ECCO in teaching 2012

What happened after 2007? Well, the move to using ECCO just for presentations worked better with the exploratory aim of this strand of the module, but the module itself ceased to exist shortly after a wide-ranging re-organisation of Bath Spa’s undergraduate degree system.

I ended up devising a second-year module on Gender and Eighteenth-Century Fiction and -surprise, surprise – I wanted to embed the use of ECCO within that. This was a very different proposition to the introductory level module within which I first experimented using ECCO. This was a more demanding module and more focused topic and resulted in some successes and partial set-backs

On the one hand it enabled me to still use ECCO ‘Mark lists’: this time I had list-titles such as ‘Early Feminisms’, ‘Femininity and Sexuality’, Femininity and Manners’, ‘Gentlemanliness’, ‘Unmanly behaviours’ and ‘Sensibility and Sentiment’. These links, usually containing 4-6 titles, included poems, conduct essays, tracts and sermons. The aim was to give students the materials to historicize their readings of the novels on the course (Fantomina, Roxana, Joseph Andrews, A Sentimental Journey, Evelina, The Wrongs of Woman). And, as in my first-year module, aware that some of the texts were very long, I advised that judicious use of the search function and the ‘e table of contents’ might help navigation.

The problems with that was, given the course’s primary object of study had to be the novels, any use of ECCO was necessarily subordinated to the understanding of the modules themes of gender and 18thC fiction. Related to this, students’ use and understanding of this material had to be more than a rather fun exploration of 18thC culture (as was the case in the 2007 first-year module): students at this level and for this type of thematic module would have to demonstrate an ability relate the novels to this historical material in a meaningful way. What this meant in practice was that the use of ECCO material had to be restricted to the one written assessment large enough to enable students to produce that kind of historicized reading (a 2,500 word essay – and even then I think that may be too small). Secondly, I had to allow seminars in the course to be set aside for students to look specifically at this 18thc contextual material, but not too many so as to take time away from the study of the novels.

On the whole, using ECCO in this way has again enabled students to see with their own eyes (‘long s’ and all – although one student has recently claimed to stop noticing it!) what the eighteenth century was thinking and writing about male and female behaviour. In seminars there is quite a lot of goggling at the attitudes towards women, some lovely critical comparisons between 18thC feminisms and 21st feminisms; and some initial surprise that male behaviour had its own policing too. In their written work, those students who took some time over selecting their contextual material produced more sophisticated essays; those students who relied rather too much on key-word searching tended to drop in unsuccessful or uncontextualised quotations.

At this stage, I have a nagging feeling that there’s a better way of embedding ECCO. Watch this space.


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