The Colgate Scene
November 1998
Table of contents
Ecrire La Fontaine: technology for teaching literature
by John Gallucci
Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures
[IMAGE]
Students of Professor John Gallucci share their work on the computer.
How might technology help in the teaching of literature? I am currently exploring various answers to this question through a Mellon project Ecrire La Fontaine/Writing La Fontaine. Simply put, my goal is to teach the Fables of La Fontaine by having students write fables of their own. Based on Aesop's Fables and, from the moment they were first published in seventeenth-century France, always very popular, La Fontaine's Fables are a rare example of a literary achievement that succeeds in combining the most sophisticated literary art with the utter simplicity of a traditional fable.

     In class, we seek to analyze this magical achievement. We identify principal features of La Fontaine's style; students then work in groups and, via the Internet, engage in writing their own fables and in the peer editing of each other's work. There are two paramount writing exercises: first, students invent a fable that attempts, as do the Fables of La Fontaine, to satirize some aspect of daily life; a second project is to translate into La Fontaine's manner various fables by other writers.

     The goal is to write, as best one can, in La Fontaine's own beautiful and ironic style. A successful writing project requires therefore close, serious attention to La Fontaine's text. The result is a greater appreciation and understanding of a literary work through means that bring in some greater degree of creativity and, hopefully, pleasure.

     I've already mentioned that technology allows students to share and edit easily each other's work. I can also, using technology and the Internet, store readily and provide access to a large selection of fables in other languages and from other times (and thereby lay the basis for future classwork in comparative literature, folklore and Franco-phonic studies) -- I have collect-ed fables from Marie de France and by Ambrose Bierce, James Thurber, Zora Neale Hurston, Mark Twain, even one written by Louisa May Alcott when she was sixteen, and others, such as a Creole translation of La Fontaine's Fables.

     Finally, I am able to create an archive of student work: each time I teach the course "Molière and La Fontaine," students will be able to learn from their predecessors' work and to attempt to do better.

     Technology has allowed me to add easily a creative element to literary study and to complement the book which, although it might appear outdated for some, may turn out to be, in the end, the best technology available to date for close, careful and intimate reading.


Computing in the classroom
More perspective than I know what to do with
by Charles H. Holbrow, Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics

Joint learning across the ocean
by Dierk Hoffmann, Professor of German
A tale of two classes and the Web
by Jun Yoshino, Associate Professor of Psychology
Computers and classical archaeology
by Rebecca Miller Ammerman, Associate Professor of the Classics
Ecrire La Fontaine: technology for teaching literature
by John Gallucci, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures
Enhancing student presentations
by Michael Haines, Professor of Economics


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