CSM's Online Content Provides Another Literary Touch Point

A word may contain numerous meanings depending on its context. To gain a deeper appreciation of a literary work, and develop an analysis that goes beyond personal opinion, it helps to connect with an author through a review of background information, interviews and influences. Thanks to the College of Southern Maryland's Connections website, this effort of connecting with an author has been made easier. In addition to announcing current literary readings, the Connections website includes excerpts from the latest issue of the literary magazine, photos and interviews with authors, as well as background information and links to author and publisher websites.

"It is useful to provide background and context materials that students and the public can use to make connections with an author and their texts," said Wayne Karlin, a professor in the languages and literature department at the College of Southern Maryland and an editor of the college's literary magazine.

For last fall’s “Under Fire: War and the Media” reading, which focused on writers’ responses to photographs from the Vietnam war, the Connections staff created a presentation showcasing these photos. The slideshow was displayed behind the evening’s readers, which included authors Joe Galloway and Karlin, and St. Mary’s County Administrator George Forrest.

“Since the concept of the book itself was to reveal the perception-changing quality and potential of images and words, it seemed appropriate to present a slideshow of some of the photographs. The effect on the audience was stunning. Afterwards many of them told us how emotional the evening was for them. For many, it cleared away their misconceptions about the war by providing them with visual images demonstrating the realities and tragedy of war,” said Karlin.

While the Under Fire presentation and the online interviews and photographs have been well-received, he believes, “there is also a danger in using web materials and images as a substitute rather than a supplement to the text. The visual images, bells and whistles can be distracting rather than enhancing if they are not used interactively,” said Karlin.

“The goal is to assist the student and the public in their appreciation of the original works. It is important for them to interact with the material and themselves. When people have fun, they learn, which is nice thing when it happens,” said Karlin.

The View Ahead

Neal Dwyer, a literature and languages professor at CSM and coordinator/editor of the Connections literary magazine and programs, is excited about the future of the magazine.

“Currently, we are considering how we can broadcast the Connections literary magazine through different media formats to our audience. We have a number of options from podcasts, online video selections and even local cable stations. It is just a matter of determining which of these media forms is the most appropriate and effective at engaging our current and future readers,” said Dwyer.

“We are considering expanding the multi-media format of the Connections online site, perhaps short audio files of the writers reading, or perhaps short films in which the printed stories and essays are acted out,” said Dwyer. “These audio and video files would be a wonderful way to showcase the talent of not only the writers but the actors and filmmakers of the region, and it would be inspiring for people to see how words can be translated beyond the page.”

“In the next five years, we would like to incorporate new media and technology in a way that enhances the reader’s experience of the magazine, and the readings, without sacrificing the quality of the poems, stories and images,” said Dwyer. “It is important to showcase the work of more writers and artists living in Southern Maryland, and to use Connections as a tool for reaching out and inspiring people, young and old, who may not realize that they have an interest, or talent, in the arts.”

Since 1990, the Connections Literary Series has held readings featuring national award-winning contemporary writers, poets and artists who share their work and time with residents of Southern Maryland. All readings begin at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $2, general admission. Tickets are available the night of each reading. For information, call 301-934-7864 or visit http://www.csmd.edu/Connections/ .

The College of Southern Maryland is a regionally accredited community college that provides programs and services with a special focus on local workforce development to maintain and grow a healthy economy and community. CSM is the 2006 recipient of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce Partner in Business Award. For eight of the past 10 years, CSM has remained one of the top three community colleges in Maryland for its four-year graduation and transfer rates among first-time, full-time entering freshmen classes. For information call 301-934-7766 or 301-870-3008, Ext. 7766 or visit http://www.csmd.edu/ .

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