Displaying a ‘Genius’ for the Digital Humanities

The Boston College Chronicle recently published an article about my use of Poetry Genius as a learning tool in an undergraduate Chaucer seminar. Here are the opening sentences:

The works of poet Geoffrey Chaucer, widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages, got a 21st-century spin by students recently in a class on the Father of English literature taught by Assistant Professor of English Eric Weiskott.

Using the “Lit” category on the “Genius.com” website — which Weiskott describes as “a large digital collection of lyrics and texts that can be annotated with text, images, and video in real time” — his students were assigned to each contribute 10 annotations to the site’s texts of Chaucer’s masterpiece The Canterbury Tales, the central work in his Chaucer course.

Weiskott brought the students’ work to the attention of Genius.com’s director of education, who was so impressed that he “generously offered to send us T-shirts,” Weiskott said, which were distributed in a recent class.

My students ran with this assignment, combining their newfound expertise in Chaucer with their digital literacy. As the fall term draws to a close, I am finding that each student’s ten Genius annotations make an ideal starting point for final paper brainstorming.

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