Using Tumblr in an Online English Class Fall 2014

I decided to incorporate Tumblr into selected courses starting this year since so much amazing fandom commentary (both text and visual) appears there.  The class I chose to start with was English 388, Gender and Futures.

My tumblr is, and I’ll be using it in future courses (as applicable!).  My students were asked to set up their own tumblrs, and we’re following each other.  Here is the information

Introduction to English 388 Genders and Futures (Dr. Robin Anne Reid, Literature and Languages, Texas A&M University-Commerce

I set up this Tumblr to explore using a new social media site in my classes:  it was a busy, busy, hectic, and did I mention, busy fall, so I haven’t posted much, or even read much over here, but here’s the information on the class who are the first to have a Tumblr assignment!

The class is a new one (for me!), called:

Course Description: Genders and Futures

The focus for the Fall 2014 class is “Genders and Futures.” We will be reading six science fiction novels (SF) set in “near future” settings on Earth (no aliens, sorry, but there are zombies in one!). Many of these novels deal with the realities that the world is facing today, often in rather dark detail (with dystopian elements). Science fiction as a genre centers on asking “what if” questions, speculating on likely outcomes rather than trying to predict what will happen, and the Near Future SF genre is very different than Far Future SF: “The near future, by contrast [to Far Future SF], is a world which is imminently real – one of which we can have no definite knowledge, which exists only imaginatively and hypothetically, but which is nevertheless a world in which (or something like it) we may one day have to live, and towards which our present plans and ambitions must be directed” (paragraph 1, We’ll be reading and discussing the novels in this class through the critical lens of gender and cultural studies.

It was developed to serve both as an upper-level literature course (which can be taught by different faculty in my department, and can be taken more than once by students when the topic changes), and to fulfill the requirements of the gender minor (that took over eighteen years to start here at A&M-Commerce).

I’ve integrated the internet generally in two ways in the class:  first, there are weekly readings that go along with the novels I’ve assigned, and those weekly readings come not from a textbook but from the ongoing discussions in the sff community about gender and science fiction.  Second, students are not writing a traditional liteary analysis essay; instead, they are writing a series of short individual projects that are designed to be posted as Tumblr posts.

Here is the project information from the syllabus:

30%    Individual Project: Eight Tumblr Posts

The individual projects for this semester are a sequence of short essays which will be revised in order to post on Tumblr. The essays will be developed through a process of exploration (in journals and discussions), drafting (revision is expected on the Tumblr posts), and final posting on Tumblr. Each Tumblr post will be 700-1000 words long, written to assigned topics. Some posts will be analytical in nature, others will be creative and transformative. Three posts will compare and contrast gender constructions in two of the assigned novels. Two posts will analyze online reviews and commentary on an assigned novel, especially focusing on issues of gender. Two posts will analyze assigned secondary readings, and the final post will be your speculation on genders in the near future.

Here are the specific student learning outcomes for the Tumblr Projects (actually, all the outcomes for the class involve the Tumblr projects now that I look at them!):

Student Learning Outcomes:

Learners will demonstrate that they:

  1. can apply terminology for concepts commonly associated with gender studies correctly in their writing. Method of assessment: selected posts in the discussion forums and the final drafts of selected individual projects.
  2. can synthesize concepts of gender in ways that reflect the complicated cultural, political, and social contexts surrounding the concept rather than in binary or essentialist ways. Method of assessment: selected reading journals and the final drafts of selected individual projects.
  3. can analyze and synthesize arguments about gender in texts such as novels, blog posts, social media discussions, etc. Method of assessment: selected reading journals, and the final drafts of selected individual projects.
  4. can analyze gender constructions in science fiction novels. Method of assessment: final drafts of selected individual projects.
  5. can write multiple drafts marked by increasing clarity and understanding to show using writing as a tool of discovery, learning, and creative thinking. Method of assessment: the rough and final drafts of selected individual projects.
  6. can evaluate, analyze, and use secondary sources located on the internet for their projects. The sources they are expected to use are assigned readings in class that include reviews and op-ed columns (newspapers and magazines) and fan discussions and commentary (at social media sites such as Tumblr and Twitter; fan discussion forums; blog posts and comments). Method of assessment: selected reading journals and the final drafts of selected individual projects.
  7. can integrate material from primary and secondary sources according to appropriate documentation conventions, using source material honestly and appropriately; that they can write summaries and paraphrases, and follow the guidelines from the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) guidelines (Handbook, 7th edition). Method of assessment: Pre-Test and Post-Text, the Plagiarism Prevention Unit, and the final drafts of selected individual projects.


