A call for new innovative online courses, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has led the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Department of English to launch a class diving into Nebraska literature with an all-star cast of professors.
The course, Literary Nebraska, is being offered as an asynchronous online course in the spring 2021 semester. It will cover Nebraska writers in four units — autobiography, fiction, poetry and contemporary popular culture — with each lecture and online discussion guided by a different English faculty member.
In addition to being available to any university student, the course is open to Nebraska high school students enrolled in the Nebraska Now program. It is also included in the Big Ten Academic Alliance’s online course-sharing program.
Literary Nebraska is the first online course encompassing Nebraska literature as a topic and possibly the first course in more than 50 years to look at Nebraska’s literary history. The course’s focus is unique, as is the opportunity to take coursework with 16 English faculty at once.
“You can hear from 16 of our professors, and their personalities come through in the lectures,” Roland Végső, associate professor and vice chair of English, said. “In a way, it is an introduction to the English department.”
Students in the course will view lectures on Nebraska writers such as Malcolm X, Tillie Olsen, Willa Cather and Jonis Agee. The course also includes readings, guided online discussion and written assignments.
“We tried to be as careful as possible in representing literary history in Nebraska from its earliest days, all the way back from the late 19th century, to the present and also have a diversity of voices present in the course, in terms of both the authors covered and the professors giving the lectures,” said Marco Abel, professor and chair of English.
The course took shape under the leadership of a small steering committee and quickly gained traction among many faculty members in the department.
“When they put out the call for new, innovative online classes, we came up with this idea and put all of our collective Nebraska literacy knowledge together,” Abel said.
“This is truly a collective effort from the department,” Végső said. “We had immediate buy-in from a really large segment of the faculty.”
While the course was cultivated to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Abel said the course likely will continue to be offered at least yearly and could be expanded to include more contemporary authors and artists.