There is a WWW site with a report on the current state of affairs in Penn's envelope-pushing English department as of December 1995; a report from an earlier stage gives an idea how they got started (from a report by English department undergraduate chair Alan Filreis [fall 1994]):
The Undergraduate Program has sponsored a department-wide communications network, which was brought fully on line during 1993-94 in just five months. During the summer of 1994, the English server (dept.english.upenn.edu) was inaugurated; the English Gopher was created; and course listservers (electronic mailing lists) were institutionalized. From October 2 to October 20, 1994, in only its fourth month of operation, with little advertising, the English Gopher received 36,498 individual requests for information about English programs, courses, lectures, special events, faculty c.v.'s, on-line course materials, and a new library of electronic literary texts. The overall electronic text and communications program, supported by a Pew Grant and funds from SAS Computing, was founded on the belief that the key to creating the opportunity for individuals' innovations in teaching undergraduates is at the departmental level. A report on Computing at Penn issued by the History department during 1993-94 was correct in pointing out the lack of knowledge among individual faculty about computing resources. Too, there is only so much that The College and SAS Computing can do to create and sustain collective departmental ventures. Our self-study has strongly suggested the conclusion that the energy and impetus must come from within the departments, and indeed in the past two years one of the main efforts of the Undergraduate Program in English has been to provide that impetus. The proposal prepared by the Undergraduate Chairman requested Pew Foundation funds to support that effort of coordination; the department received $35,000 to institute this program over five years. The Pew proposal was based on the assumption that individual professors, for all the desire to innovate, can only do what departmental curricula and local administrative structures (and, crucially these days, local access to technology and technological support) will permit. It no longer makes sense, the successful proposal contended, to limit thinking about innovative teaching to the efforts of individual faculty in a single classroom facing a single class. The thinking about this problem has already begun to shift in this direction. As Deborah Greenberg (CAS '94), perhaps our very finest graduating senior major last year, wrote:
My courses have never addressed one another. They are competing and contradictory, without being aware of it. My experience at Penn can be characterized by a series of disconnected, wholly discrete experiences spread out over exactly that many courses. I have never been asked to integrate what I have learned, and I have gotten away with a string of A's without ever acting on the impulse to intregate. I feel that impulse but even now don't know what to do with it. Now I see that there a number of ways in which I am able to interact with my professors--through an Undergraduate Advisory Board, where I can help shape curricular policy, and through an creatively anarchic network of course listservers, special-topics listservers, and lists for undergraduate majors, graduate students, and faculty. It has literally changed Penn for me and hundreds of other majors. The extra-curricular work I've done in English has made the curricular work make sense.
Gerald Graff puts it similarly in Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education (1992):
The courses being given at any moment in a single department represent any number of rich potential conversations within a discipline and across the disciplines. But since students experience these conversations only as a series of monologues, the conversations become actual only for the minority who can reconstruct them on their own.
In short, the Undergraduate Program in English at Penn will have been fully redesigned by June 1996 to provide a means by which our undergraduate students can more easily "reconstruct...the conversations." Increasingly, creative undergraduate teaching, which now must be seen as entailing new ways of interacting with students and the curricular material, is being made possible in English by a departmental administration that provides ways for a professor and his or her students to "see through" a class and beyond--to perceive relations between what is being taught and learned in one class on the one hand, and, on the other, everything else that goes on intellectually in a given discipline or department. Such collective interaction does not come only from technology, of course. The Undergraduate Advisory Board is the most obvious example. . . . .
A sense of what the English Department is about can be gotten from their undergraduate program WWW home page.