Instructor Reflection – Re-presentation: Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour (4.1)

by Dave Essinger

E-Literature and Writing as a course is concerned with all of the ways that new media are altering old concepts of literature, narrative, and creative expression, as well as enabling new modes of all of these. The Re-Presentation Project asks students to take an existing (innocent, unsuspecting…) piece of traditional print literature, and alter it in a significant way by use of electronic media. Students are asked to think about how the experience of reading the work will change, as well as consider possibilities of nonlinear narrative and the decisions involved in conversion from unfixed to fixed media. (By “fixed” vs. “unfixed,” we mean the difference between, say, a character whose appearance is described on the page but largely left for us to imagine on our own, and a movie remake of the same narrative in which the same character is played by one actor. We may all have a different mental picture of the protagonist of The Graduate after reading the novel, but try watching the movie and imagining anyone else but Dustin Hoffman in the role.) The assignment is especially concerned with making conscious decisions that variously enhance or diminish, amplify or distort, a work’s original meaning. Students are also encouraged to intentionally make a work better or worse—a classic example for me was the Powerpoint version of Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” Students have created hypertexts, videopoems of their own or others’ creative writing, websites, music videos, and exercises in dynamic typography, in just a few creative responses to the assignment.

I was very impressed with Megan’s thoughtful and creative manipulations in her interpretation of Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” The attention to external audio and added imagery, along with the intentionally timed and varying exposure to selected lines, provides a new and unique way of encountering this classic short story.