Kamran Javadizadeh, PhD, associate professor of English, did not use an old shell of past syllabi for his classes this fall. He designed his fall courses from the ground up to be delivered online, including an English course called “Letters, Texts, Twitter.” The goal of this course is to study how writing allows intimacies to form across spatial and temporal distances. To examine this, Dr. Javadizadeh uses letters, as well as newer digital forms including social media, texting and instant messaging.
There is a clear connection between this topic and the experiences of individuals during the current COVID-19 environment—a time of social distancing—and Dr. Javadizadeh is using the opportunity to engage students in dialogue.
This summer, Dr. Javadizadeh wrote an essay—published by The New Yorker—about English author Virginia Woolf and some of the letters she wrote as a young woman. In a series of letters to a close friend, Woolf used fantasy to cover up the pain of her brother’s death due to typhoid.
“Recently, I’ve found myself drawn to these early Woolf letters—to their unsettling mix of grief and hope, loss and desire—because in them I see a writer experimenting, perilously, with fantasy’s transformative potential,” wrote Dr. Javadizadeh in his essay.
Dr. Javadizadeh plans to use both the letters of authors like Woolf and the presence of epistolary forms in literature to engage students in discussion about their own lives.
“I have been fascinated by this topic of how we can create certain forms of proximity and friendship and love from a distance,” said Dr. Javadizadeh. “What I want to know is how do my students think about these ideas? How do these ideas come into being in their own lives?”
Dr. Javadizadeh’s course was designed to be completely online—with a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous activities. To promote student engagement, he split the class in half for the synchronous sessions.