Teaching literature through the net: an answer to the caos or the construction of the self

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Laura Borràs

    Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

  2. 2. Joan-Elies Adell

    Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

  3. 3. Isabel Clara Moll Soldevila

    Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Work text
This plain text was ingested for the purpose of full-text search, not to preserve original formatting or readability. For the most complete copy, refer to the original conference program.

Teaching literature through the net: an answer to the
caos or the construction of the self


Universitat Oberta de Catalunya


Universitat Oberta de Catalunya


Universitat Oberta de Catalunya


University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia




Kretzschmar, Jr.



In 1995, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) was conceived as the first
e-learning university in the world. This new concept of university redefined
the idea of teaching, studying and doing research. There has been an
evolution within the UOC since new technologies have developed and have
become so usual for our everyday life. There has been as well an important
feedback between students and lecturers and this has obviously contributed
to find our best way to teach Humanities and Philology in this environment,
which has been so often considered hostile for these areas of knowledge. In
this paper, we would like to focus on the challenging experience of teaching
literature through the net and we will present all the questions we (the
lecturers) have had to rise in order to present an effective method of
teaching literature in the broad sense of both words: teaching and

The incorporation of new technologies to literature and to the study of
literature has allowed to reread the past from a platform in which the
literary work is more than ever an open device, with no hierarchical
structures, and belonging to an infinite net of hypertexts. We can rethink
the literary phenomenon from other textual, critical and hermeneutical
perspective. Digital environement clearly shows the inscription of a
literary work in an intertextual framework and allows physical connection of
texts. Moreover, digital context reformulates higher education, following a
process which begins with the invention of writing, and continues wiht the
press, and that frees the student from physically attending to the lectures
(Landow, 1997: 29-30). In the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (), since 1995, this process is taking place
in a concrete place in the net: the virtual campus, that works
asincronically, serving to the students and professors comunity. And even in
this heterogeneous and disturbing medium, the final purpose is still
"teaching". However, when the environment is not the "clasroom" anymore, but
the virtuality of a computer screen, the methodological approach is crucial
and demands a previous reflection: at the begining of the 21st century,
should we continue to offer the same teaching patterns as we have been doing
for many decades? In our opinion, this question applies not only to a
pioneer university such as the UOC, but also to more traditional
universities. Cultural and social changes that Internet has provoked and the
information society in which we are living now compels us to reflect on some
premises and to consider new ways and different possibilities in tune with
the new era. In the context of overinformation surrounding us, professors"
duty can not be anymore the transmission of knowledge, but the contribution
to the generation of this knowlegde, that is to say, s/he has to assume a
role of "guide" and should provide the necessary intellectual tools that
will allow students to be able to think critically.
Focusing on literary studies, our mission is basically teaching to read, but
giving to this formula all the depth we are able to. In the Humanities and
Philology Studies in the UOC, we have chosen an hermeneutical approach,
following Gadamer, whose idea of Hermeneutics is the art of understanding
the other"s opinion. For us, this constitutes a redoubtable reflection on
the activity of reading, which aspires to participate in the "shared sense".
Nevertheless, reading and teaching to read in a medium like Internet and
with its natural tool, this is hypertext, means to confront a technological
device serving education. Taking as an example the subject "Temes de
literatura universal" ("Universal literary topics"), we will try to outline
which are the changes that affect literature teaching. We consider that this
constitutes an initial step in order to establish which are the real
possibilities that allow us to progress, from a theoretical point of view,
from the aesthetics of reception to the aesthetics of interactivity. This
will provoke a voice game in the virtual classroom not only between
professor and students, but also between students themselves, and therefore
there will be a collective and dialogical creation of knowledge.
We have organized this subject taking as a starting point a series of texts
connected by the fact that they deal with some of the basic topics of
universal literature. In the hipertextual material, which combines linear
reading with sequential or fragmentary reading inherent to hypertext, as
well as video or audio resources, what we offer are interpretations and
readings of key literary works through a double intertextual route. That is
to say in a genetical and analogical way, and that relates different
literary, pictorial or cinematographic texts. During all this process, we
have had the intention of analyse the text from a double perspective, both
towards the present and the future but, at the same time, it appears within
a pardigm formed by other texts, that precede and influence it. Therefore,
the texts assums in a explicit or implicit way the cultural past which comes
before, even when it has been conceived against this past. The course
intends to contribute to a tranversal reading of universal literature in a
virtual environment of learning, and at the same time it provides guide
lines to students for a practical exercise of compartive literature. It
suggests as well reading itineraries crossing periods and literary
traditions which are far from each other in time and space. Following
intertextual connections (in an analogical and genetical way), that are
guiding us inside the hyprtextual corpus, some reading routes are described
as random and subjective and they show the broadcast and the arituclation of
such a topic in the literary tradition. Students, after familiarizing with
the texts presented in the materials and wiht the navigating tools offered
by the materials, have to select the topics that are subjectively more
relevant, and to build up their own (hyper)textual corpus. Professor R.
Pinto, who is one of the lecturers of the subject, asserts that both during
the first part of the course, more receptive, and during the second one,
more active, there is always a dialogue between the professor and the

