s letters. For communicating across our classes, we are using a Weblog (blog) Cross-Cultural Collaboration-Spring 2007: A Conversation about Emily Dickinson [a new Web browser window opens]. We'll be responding to five poems by Emily Dickinson, [a new browser window opens for each link or you can download a pdf version]. You may want to save them and print them so you can annotate them as you read.

      1. "I TASTE a liquor never brewed,"
      2. "BECAUSE I could not stop for Death,"
      3. "THERE’S a certain slant of light,"
      4. "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—"
      5. "I STARTED early, took my dog,"

When asked to identify yourself for posting at the blog, select “Other” and provide your first name with last initial plus your class and university (for example, “Pat S., American Lit, Clemson” or “Maria L., Fiction, Chalmers” or "Chris W., Victorian Poetry, Clemson"). You should not include your last name, and you do not need to include a Webpage.

Please address your messages to each other as informal letters with an appropriate greeting and closing – whatever feels comfortable to you. Specific directions and deadlines for writing each letter appear below and are posted as a Guide at the blog. Compose your letters in your word processor and save them before you copy-paste them to the blog. Questions about the blog: dreiss @ clemson.edu

Portrait of Emily Dickinson at bartleby.com
Emily Dickinson from bartleby.com

Selected Emily Dickinson Resources Online


Letter 1

Letter 1, at least 250 words addressed to everybody in your group ("Dear Folks," Hello Group," etc.) and submitted at Cross-Cultural Collaboration-Spring 2007: A Conversation about Emily Dickinson on Monday, March 26 by 23:30 (Sweden CET) and 11:30 pm (U.S. EST). To preserve the conversational structure of the discussion, please provide a greeting and signature with each message, naming the group or person to whom you are writing and signing each letter.

  • Include within your first letter one or two sentences to introduce yourself to the group, for example, your name, which class you are taking, which university, and your own academic interest or emphasis. You can say something about your previous experience with poetry as well, if you like.

  • Respond to the poems with both personal and critical insight, focusing on the general meaning. You can write about one poem or select more than one if you’d like to make connections. Write about what interests or surprises you in such a way that it opens up the poem to further response and discussion by your groupmates. It is okay—even helpful—to ask questions about things you are unsure of or that you would like to hear what others have to say about.

  • Give special attention to the language of the poem to illustrate your understanding, for example, arrangements of words, striking images, and words or phrases that seem central or particularly important.

    • To further your understanding of how poetic language works, look up 2 or 3 key words from the poems you have chosen and tell how the definitions of those words further affected your thinking about the poem. Use and identify a college-level dictionary; links to some appropriate free online versions are included here. American Heritage Dictionary | Merriam-Webster | Oxford Advanced Learners

    • For each word or phrase you select, write a few sentences of your own referring back to the poem in order to explain why you think they are important.


Letter 2

Letter 2, at least 300 words, addressed to everybody in the group and submitted and submitted at Cross-Cultural Collaboration-Spring 2007: A Conversation about Emily Dickinson on Wednesday, March 28 by 23:30 (Sweden CET) and 11:30 pm (U.S. EST). To preserve the conversational structure of the discussion, please provide a greeting and signature with each message, naming the group or person to whom you are writing and signing each letter. Use your first name with last initial plus your class and university (for example, “Pat S., American Lit, Clemson” or “Maria L., Fiction, Chalmers” or "Chris W., Victorian Poetry, Clemson"). Here you will respond to the letters from your groupmates and illustrate your thinking about the poems with a multimodal contribution.

Emily Dickinson portrait from Amherst College Library and Academy of American Poets
Emily Dickinson portrait from Amherst College Library
and Academy of American Poets

  • Before you compose your Letter 2, read all the Letter 1 submissions and any second letters already posted by members of your group.

  • In your Letter 2, addressed to your entire group, refer by name to at least two members of the group, attempting to cite at least two groupmates whose Letter 1 submissions have not already been cited by others if possible. Please respond to at least one person not in your class.

    1. Identify and explain how the words and phrases and reflective comments by groupmates contributed to your own understanding of the poem. Comment on ways in which their interpretations are similar to and/or different from your own. This letter can also have a personal dimension, connecting your own understanding and experience with what you learned from reading the poem and from your group. We encourage you to quote briefly from your groupmates’ letters and from the poem.

    2. In the digital age, we are able to create multimodal compositions to share online. We can incorporate a variety of objects and media into our documents, thus enhancing the sensory experience for our audience as well as presenting our thinking in ways that complement and “animate” our words. Emily Dickinson illustrated many of her poems and letters, and some of these “cartoons” are online at the Emily Dickinson Archives. In the introduction to this section of the archives, Martha Nell Smith explains that “Emily Dickinson was not a cartoonist in the sense of our contemporaries Garry Trudeau or Charles Schultz or T.O. Sylvester, yet she did animate her words with visual designs….”

      • Read the short introduction and look at some of the Dickinson cartoons and accompanying transcripts. Without a computer to paste in photos or drawings or to link to media online, Dickinson created her own multimodal compositions by attaching physical objects as well as drawings on the page.

      • Either create an original composition or find another representation that complements the theme or mood of one of the Dickinson poems, for example, an illustration such as a drawing or painting or sculpture; music or song lyrics; a video; or another poem. You will need to locate or post this additional representation online so your partners can access it on the Web or provide a URL including http:// so we can access it as an active link. If the link is “deep” within a Website, you might have to give directions for clicking to it. You can include images with your blog submissions; details are available at Blogger basics.

      • Explain the relationship between the representation you have selected or composed and your understanding of the Emily Dickinson poem. Why did you select this representation? What does it contribute to your understanding of the poem?


Letter 3

Letter 3, at least 250 words, addressed to everybody in the group and submitted at Cross-Cultural Collaboration-Spring 2007: A Conversation about Emily Dickinson on Friday, March 30 by 23:30 (Sweden CET) and 11:30 pm (U.S. EST). To preserve the conversational structure of the discussion, please provide a greeting and signature with each message, naming the group or person to whom you are writing and signing each letter.

  • First, read the second letters and any additional letters already posted by members of your group. Compose a personal response about some of the ideas and opinions presented there, citing by name at least two groupmates whose Letter 2 submissions have not already been cited by others if possible. Please respond to at least one person not in your class.

  • Look at and look up the multimodal representations offered by several members of your group (all if possible).

  • How did their choices of alternative expressions affect your understanding and interpretation of the poems? How were these multimodal expressions (poems, letters, and alternative expressions) interesting or surprising to you – or not? How were their choices and comments similar to and different from your own?

Cross-Cultural Collaboration-Spring 2007: A Conversation about Emily Dickinson | Cross-Cultural Collaborations Home
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Website developed February 2007 by D. Reiss and modified March 4, 2007 by D. Reiss