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ENGL 494 A: Honors Seminar

Meeting Time: 
MW 2:30pm - 4:20pm
* *
Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges
Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges

Syllabus Description:


For well over a century, filmmakers have adapted print texts into stories featuring images and music. Before cinema, playwrights rendered popular novels into embodied, spoken dramatic stories, even when the novel had not yet completed its initial serial publication run. In an era of new technologies and entertainment conglomerates, interconnected stories emerge across media, creating an overarching storyworld that exceeds the boundaries of a single text or mode of representation. Extended reality (XR) overlays our material environment with stories or immerses us into tales that require physical navigation.

This course examines the relationship between stories and the media in which we create and experience them. How does the medium shape the story? What happens when stories move across media or simultaneously appear in multiple media? What possibilities do new media technologies present for storytelling and inhabiting storyworlds? What limits do media—and the industries supporting creation and distribution—place on the stories that can be told? To explore these questions, we will focus on three types of story-media relationships: adaptation, transmedia, and immersion. We will use adaptation, narrative, transmedia, and new media theory to analyze creative texts composed in various forms: print alphabetic and visual books, film (including 360-degree and VR cinema), podcasts, and webtexts, among others. Moreover, we will investigate the contexts surrounding not only the development of particular media but also the stories told within it.

English 494 is organized into three units: the first on adaptation, the second on transmedia, and the third on immersion. The course meets online, with a blend of asynchronous and synchronous activities. 


Goals and Methodology


Students in the course work toward several goals:


  1. Defining narrative strategies present across different media and distinguishing strategies unique to specific media.
  2. Analyzing discrete texts, the relationship between narrative and medium, and intertextuality among multiple adaptations of the same story or individual works within an overarching transmedia storyworld.
  3. Applying scholarly terminology and theories to the study of creative works.
  4. Identifying selected historical, cultural, economic, and industrial contexts that shape stories, media, and audience reception.
  5. Constructing substantive, researched arguments and supporting those arguments with strategically selected, fully explicated evidence.


Whether synchronous or asynchronous, course activities promote active learning. Expect a blend of short lectures, discussion, polls, and individual writing. My role is to provide the tools and resources; you will need to advance your own thinking and writing. I will pose questions, design activities to help you think through these questions, and respond to your ideas. Your role is to do the hard work—the critical reading, discussion, and writing. You will analyze texts, present your interpretations via class discussion and written assignments, and critically respond to others’ interpretations.





Class Participation


Class discussion constitutes one key method for developing your analytical skills. Thus, I expect regular, active participation in discussions of texts. You should prepare for each discussion—whether live or asynchronous—by annotating assigned readings, noting content you’d like to explore further, and reading peers’ responses. Expect to ask questions, share interpretations, reference texts, respond to others’ comments, or contribute to small-group exchanges. Like all skills, participating in class becomes easier with practice. I do not expect fully polished analyses; rather, your contributions spark further discussion and may become the basis for other assignments. There are several ways you can participate in the course:


  • Completing required written replies to peers’ reading responses on Canvas.
  • Speaking to the whole class or small groups of peers during live class sessions.
  • Typing questions, comments, or yes/no responses via Zoom chat during live class sessions.
  • Taking and/or adding to group notes during live class sessions or asynchronously.
  • Responding to polls during live class sessions.
  • Posing or answering questions on the Community Forum.
  • Giving feedback on peers’ work-in-progress.
  • Discussing films, ideas-in-progress, or questions with Kimberlee during Zoom drop-in hours.


Because students will have multiple, sometimes conflicting, interpretations of course films, we will establish norms for maintaining a respectful learning climate early in the quarter. We’ll also work to develop rapport with icebreaker activities throughout the quarter.


I assess participation weekly on a credit/partial credit/no credit basis. Students who participate in good faith asynchronously and synchronously via two or more of the ways outlined above receive full credit. Lack of engagement in class activities, inadequate preparation, and failure to adhere to classroom climate norms will substantially lower your participation grade for the course.



Short Assignments and Replies


Students will use the Canvas discussion area to analyze readings, use creative texts to interrogate critical readings, share work-in-progress, and reflect on learning in the major. They will also respond to each other’s ideas. Each week, I will provide questions or guidelines to help you structure your remarks. Short assignments typically range from 250 to 300 words and replies from 100 to 150 words each. Please note, though, that selected assignments require longer responses. Short assignments allow us to raise issues for further discussion, expand on previous conversations and develop project ideas. I assess short assignments and replies weekly on a credit/partial credit/no credit basis, with full credit granted to on-time work that meets minimum content requirements and demonstrates serious engagement with the prompt, text, and peers.




Students will compose three projects: one case study of a multiply adapted text, one transmedia storyworld or immersive text analysis that applies theoretical concepts, and a final project that draws upon research to present an extended discussion of adaptation, transmedia, or immersion. Your projects may take traditional essay form or you may produce them in multimedia form. Each project requires a proposal or draft that receives peer feedback, and I will be available to discuss work-in-progress. You can also seek feedback from consultants at the Odegaard Writing and Research Center or the CLUE Writing Center, both of which will offer online sessions during fall quarter.




During the last week of the quarter, students will give short presentations based on their final projects, answer audience questions, and receive feedback.






Lateness Policy


I do not accept late short assignments or replies to peers’ short assignments, nor do I allow students reschedule presentations. Projects are due on the dates/times indicated on the term-at-a-glance schedule. Late projects will receive a 10-point deduction per day late, including weekends and holidays. I will make exceptions to the lateness policy only when students become ill, experience family emergencies, or make prior arrangements with me.


