Project (Oc)Cult: Meta Discussion

Beyond this point, we’ll be breaking the fourth wall so stop reading if you’re more interested in the fictional world of Project (Oc)Cult. Below, I have a general summary of the project itself and my pedagogical goals.

Project (Oc)Cult is not a semester end presentation or project meant to wrap up E 314 Cult Classics. In fact, it is merely the 4th of four blog posts students were to write for me throughout the semester (the first three entries are scattered throughout the site). As I note on the home page, these small blog posts could be a work of class-inspired fiction accompanied by a reflective statement of intent, or a textual analysis of the texts we were studying.

Given the passion and effort my students put into the course – regardless of major – I decided to experiment and turn the 4th blog post (worth less than any paper they had to turn in) into a group event. The texts that we’ve studied involve strong, unique communities and a creative culture that enriches the original work. Part of our class discussions have covered the various influences (historical, political, cultural, scientific, etc.) that contribute to the development of fictional works, and individual beliefs/perspectives. There is no piece of art that exists – or was produced in – a vacuum, and so, my assignments have always encouraged students to think critically about the world around them, and the narratives that circulate.

So then, why do I offer creative writing options to my students when this is a literary analysis course? Because it’s an exercise that helps them understand the thought and the influences that go into not just artistic production, but into the development of the self. It’s why I required a “reflection” for the creative blog posts (a reflection wherein students must explain what texts may have inspired their creative work and impacted their perspectives/interests). Because my primary texts deal with unreliable truths – House of Leaves (2000) and BioShock (2007) in particular – Blog Post 4 involves the blurring of fiction and nonfiction, and its parameters are explicitly drawn from the content we studied all semester.

For this assignment, students had to:
1) Write a core, fictional narrative
2) Incorporate a separate analytical voice into the narrative (intended to exercise their literary analysis skills)
3) Create their own, “fake” academic/secondary sources to be pulled into #1 or #2

The students were not required to adhere to a particular genre, but the course texts have been quite occult-ish, and so, the products for this assignment were as well. Just as well – horror and genre fiction in general aren’t appreciated enough for their capacity to push artistic boundaries and to disturb the stability of the truths we use to comfort ourselves. Clearly, my students have been more than insightful in their ability to engage with texts that may not be considered “canonical” or conventional.

Finally, I think it would be egregious if I did not thank my students for their enthusiastic participation in this project. Given their homework during this final week of classes, the fact that E 314 is a basic, required course, and the fact that these blog posts are worth less than my other assignments (and also that they had an important, final paper due the following week for me), I am stunned at what they accomplished. What they’ve created here has exceeded my wildest expectations, and has fortified my dedication to teaching. So thank you, for making this semester my best one at UT Austin:

brookeborglum // ceesquatch // chrisdubos // coltonwadedempsey // dominykasbytautas // griffinhanson // haleyalxnder // harleyquinntwinn // thehumbleoscar // ironreaver // lereynolds1996 // lilicecilia // mmwilliams1 // ngarcia96 // nightwriter15 // oalandry // patriciaoldani // shanemichaelgordon // spencerj123 // tylynn9 // venusgrace17 // zguang