The aim of this project was to produce a student-led collaborative commentary on Derek Walcott’s epic poem Omeros using the principles of wiki technology. Omeros is a highly literary and allusive poem which, to date, is published without explanatory notes. Noting this lack as a potential barrier to a reading the poem, the project provided students with the opportunity to carefully research and annotate Omeros using tools borrowed from social networking. The project intended to improve the learning experience of students at Warwick by encouraging them to engage with the text ofOmeros in a detailed manner and make this activity part of a group learning experience. By making WikiOmeros openly accessible the project also hoped to improve the learning experience of anyone reading Walcott’s text. You can read more about the life of the project in ‘WikiOmeros: technology and textual research in the first year’ published in WordPlay magazine April 2009.
The teaching of Omeros at Warwick (and elsewhere) is part of a course in which students study other epic poems The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid and Paradise Lost and is also part of Caribbean literature modules. The creation of an intertextual commentary enabled students to interpret Omeros, which itself draws on classical and Caribbean texts in a deliberate and detailed way. The commentary allowed students to engage with a variety of interpretative methods and strengthen their skills in close reading, comparison of texts and scholarly debate. The project aimed to encourage students’ development of a professional approach to their academic studies in allowing them to address a genuine lacuna in available scholarship; the open publication of their contributions and their engagement with others’ contributions to engender a sense both of valid purpose and ownership. The commentary included glossaries, biographical and historical notes and intertextual references. Not a pure wiki, students posted contributions after they were checked for quality control by lead project partner, Amanda Hopkins. Although the project originally envisaged the student commentary as embedded in Walcott’s text, the poem’s publishers would not allow this so a stand-alone version of of the commentary was created using a combination of blog entries and pop-up windows.
The key product of this project was a web-based commentary to the text of Omeros. For Warwick students the blogged commentary entries linked directly to the created online text of Omeros; clicking on marked hypertext items in the text brought up a pop-up window containing commentary entries referring directly to the key term highlighted. Links also allowed users to access the main tags: headings show what else is listed under that tag and filters allow every instance of a key-word in the text to be highlighted and linked. Direct access to the browsable blog-format commentary, showing keywords for cross- referencing was also available and accessible to the community outside Warwick. The ups and downs of this project provide a model for creating a commentary on a text that is interactive, student-led and adaptable for other literary texts. The WordPlay article (April 2009) provides guidance on the technology used to set up the project and details of the sorts of difficulties project partners encountered during this ambitious effort.
‘WikiOmeros: technology and textual research in the first year’ by Amanda Hopkins
Dr Amanda Hopkins and Dr Elizabeth Clarke
Department of English
University of Warwick
Dr. Lynne Macedo
Centre for Afro-Caribbean Studies
University of Warwick
(Photo of Anse Chatenet beach St Lucia courtesy of heatheronhertravels on a Creative Commons Attribution-non Commercial-Share alike license)
Project completed: April 2008