Technology glitches do not constitute valid excuses for lateness. To avoid computer problems, you should save frequently while working, and you should back up work saved on a hard drive to Dropbox, iCloud, UW Google Drive, or your personal file space on Canvas. When submitting files or URLs to Canvas, you are responsible for copying/pasting the correct URL or selecting the correct file. If Canvas breaks down, contact UW-IT technical support ( and email your work directly to me ( 



Academic Integrity


English 494 adheres to the University of Washington’s Student Conduct Code, which prohibits academic misconduct like distributing instructional materials outside class without permission, cheating and plagiarism, or the unacknowledged use of others' words or ideas. All readings, visual aids, lectures, discussions, and other handouts are for enrolled students only. When drawing upon sources in short assignments, presentation, and projects, make clear to your audience that you are incorporating others’ work by placing quotation marks around exact words and noting the author’s name whenever you quote, summarize or paraphrase. Failure to credit sources, submitting work produced for another class without permission, or submitting work authored by another may result in a failing grade for the assignment, a failing grade for the course, or other disciplinary action. Disseminating course materials without permission may result in sanctions, including dismissal. If I see evidence of academic misconduct, I will make a report to the Community Standards & Student Conduct Team.





Assessment System


Grades in English 494 will be computed by points, with 400 points equaling a 4.0, 300 points a 3.0, and so on. If your total falls between grades, I will round up if you score one to five points below the higher grade and round down if you score one to four points above the lower grade. For example, 274 points equals a 2.7 and 275 points a 2.8. Students who score less than 65 points total will receive a 0 for the course, as the UW grading system does not scale grades lower than .7. I also assign a 4.0 to students who score between 385 and 400 points.


Short assignments and replies receive full credit for meeting minimum length requirements and thoughtfully engaging with instructor prompts or peers’ initial responses. Students who regularly participate each module as outlined in “Class Participation” will receive full participation points. All other assignments are evaluated based on quality of work submitted. Assessment comes in the form of grades and instructor feedback, either free-form or within a rubric. If you do not understand course readings, instructional materials, or assignment prompts, ask questions in the Community Forum.



Total Points for the Course


Each component of the course is worth the following number of points. Please note that Canvas does not integrate well with my point schema. Canvas automatically converts points into percentages, a conversion that can make your grade seem lower than it actually is. For example, 10/20 points represents the C range under my system and the F range (50%) under a percentage system. For this reason, I include point range information on each assignment. In short, keep track of your total points and ignore Canvas's percentage conversion.


Grade Component

Possible Points

Class Participation

60 points

Short Assignments

100 points (10 points each)

Projects 1 and 2

120 points (60 points each)


20 points

Final Project

100 points


400 points





Although the instructor has selected critical readings and some immersive short films, students will collaboratively select stories that have been adapted in or developed across multiple media forms (for example, Sherlock Holmes, Little Red Riding Hood, the Avengers, Watchmen, Shakespeare plays, or Jane Austen novels). All critical readings are available in PDF on the course Canvas sites. Students may purchase digital versions of print texts via online sellers, and they may access films and games via various streaming services. To view VR films, students must purchase or make their own Google Cardboard device.



Technology Requirements


Because all course learning takes place online, the following technology is essential to accessing materials and submitting assignments:


  • Reliable Internet access
  • Web browser and computer specifications adequate for using the Canvas Learning Management system and Zoom
  • Webcam and microphone or phone camera and microphone or computer/phone audio
  • Word processing software. Note that although you may use any software, you must submit written assignments in PDF or Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx). If you use any other program, use the Help function for instructions on converting your files to PDF or Word format. Students may get Microsoft Office 365 and Windows 10 for free via UWare (
  • Headphones or speakers (internal or external) to hear video content.
  • PDF viewer (Adobe PDF Reader or Apple Preview)
  • Basic image editing tool that allows image cropping (Paint, Preview,, Photoshop Express)
  • UW Net ID and Email. The class email list uses your UW email. If you want UW email to go to another account, you must configure forwarding preferences with UW Net ID account management tools.


Connecting with Others


In addition to interacting with others in asynchronous discussions and live class sessions, you have other opportunities to connect with peers and the instructor:


  • Community Forum: The Community Forum is an asynchronous space where you can ask general questions about the course, readings, or assignment prompts. Posting questions in the Community Forum helps others with the same question. It also allows students to share answers the instructor might not have.
  • Conversation Café: The Café is an informal Zoom space open every Wednesday from 2:30-3:30 p.m. (Pacific). Attendance is completely optional. Come to chat, catch up, and share your experiences with other people in the course. 
  • Drop-in Hours: You need not have a specific question about the class, course texts, an assignment, or work-in-progress to attend drop-in hours. The instructor will be on Zoom every Monday from 12:30-1:30 p.m. (Pacific) to talk about your interests, experience in the major, future plans, or even the class.





Disability Accommodations


Disability accommodations grant students with ongoing or temporary disabilities access to educational opportunities. Disability Resource for Students (DRS) works to ensure access for students with disabilities by designing and implementing accommodations. If you experience educational barriers based on disability, please visit Disability Resources for Students (DRS) online for more information about requesting accommodations. Although the building that houses DRS is closed, staff are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. to speak with students by phone, TTY, video chat, or email (



Religious Accommodations


In accordance with state law, UW provides reasonable accommodations for student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (

Catalog Description: 
Survey of current issues confronting literary critics today, based on revolving themes and topics. Focuses on debates and developments affecting English language and literatures, including questions about: the relationship of culture and history; the effect of emergent technologies on literary study; the rise of interdisciplinary approaches in the humanities.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Other Requirements Met: 
Honors Course
Last updated: 
June 28, 2020 - 11:00pm