CFP: Tolkien Studies (PCA/ACA) Deadline: November 1, 2013 (4-16-19-2014)


Call For Proposals:  Sessions, Panels, Papers



Marriott Chicago Downtown Magnificant Mile, Chicago, IL

Wednesday, April 16 through Saturday, April 19th  2014

For information on PCA/ACA, please go to

For conference information, please go to


We welcome proposals on any area of Tolkien Studies (the Legendarium, adaptations, reader reception and fan studies, media and marketing) from any disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspective.

We are considering proposals for sessions organized around a theme, special panels, and/or individual papers.  Sessions are scheduled in 1½ hour slots, typically with four papers or speakers per standard session.

If there is sufficient interest in this Special Topics Area, we may be able to develop Tolkien Studies as a permanent area for the conference.

Should you or any of your colleagues be interested in submitting a proposal or have any questions, please contact:

Bruce E. Drushel, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Media Studies

Department of Communication


OxfordOH 45056

(513) 529-3526

To submit your panel or presentation, go to and follow the instructions for creating an account and making your submission. ALL submissions must be made through the conference submission site.  For individual papers, please submit a title and 100-word abstract.  For sessions and panels, please submit paper/presentation titles and abstracts, along with a paragraph describing the central theme, and the names of chairs and respondents (if any).  For each participant, please provide a mailing address, institutional affiliation, and e-mail address.  

New Theory on Declining Numbers in Humanities

When I opened my email today, the first message I saw was a collection of links from the Chronicle of Higher Education which I used to read fairly regularly in hard copy but which now I mostly only skim online.  One of the first links caught my attention:  a report on a study by a Princeton graduate student on a possible reason for the decline in humanities enrollment since the 1970s, or thereabout.

Charting the statistics in enrollment and majors, Ben Schmidt argues that a reason could be that during the last four decades, because of social changes, more women shifted to majors in pre-professional, scientific,and technical fields instead of being primarily involved in humanities and education.

The report in the Chronicle is here:

Schmidt’s blog, Sapping Attention, which I’m adding to my blogroll immediately, has a post on his study:

He has other posts on the issue; the one I link to above is his latest one that he describes as a bit of a data dump.

What he found (as far as I can understand–warning, I am NOT trained in statistics) is that the percentage of men enrolling in humanities degrees has remained fairly constant over the past four-five decades.  What changed was the percentage of women enrolling in humanities, with a corresponding increase of women majoring in other fields, especially business.

Given that a number of academics have claimed that the reason for the drop in humanities enrollment has been the shift not only in what is taught but how it is taught, this argument is of more than (sorry!) academic interest to me. I’ve been an observer and participant in the shift in English studies over the past four decades:  I began my undergraduate degree in 1973, spent a decade getting several master’s degrees (couldn’t find a job but could be a teaching assistant!), left academia after becoming a feminist, then returned in the late 1980s to get a doctorate in English, finishing in 1992. During the past two decades, my teaching and scholarship are all in areas that were stigmatized, marginalized, or downright absent during my own earliest university education:  creative writing, science fiction/fantasy, multicultural literature, gender theory, women writers.

From a purely personal and anecdotal basis, I have seen a number of non-traditional women students returning to university to major in English, talking about how they went into business in the 1970s and then found their work unsatisfying. A&M-Commerce has a strong contingent of non-traditional students, and a higher than usual percentage of graduate students (with the majority being in the College of Education). I’ll have to spend some more time reading Schmidt’s entries and data because I’m wondering how age might correlate in major choice.