"A good reader is a rereader", says categorically Nabokov. The power of this
assertion proves that the hypertextual space, in which the reading is
fragmentary and non-sequential, the act of rereading is the best
methodological strategy for building up a sense. Hypertext allows an
exponential rereading of the contents we have designed. Moreover, hypertext
is, without any doubts, an essential tool for on-line literary theory and
comparative literature teaching. Therefore, it is necessary to seriously
consider the fact of teaching in a virtual context, with these digital
materials, in a multiple textual environment, without boundaries, or with
the sole boundaries of curiosity and desire. And the use of the World Wide
Web, that implies getting rid of the acquired habits and changing the
comunication techniques of knwoledge discourse. The ways of proving the
"validity" of a literary analysis are being modified since we can deveolp
discourse following a logic that is not necessarily linear and deductive,
but open and relational. In this sense, after the accumulated experience and
taking into account the results obtained from our own strategical and
creative versions, the conclusion is that the revolution of production
patterns, tranmission and inquiry of the texts can be included in
hypertextuality as an epistemological mutation.

We have to add that the extreme fluidity of hypertext oblige us to rethink
one of the main preoccupations of who is writing: the possibility of
exerting a control over the way of the reader"s reading. Indeed the
author-professor creative act requires an interpretative act of the
user-student and requires as well a wander around the text. Hypertext shows
a new form of "textuality" based on the capacity of "penetration" of a text
marked with all the links that open doors to new sense horizons. In
hypertexts, any illusion of control vanishes: seduction is the only
motivation towards an hypertextual wander. We lose the notion of control
because hypertext itself undervalues it. If knowledge spreads itself
provoking an infinite virtuality of intertextual connections, that represent
the inifite ways of the discoursive configuration of the self (Pinto, 2002:
175), everything is relevant, everything could be interconnected. Our own
proposal for this subject, was, therefore, to promote a digital working
environment that made evident the literary work in a more physical way,
completely textual, and that allowed interaction, interrelation and link.
This personal use of phylology, defined by Pinto as more attentive to the
subject who interprets and to the questions that constitute him/herself than
to the interpreted text and to its objective historical reality, can be
considered as a copernican revolution of literary criticism, promoted by new



Teoría del hipertexto



Crítica literaria y construcción del sujeto. Dos
modelos de autoanálisis: Sigmund Freud (psicopatología de la vida
cotidiana) e Italo Calvino (seis propuestas para el próximo


Deseo, construcción y personaje

Fundación Autor

If this content appears in violation of your intellectual property rights, or you see errors or omissions, please reach out to Scott B. Weingart to discuss removing or amending the materials.

Conference Info

In review

"Web X: A Decade of the World Wide Web"

Hosted at University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia, United States

May 29, 2003 - June 2, 2003

83 works by 132 authors indexed

Affiliations need to be double-checked.

Conference website: http://web.archive.org/web/20071113184133/http://www.english.uga.edu/webx/

Series: ACH/ICCH (23), ALLC/EADH (30), ACH/ALLC (15)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None