Web Writing Project for Great Expectations

This preliminary description of the writing project for The Dickens Web explicitly encouraged students to conceptualize their projects from the beginning, both in topic and in structure, according to the model provided by The Dickens Web itself. This proved to be successful on two counts: students did choose more interesting, varied, and focused topics, and most took advantage of the hypertext format to break their project up into two or more shorter but linked essays. On one count, however, The Dickens Web proved to be a poor model. Because much of its contextual material is strictly informative, The Dickens Web contains few examples of how to deploy this material for interpreting the novel. More comfortable with writing about sweeping, abstract themes in literature (friendship, love, justice, etc.), students didn't know how to take contextual details and apply them to the details of the text.

As you explore The Dickens Web you should be thinking about what you would like to do for your first writing project. In the broadest terms, you can add to material that already exists in the Web, or you can add completely new material. If you look at the "Introduction" in the Web's "Title Page" writing space, you will see that some parts of the Web have deliberately been left empty or underdeveloped. But you can also add new writing spaces or expand parts of the Web that are already well developed. The Web contains a wide array of material: social and literary history, literary criticism, biography, illustrations, etc. Choose something that interests you. You may also want to think about relations with other courses you're taking or have taken. If you've taken the 18th-Century Novel, for example, you might want to discuss Dickens and Fielding. Theories of child development in a Child Psychology class could be used to discuss Dickens's depiction of Pip's mental life as a child.

Whatever topic you choose, your writing project should add the equivalent of at least 5 pages of material to the Web. This need not be in the form of, or an addition to, a single writing space--you may decide, for example, that your project is best carried out with two or three 1-2 page mini-essays for different writing spaces rather than a single 5 page one. The second major requirement is that your project must involve textual analysis and interpretation. In other words, you can't simply present factual information or long passages from other sources, as some of the existing writing spaces do. You must discuss how the information, theories, or critical views that you are presenting affect our understanding of the novel. You may decide to present factual material or extended passages in a single writing space, but another writing space should contain more analytical and interpretive material. The third major requirement is that the material in your project must be linked to the existing parts of the Web. You can of course set up links within the material you add, but the idea is to integrate your material with the rest of the Web. If you use outside sources, you will need to add them to the "Bibliography" and create links from your text to the "Bibliography."