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Using the Web to Teach Literature and History:
Heinrich Heine's Germany. A Winter's Tale (1844) as a case study of political poetry.

A pilot project, launched in conjunction with the new course, "Dangerous Books" (HACU/SocSci 220; co-taught with Professor Mary Russo), and with the support of a summer grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, via Hampshire College.


I often find it difficult to teach students about the European past because they lack the background knowledge that would enable them to see connections to their own interests. Ironically, this is especially true of political texts that should be the most appealing: The issues—freedom of expression, nationhood, identity, social justice—are universal, but the points of reference are too deeply anchored in a distant world.

A good example is Heinrich Heine's classic political satire of the repressive Restoration era. Having taught it several times in two different classes, I find that students instinctively like it. They appreciate it much more when they understand the references, but the standard English edition contains no explanatory material, and I am therefore forced to spend a great deal of class time filling the gap. I have often wanted to provide some more systematic assistance but had not until now found the time or the means.

New technologies provide a convenient solution. My goal is to create a comprehensive pilot web site devoted to this poem and its world. The ability of the internet to integrate multiple media (text, image, sound) and permit "readers" to move about in non-linear fashion is ideally suited to the task of interpreting such complex documents.



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last updated 29 November, 2003

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