The final project of Literature 219, a course on medieval and Mediterranean texts with a trope of chess, was to create a set of chess pieces that analyzed and built upon the texts. Pieces could be physical or digital, two dimensional or three dimensional, as fit each students capabilities and learning style.
To this aim, Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature Nhora Serrano planned several workshops throughout the semester, exploring different ways to create. Each student created a vector art pawn in a 90-minute Adobe Illustrator workshop, as an introduction to digital illustration taught by Kyle Burnham. The class met with Christian Goodwillie, Director of Special Collections, for a workshop about illumination techniques from old manuscripts. Students also practiced analysis in a public blog throughout the semester, interacting with one another’s writings.
After these workshops, students worked on their final chess set in earnest, in groups or solo. Students met with Professor Serrano to initially discuss and approve their project ideas; many also met with Burnham to further hone concept and technical skills. Ultimately, one group made a video re-enactment, one group made a collage, another group designed half of their set in Photoshop and carved the other half out of soap, one student made a clever deck of cards, and one created 3D models and an environment with Blender and Unity. Grading was based on a process paper, drawing inspiration from medieval and renaissance treatises read in class, explaining and justifying the choices made by the students.
Learning Goals & Objectives
This course will develop and hone skills in critical reading and thinking, and literary analysis through the broad sampling of literary works and modes of visual texts (e.g. illuminated manuscripts, film, chess sets) from the Mediterranean basin. As part of accomplishing this, students completing this culminating project will:
- Interrogate the medieval literary trope of chess in a hands-on manner
- Recognize and reproduce the medieval literary trope of chess and cosmopolitan play
- Interpret and analyze the use of the trope as it appears in specific texts of the student’s choice
- Practice hands-on visual creation skills in a variety of medium
- Design and create a visual representation of analysis/interpretation
- Explain and defend choices of visual creation in a public reception
After reading and watching several texts with tropes of chess and play, students were able to create visual pieces from a broad range of mediums from soap-carving to film, successfully interpreting and analyzing the texts.