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Peer Review

Invitation to World Literature

by David Damrosch


Overall Numeric Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Jun 20, 2014 by English Editorial Board
Overview: This free multimedia resource from Annenberg Learner is designed to structure and support the teaching of world literature to secondary and college-level students. The site introduces thirteen classical and contemporary texts by authors from around the globe, providing video introductions, slideshows, maps, and timelines to help contextualize the cultural and historical significance of each work. In the videos, scholars, artists, composers, actors, choreographers, puppet makers, and others share their own personal, intimate relationships with the works. By allowing viewers to see the impact great works have on those who engage them, the videos spark students' curiosity and catalyze discussion. The site offers an excerpt from each work as well as a variety of teaching resources. Each section also includes a discussion of available texts and translations of the work in question.
Type of Material: Online Course
Recommended Uses: This resource can be used in a variety of ways, either to provide supplementary materials or as the central focus of a course. Students and teachers can engage the site as a multimedia textbook. Lessons, readings, and activities can be drawn from the thirteen texts, the introductory materials, and the contextual information.
Technical Requirements: According to the site's "Technical Help" page, "This Web site includes video content in Macromedia Flash. There are also PDF, as well as site features that depend on browser functions for an optimal experience." Users are advised not to "disable scripts or style sheet functions."
Identify Major Learning Goals: The authors state that students will discover the richness and purpose of world literature and experience the deeply satisfying pleasure of reading great works. They will also "make connections that build knowledge and understanding—connections between texts, between regions of the world, and between the works and . . . [students'] own lives."
Target Student Population: College students and advanced secondary students
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: None

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The site includes robust and varied texts that span national and geographic lines as well as historical periods. The video introductions for each text will entice students to explore the site (and texts) more deeply. Experts from a range of fields offer fascinating insights into the technical and cultural aspects of the work. Timelines and maps reinforce geographic and historical context. Overall, the site provides a rich, high-quality experience which students can easily grasp. The site provides brief but adequate selections from the texts on its own, but it could very profitably be used in conjunction with a reading of each text in full.
Concerns: None

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: It would be very easy to link the use of components of the web site to class assignments ranging from discussion postings to research papers. Students will gain a lot of information in a short amount of time. Students and teachers will appreciate having the texts and the extensive supplementary material close at hand. The resource offers a depth of context that exceeds most traditional textbooks.
Concerns: None

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The site is easy to navigate, and the multimedia components work seamlessly with the textual components.
Concerns: Links to other Annenberg Learner resources at the top of the screen have extensive drop-down menus that appear when the cursor moves over them. These may be somewhat confusing at first.

Other Issues and Comments: None.