Responding to Literature with Creativity

In my literature survey courses, students end the semester with a group creative project. The prompt is deliberately vague to encourage creative thinking:

You will work in a small group (2-4) students to develop a webpage, board game, video, piece of art, listicle, Buzzfeed-style quiz or other creative work related to the content of this course. You might use recently developed software applications to make a Timeline or a Storymap for a particular text, a region of the world, or a particular century. Your group’s project may focus on one or a group of texts on the syllabus. Alternatively, the creative project may focus more broadly on the literary or cultural concepts we discuss. Project proposals must be approved by the instructor no later than 4 weeks before the due date, but you may form your group and begin working at any time during the semester. Method of submission will be specific to the type of project. Each member of the group will also write an individual reflection on the project (2 pages in MLA format, submitted on Canvas).

the first few semesters I offered this option, most student groups created board games, some of which were actually fun to play. More recently, especially since the Covid19 pandemic, many students have  created websites, videos, or electronic games. This post is a compilation of those which the students have made publicly available.

  1. Who Is Your Medieval Match? – This Buzzfeed quiz asks you deep, personal questions in order to match you with a character from medieval world literature who matches your values.
  2. Frame Narrative – This website uses the architecture of the site to mimic the layers of frames characteristic of frame narratives from a variety of cultures.
  3. A Thousand and One Nights: A Contribution to the Original Book – This website, with beautiful artwork collected from a variety of online sources, offers a basic overview of the frame narrative of Sheherazade. Amusingly, these students invented a university on their About page.
  4. Ibn Battuta, Moroccan Scholar – This timeline uses text from the Travels paired with maps of the regions described to follow Battuta on his journey.
  5. This video, taken with iPhone screen recording technology, tells “The Parable of the Swords” from Petrus Alfonsi’s The Scholar’s Guide:
  6. This video is a dramatic reading of Anna Akhmatova’s “Dedication” (part of the Requiem cycle) created during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Spring 2020: 
  7. This is a SnapChat story exported to YouTube that retells Rabindranath Tagore’s short story “Punishment”:
  8. This Twitter thread showcases a patched quilt that students created with the words and portraits of suffragists:
  9. This Twitter thread showcases the adaptation of John and Abigail Addams’s letters into a SnapChat conversation:

I share these projects here despite my reservations about some of the students’ casual relationship to attribution of elements they slurp from Google searches. How to create a website that is “a good example of what it is” (one of the criteria for grading this assignment) while also meeting the standards of academic scholarship for sourcing and attribution is a conversation that my students and I continue to have. For example, this semester a student taught me how to use the “inspect element” command to see the source for an image, which is not something the MLA style guide discusses.