Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Literature LABS

dglasser's picture

Literature LAB 

Very often I turn to my friends at the dinner table and say, “You know what would be cool…” or, “I have this great idea…” or, “What would you guys think if…”. Very often ideas pop into my head and I spit them out like rotten cherry tomatoes. What makes them rotten is because as soon as dinner is over and we leave the table, the idea leaves my mind or I become disinterested. The idea rots. But, not this time. I refuse to believe this idea will become rotten, and I’ve instead committed to its growth: I will create a literary lab that applies the scientific method to story creation, and I’ve devised a model and a 4 step guide to making it a reality. 


Literature LABS

Literature Labs 

At the top of the post is a link to a video, where I walk you through a premature model of my literary lab. The building is circular to represent the circularity of the writing process and scientific inquiry; the constant writing and editing, and testing and retesting. The model itself has been built with Google SketchUp. I apologize for the graphics of the model and my unsteady hand during the video; these programs are new to me. Also because of my naivety, I have not yet been able to incorporate text into my model, so below is a description of the model’s layout, written as though you were walking into the building.

1.)     After you walk through the entrance you are in a circular room filled with computers, couches, and desks, all of which are ready and waiting for you.

2.)     To begin the lab you enter the spiral staircase in the center of the building which encircles an elevator, for convenience sake, which is the core of the building. This is Step1Background Research/Collect Data. The walls of this staircase are lined with excerpts from literary critics, literary theorists, and philosophers. The excerpts are organized alphabetically and each is numbered so further research is possible. You choose one or more excerpt that inspires you and note its number.

3.)     Step2: Constructing a Hypothesis/Question, begins when you emerge from the stairs and walk into the outer-ring of the upper floor. This floor is a circle of glass walls that contains rows and rows of books, as well as access to mix media and previous creations. Here you research and decide how you will use your chosen excerpt/s to write, or create. You can locate the number of your excerpt/s on the shelves and read the entire work if you choose.

4.)     Step3: Experiment/Collaboration, is located in the inner circular room on the top floor. Here the lines are lined with white boards, and you are encouraged through “How to Write Strategies” imprinted on the floor to write on the boards, talk to others, collaborate. Create your story outline and even start writing.

5.)     Once your story arch has been hatched out, you can either walk back down the stairs or use the center elevator to return to the first floor where you engage in Step4: Analyze Data/Report Results. You use the computers, desks etc., to write/type your story draft and then print/email your creation. It is encouraged at a later date to bring this draft back and go through the lab again to aid the never-ending editing process.

6.)     By the time you leave this lab you will have created a story draft. You will have used a four step, hands-on, scientific method for the purpose of literary creation. You will have blended the boundaries of science and humanity studies. And, most importantly, you will hopefully have had fun!

There is so much more for me to do. Hopefully, as SketchUp and I bond, I will be able to enhance my model and allow for you, yourself to walk through the building and actually see people and furniture. Hopefully I will learn to add text and you will actually be able to read the excerpts on the staircase. Hopefully you will see how this lab is possible!


Anne Dalke's picture

Taking next steps?

I'm delighted to see you continue to explore and elaborate on your earlier inspiration, egged on and encouraged by questions and suggestions from your classmates.

When you presented this vision during our final teach-in last week, I thought the best question was the one about "what happens after the story is created"? Your process is wonderfully circular--encouraging participants to bring back their drafts "and go through the lab again to aid the never-ending editing process"--but how does one escape from/move on from that process?

I'm also interested in the possibility of altering the sequence of steps you've laid out; as I said when you first presented this, I was very struck by your beginning w/ the theoretical--using an idea to inspire a story. What about working in the other direction--beginning with an experience, or a moment, or a sight/sound/taste/smell/touch of something, then elaborating it until it comes to figure an idea?

And then taking that idea into the world??

dglasser's picture


LitLAB video update