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Stephen Greenblatt: Helps Harvard Humanities Students Discover the 17th Century Online

Historians in the News




On a cool, sun-flecked October morning, Stephen Greenblatt steps up to the podium in a classroom off Harvard Yard and launches into the day's lecture. With a few clicks on a notebook computer, the eminent Shakespearean scholar sets the image of a globe spinning on the screen behind him. It's earth, circa 1633, and across the face of it an imaginary English ship, the Revenge, sails from Ouidah, on the West African coast, to Barbados. In its hold is a cargo of African slaves, bound for the hellish sugar plantations of the West Indies.

With some help from Google Earth and an array of other digital props, all the world's a stage in Mr. Greenblatt's latest venture: a course titled "Travel and Transformation in the Early 17th Century." The class — listed as Humanities 27 — is a leap both for the professor and for Harvard University.

The product of an intense, months-long collaboration between computing specialists, graduate students, librarians, and scholars, it makes innovative use of all the tools and technical know-how a major university can deliver. That includes a course Web site far more extensive and interactive than undergraduates usually encounter, with texts, images, artwork, music, a library's worth of geographic, cultural, and historical resources, even a virtual ship tour.

But the digital elements aren't just a song and dance to keep students entertained. They are a vessel for Mr. Greenblatt's latest scholarly thinking. More than that, they are a central element in the university's campaign to refashion teaching in the humanities....
Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE)

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