As a Victorianist, I strive to not teach imperial literature alone, although that composes a vast amount of my syllabus every semester. Alongside these texts, or succeeding them, are works that challenge imperial assumptions. If we are examining Victorian literature, we are doing so critically, considering not only the function of protagonists, but the presence (and just as crucially, the absence) of marginalized characters. Recently, I have received an evaluation by a very offended student who is reluctant to examine these works critically, thinking that such interrogation somehow discredits or invalidates them (which perhaps is true to some degree). In an effort to hold onto their prestige, this student felt it necessary to protect and defend these “masterstrokes of genius.” What’s more, this student extended their invective onto my own pedagogy, claiming I knew nothing of English literature (I suppose because I was willing to push aside such canonical works), gender bias (since I was adamant on examining works produced by women), and launched a personal attack on white, heterosexual, ableist men (since I taught works of color, disability, and alternative sexual orientations) in lieu of these masterstrokes.
What strikes me, and I think many readers, is how these interrogations become personal. After centuries of remaining largely unquestioned and central to the production and distribution of knowledge, such inquiries and explorations are revamped and misconstrued to intend some kind of vindictive attack. But it is precisely this mindset that I think speaks to the imperative for introducing digital humanities into the classroom. Perhaps some students would not be so offended if they could examine these works using different tools. Or perhaps introducing some oral histories will invite a more well rounded sociohistorical narrative to the text that could not be examined alone.
I will say I did introduce the classroom to a virtual reality gaming narrative, which I think some students really appreciated and the rest are at least exposed to them. Perhaps the desire to hang onto these narratives of Joyce and Ipsen might illustrate a desire to have these canonical narratives revamped into modern gaming narratives, with more diversity and interrogation including into the agenda of the game, so that students approach them with more of an open mind and inquisition. I would be highly interested to hear of any VR narratives that mimic this purpose so that I might include them for the next course.