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Redesigning Looking for Whitman

As we all know by now, Whitman himself was intensely interested in typography and design, an interest that led him to design and redesign various editions of Leaves of Grass.

As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve just completed a major first step in the redesign of our own web-based project. You should be seeing a new header image on the home page of the site, along with new sitewide navigation and better frontpage tag navigation. Our “courses” and “projects” tabs now allow visitors to quickly and easily access various parts of the site.

This is only the first step, though. Coming soon will be a reworking of the main section of the frontpage so that we’ll be better able to feature the work of students in the course (right now, the righthand sidebar is extraordinarily active, while the main section of the homepage is relatively static). We’ll also be installing the new header across various parts of the website (especially the profile sections) to create a more seamless browsing experience.

We hope you like these new changes. If you have ideas for ways we could improve the design or functionality of the site, please let us know by leaving a comment on this post on the Announcements blog.

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Announcement: New Blog Feeds on Course Pages

After a discussion today with the other faculty members involved in “Looking for Whitman,” I added the feeds of two project blogs to all course pages:

Announcements – project-wide announcements
WhitTech – our tech-support blog

Our hope is that adding these feeds to your course sites will increase the visibility of important posts that should have relevance for everyone involved in the project. If you or your professor decides that the course blog is better suited only to student and faculty posts, we can easily remove these new blogs from the feed.

We had a wonderful first week of the project, and I’m excited by how much energy and enthusiasm I’m seeing on the site.

But I want to encourage all of you to make a special effort to reach out to students in locations other than your own. Visit the Courses page and read the blog posts of students from other classes. Check out our member directory and use member wires to communicate with one another. Check out existing groups and feel free to create your own.

In short, play with the site and use it to its fullest capacity. And please remember that a site redesign is coming soon.

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Welcome to Looking for Whitman!!

Welcome Sign by Flickr user davidking

“Welcome Sign” by Flickr user davidking

As Project Director of “Looking for Whitman,” it gives me great pleasure to welcome students from the University of Mary Washington, New York City College of Technology, Rutgers
University-Camden, and University of Novi Sad to our project website!

This is an exciting moment in higher education, when traditional methods of teaching and learning are changing dramatically as new kinds of technologies allow us to connect our classrooms to the world in exciting ways.

And that’s what this project is all about: taking individual classrooms of students from different institutions and connecting them to one another as they embark upon a joint semester-long study of Walt Whitman’s poetry and the places in which he lived.

Each school involved in the project has been carefully chosen for its lead faculty members, its location, and (of course) for its students. ”Looking for Whitman” centers on three locations, each very important to Walt Whitman’s life and work:

In New York, where Whitman lived from his birth to mid-life, students from the New York City College of Technology, CUNY will explore Whitman’s connections to the Brooklyn Waterfront, Lower Manhattan, and Long Island, and will focus particularly on Whitman’s early work, including the landmark 1855 first edition of Leaves of Grass. At the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, students will consider Whitman’s mid-career experiences as a nurse in the Civil War, and will focus on his war-related writing of the 1860s. Students in two classes at Rutgers University-Camden will explore Whitman’s late career as they investigate Camden, the city in which Whitman spent the final decades of his long life. Our fourth location, in Serbia, is a wonderful addition to the project that will make it international in scope.

The faculty members involved in this project have been meeting for the better part of a year to come up with plans for the Fall 2009 semester. We’re excited about the connections and collaborations that are going to take place through our joint projects and assignments, and we hope that you, the students involved in the project, will take advantage of this website to document your encounters with Whitman’s fascinating writing.

Walt Whitman was an author for whom nothing was more important than connecting to his audience. He wanted to shrink the distance between writer and reader, to reach up out of the page to touch the eyes and hands exploring his body of work.

In 2009, the connections that Whitman dreamed about in the nineteenth century can be realized in new ways. As you spend the semester taking photos, making movies, writing essays, exploring research archives, and, most importantly, reading poetry, we hope that you’ll share your discoveries with your peers, and with the world, as generously and with as much enthusiasm as Walt shared his work with us.

Allons! The road is before us!

It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well.

Allons! Be not detain’d!

Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!

Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!

Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!

Let the preacher preach in the pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

Mon enfant! I give you my hand!

I give you my love, more precious than money,

I give you myself, before preaching or law;

Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

– From “Song of the Open Road

I can’t wait to hear what your own Song of the Open Road will sound like.

– Prof. Matthew Gold, New York City College of Technology, CUNY

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