This should be a well thought out group (about 4 people) recording/discussion on particular aspects of the relevant reading for a particular day. The work must be completed for each group as noted on the syllabus and will require planning, meeting, and editing. You can find many examples of literary podcasts online. See, for example, Slate’s Audio Book Club or Book Fight: Tough Love for Literature.
There are many easy-to-use audio editors with abundant online tutorials. I recommend Audacity. Media tutors at Middlebury are trained in it, if you need personal help and there are many online tutorials. In the past, I found this and this useful. On the other hand, if you’re versed in alternative software, feel free to use that. Please submit the work as an MP3 file by 8am the day of the relevant class.
Here’s a link to brief instructions for the microphone that I’ll provide. Some tips:
- Be sure to set your computer to receive input from the external mic (see the directions linked above).
- If you set the “gain” near the middle, make sure the mic isn’t muted, and turn the recording mode to “omnidirectional” or “bidirectional”, you’ll probably be fine. The “bidirectional” setting might get you better sound quality (a little less reverb), but you’ll have to sit across from one another if you use it.
- Make sure everyone is reasonably close to the microphone. The room should be generally quiet. The mic will pick up voices and sounds around you, especially in “omnidirectional” mode.
- Test for sound quality before you have the whole conversation. On some machines, I have found that I have to detach the mic to hear the audio over the computer’s speakers and then plug it back in to resume recording. If you have the right headphones, you can plug them into the bottom of the microphone and hear the audio as it’s recorded.
- You don’t need to aim for studio-quality audio but don’t want to find out at the end that you seem to be muttering unintelligibly in a sewer or that only one of you recorded! The recording should sound significantly better than it would if you simply spoke into your computer’s onboard mic.
Late work will be marked down significantly, because the class can’t proceed as planned without the timely completion of projects. This work will take some organization to be successful. What is the role of each individual in the discussion? What are the questions to be addressed? How do you create a beginning, middle, and end? You should plan for some disagreement or expansion on points as people speak. Simple agreement isn’t very engaging. We’ll listen to one or two examples in class.
To help everyone find some structure, I’m going to require that you submit to me:
- One MP3 file running about 30-40 minutes of your unedited discussion. All voices in your group MUST be on this unedited file.
- One edited audio file running about 10-13 minutes. Ideally, all voices in your group should be heard at least once on this edited version, too, though it isn’t absolutely necessary.
- A list of five topics, passages, ideas, or notions, in order of priority, that you planned to discuss. You don’t have to get to all five topics, and you might find productive digressions in your conversation, but you still have to be prepared with some ideas, passages, etc.
- A list of names with roles in the conversation attached. People don’t have to stick to these roles absolutely by any means, but it’s good to start with some sense of a defined place in the conversation. These roles could highlight different opinions, different areas of knowledge or experience, or somewhat planned agreements or elaborations. The point isn’t to be rigid, but to think about a basic structure and understanding before you start. That could fall apart in productive ways.
These basic guidelines, of course leave a lot up to your group to figure out and should leave open the path to useful digressions. Part of what it means to work on group projects is, of course, organizing and working with other people and making accidental discoveries along the way.
- Organizationally, you’ll have to figure out when and where you’ll meet and plan.
- You’ll have to get possible topics straight and come prepared, so that you all have informed thoughts. What will you focus on? A particular page of the text? A chapter? A character? A theme? A motif or recurring image?
- What roles will people play?
- Who will edit? The whole group together or some members of it? How will a draft of the edits be circulated? ALL PEOPLE IN THE GROUP MUST HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO HEAR THE FINAL EDIT BEFORE SUBMISSION.
Good luck. I’m happy to help clarify matters and to talk. The organizational matters are the responsibility of your group. I look forward to hearing your work.