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Comments from Past Participants

The director, Marty Gould, has directed three previous NEH Summer Seminars, all of them hosted by the Dickens Project at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The comments below were taken from the evaluations participants provided at the conclusion of each seminar. Although this seminar is slightly different in content, these comments capture the general feel and pacing of the seminar, its significance in terms of professional development, and a sense of UC Santa Cruz as a host institution.

About the Location

“The campus is beautiful and unique, and the city of Santa Cruz is a fun town that is also in the vicinity of a lot of interesting places for tourists.”

“UCSC is so unique. The campus prides itself on diversity and inclusiveness. The 2,000 acre campus is beautiful and unmatched in its attention to wildlife and conservation. I found this campus environment refreshing on many levels. It should also be mentioned that Santa Cruz itself is home to beautiful beaches, redwoods, and cliff edge vistas that can’t be compared. I feel as if I have truly had the NorCal experience and I appreciate the campus having us here to study and to enjoy this beautiful area of the country.”

“The institution is lovely and beautiful. We had access to all that UCSC had to offer. The housing arrangements worked well. The apartments were close to the meeting space and to the town. The bus stop was close and easy to figure out.”

“I did not take advantage of on-campus housing, but the accommodations I found on the open housing market were comfortable.”

“The host institution was excellent. The staff in the library’s Special Collections department were particularly great in creating an online space for our group and hosting us in the library.”

“UC Santa Cruz was a great host. I was able to take advantage of the campus’s dining hall, running track, bicycle shuttle, and library, where I spent a great deal of time and where I checked out many books. I did not use any computer resources, but the wifi on my laptop was great and allowed me to conduct research using UCSC’s database subscriptions.”


About the Seminar Content

“Marty Gould was knowledgeable, attuned to the needs of the participants, skilled as an instructor, helpful, and available. He created a rewarding professional and personal experience.”

“Readings and topics were carefully, thoughtfully chosen, relevant and stimulating. The syllabus was organized and logical and extremely well thought out in terms of relevance and progression.”

“Overall, I consider this experience to be the best instance of professional development that I have encountered during my time as a teacher. I see my month here at the Dickens NEH seminar as having a profound impact on my teaching career.”

“Marty framed the seminar with several critical articles about how other scholars think about “adaptation,” which allowed us to step into the critical debate, feel our way around it, and ultimately shape our own idea of what adaptation is and how it works.

“One discovery that will undoubtedly influence the way I think about this topic is that adaptations ‘do’ things with literary works, which is to say that they revise and reimagine originary texts and that we as readers are active participants in this process. I anticipate that I will use this knowledge of adaptation with dozens of texts that I currently use in my classroom.”

“The workload was rigorous, but still manageable. I don’t think I have ever taken as many notes in a course as I did during our seminar—the ideas generated by our discussions were always exciting and enriching.”

“Discussion was lively, and most days I found myself surprised at how quickly the time passed because of how deeply we were all involved in the conversation. Readings were rigorous and scholarly, and I felt that each article included at least some insight that I could apply directly in my classroom.”

“This seminar will have a huge impact on my teaching. I have always loved Dickens but I always wondered how my struggling, urban students would respond to his texts and find them relevant. After this seminar, I have strategies and answers to that question!”

“The progression of scholarly reading and seminar conversation was obvious. Although we spent many hours reading both before the seminar and during, the selections were varied and essential to understanding the academic theories and practices surrounding Charles Dickens, Victorian studies, and adaptation.”


About the Seminar Outcomes

“Participating in this course has impacted me in an immeasurably: I will be better able to show students how to evaluate paired close readings and films. I will also be better able to convey what adaptation is, why it is important for literature, and how adaptation helps create interesting questions about the original text. More importantly, I will be able to facilitate in students’ understanding how literature and adaptation helps contribute to training adaptive minds.”

“I am leaving Santa Cruz with a solid understanding of adaptation theory and a notebook full of ideas for transferring my new knowledge to my students. I will certainly never show a movie to my students the same way again, and I’ll do everything in my power to share what I’ve learned with my colleagues so that we can all work together to help our students grow in their media literacy and their understanding of how texts evolve over time. I am confident that I am now prepared to help students move beyond concerns with mere fidelity when considering adaptations; their critical thinking skills will be far better engaged when they move on to important questions like WHY and HOW do authors and directors reflect their own reading of a text in preparing adaptations.”

“After this seminar, I am confident in using various types of adaptation—not as a break—but rather as a way to push students to think more about media literacy, historical contexts, and different interpretations of the text. Honestly, I learned far more than I ever expected to, and my notions of adaptation that were once based solely on merit have completely morphed into a better understanding of adaptation as a whole.”

“Adaptation promotes active engagement with literature. Artists and writers are always standing on the shoulders of others. Every artist is liberated in their creation by being engaged with tradition. A source text can provide raw material for students to create something of themselves. In my theater arts classroom, that active engagement could include collaborative and independent playmaking, devised and scripted approaches to classic works, or personal monologue and/or docudrama projects based on themes of Dickens’s novels.”

“This seminar ranks among the top educational experiences of my life. The opportunity to spend four weeks in such a vibrant intellectual community has already been immensely rejuvenating and inspiring. This seminar is also reshaping the way I plan to teach my upcoming British Literature course, which will now include adaptation study as a critical component, providing opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding of the texts with their own adaptations.”