Groundbreaking Software Support for Heath Anthology Users

Introducing The Heath Anthology Syllabus Builder

D. C. Heath has recently arranged to produce a ground-breaking, state-of-the-art software program to support the courses of those teachers using the Heath Anthology of American Literature.

One of the most frequently expressed concerns from instructors who would like to use the Heath Anthology is that a text so innovative and rich poses significant class-preparation challenges for those not familiar with certain primary texts contained only in this anthology. It was in response to this pedagogical problem that Heath produced the expansive Instructor's Guide for the Heath Anthology, with over 700 pages of teaching suggestions for the individual authors, usually contributed by specialists on each given writer.

While this supplementary manual was being developed, Professor Lois Rudnick of the University of Massachusetts-Boston suggested that, since the text would itself be groundbreaking and current in its intention and point of view, we should also acknowledge and support the most contemporary teaching methods in any related instructional materials. Thus, we developed the format of the current Guide that covers almost every one of the 300+ writers with a pedagogical essay dealing with the following categories: Classroom Issues and Strategies; Major Themes and Historical Perspectives; Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions; Original Audience; Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections; Questions for Reading and Discussion/Approaches to Writing; Bibliography.

Even with all of this material available, instructors still have occasional difficulties in putting together their syllabi and executing their courses. Therefore, Heath has entered into an agreement with Brown University's Institute for Research in Information and Scholarship, a developer of high-tech pedagogical tools, to produce a special software program, currently known as the "American Literature Syllabus Builder," that will combine the information in the Instructor's Guide for the Heath Anthology with annotated syllabi gathered from professors across the country who have used the text. The program, which runs on a Macintosh computer, employs Hypercard stacks and allows instructors to call up different categories of information about a specific writer and to simultaneously access cross-referenced material on similar writers, themes, genres, historical concerns, etc. Also included will be rationales for grouping writers in certain ways and contexts for generating class discussion on different aspects of literature and criticism.

The prototype of this program is near completion and should be distributed free of charge to every current user by the end of 1991. We hope then to gather more information from instructors of American literature across the country, add it to the expanded version of the program, and to again distribute to all users of the Heath Anthology this technological resource that makes accessible the pedagogical expertise of many teachers as well as the literary excellence of so many American writers. We hope this will not only allow instructors to use the Heath Anthology more easily, but that these teachers will be able to share teaching strategies in a way that's not been tried before and, thus, to use the anthology more creatively and more fruitfully.

It has been our goal that, through the publication of the Heath Anthology of American Literature, instructors would be able to teach new writers, writers that the instructors themselves, through contributing to the profession's on-going discussion about the literary canon, have in some way helped our editorial board to identify and anthologize. But it is also our goal to help the instructorship teach these new writers in ways that make the classroom and the students' experience of these writers more meaningful, more challenging, and more fulfilling. We hope The Heath Anthology Syllabus Builder will be a powerful tool in achieving that goal.

Contents, No. VI