My first online session with my third year class on the Victorians is now over. They came up with an impressive bank of comments and discussion about how the Victorians have influenced us now, and their legacies still with us. I kept logging on to the first Forum excitedly the day after my first class to see who was posting. It took a little while to get going but I do always find I want to see the Forum in progress as it were. The dynamism of it is part of the appeal and what makes it work.
As well as the Forums for each specific designated exercise our VLE also has general forum on the menu of each online topic area which I as ‘Admin’ person can change the name of. In past years we haven’t been able to do that, so I also set the class the task of renaming the general forum for their own use. I’m not really bothered what they talk about in here. As long as it’s not offensive or illegal it’s fine with me. It helps if it’s course related but I’m not really policing it.
The suggestions for names for our ‘Virtual Victorian Inn’ were great: The Literary Lounge, The Stiff Upper Lip, The Chamber of Converse, The Punch and Dickens, The Queen Vic, The What-the-Dickens?!, The Brontë Bruiser’s Bar, and The Having a Gas(kell). As our second class was exploring Chartism, Reform Bills and working class pressure for the vote, we had our own secret ballot to vote for the winner. The What the Dickens?! won, but there’s now a snug in the back called Having a Gas(kell).
Our second Victorian Vision Online session, which accompanies the third class, is one of my favourites, and works incredibly well. The class build their own bank of weblinks to Pre-Raphaelite paintings, thus creating a resource for the class, and then make a post in a ‘Pre-Raphaelite Painting’ forum on their chosen painting, telling their classmates about it. They are encouraged to do some research on their painting, alongside using the useful information available on good websites such as those of Art Galleries which have PR holdings.
I’m also trying out a ‘Pre-Raphaelite Poetry’ forum alongside it using the online Morris Edition being created by Florence Boos at the University of Iowa. Margaret Lourie’s excellent annotated edition of William Morris’s The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems (1858), long out of print, has been made available online. There are also copies of some of the original first reviews of the volume, so it’s possible for my class to see how critics of the time referred to these poems as somehow ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ and doing in verse what they perceived the PRs to be doing in paint. I thus also set my class the quite challenging task of discussing one of choosing one of the 30 poems to discuss. In what ways might it be perceived as ‘Pre-Raphaelite’? Is it possible to translate techniques in painting to poetry?