“Annotating Literature” spawned from a seminar on annotating historical fiction in 2011 held by Prof. Matthias Bauer. It kindled the interest in annotation as an active practice of understanding the text. As such it can be understood as an output-driven variation of close-reading techniques. One of the advantages of annotation is its connectivity: it activates each reader by his/her own views on the subject matter. It encourages each reader to ask his own questions and research his own interests.
This affirmative approach to understanding literary texts, and/or working with them, found a good response in the classroom; some students wanted to follow up the seminar in a study group. Under the aegis of Prof. Bauer, the “Annotating Literature” project was created. Right from the start it was understood as a possibility for effective horizontal learning methods and, accordingly, set up as a platform for sustainable peer learning. With an organisational impetus on the part of Prof. Bauer’s chair, a self-perpetuating structure of peer groups was created. Up to now, these peer groups have grown from seminars concerned with the annotation of different kinds of text, but are not restricted to the seminar’s participants. It aims at an interdisciplinary approach by integrating students from different fields which in turn enhances the quality and the range of annotations gained from a specific text. An additional motivation springs from the project’s working language being English – as the project’s home university is in Tübingen, it offers a forum to improve the peer’s language skills. Another basic skill set improved upon by the project is academic research and writing, with each of peer group’s members preparing an annotation on their own but in ongoing communication with the rest of the group. The goal for each annotation then is to be as concise as possible with the reader in mind, but without sacrificing the depth of information necessary for the literary text.
The results of this work are published electronically on this webpage. In 2012 the project as outlined got a grant by the ESIT program of the Eberhard Karls University (E.rfolgreich S.tudieren i.n. Tübingen – Studying succesfully in Tübingen).
At the time of writing this little introduction, the project has made good progress into its transformation into a mainly student-run peer group model. The first three groups amount to 50 members connected to them. The original group, started in 2011, became autonomous in late 2012, working without the organizational backbone earlier provided by Prof. Bauer’s department. In the meantime we are preparing a new group that will work on a text chosen by vote, not by seminar. Another group starting coming semester will work cross-medially in two different languages (English and French respectively) by analyzing word play in different media. And, last but not least, a specifically developed electronic viewer for the fully annotated texts went online in early 2013.