By Matthew Pavesich
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What’s needed to access the adjacent possible is a space that encourages and can “expose” a “wide and diverse sample of spare parts” — half-baked and unfinished ideas and texts — that might germinate. The space of germination can’t be “so satisfying that no one bother to explore the edges” nor can it be too limiting, “punishing experimentation” (31). It needs to be something of an enabling and constraining laboratory of composing.     — Jessica Yood, “Gateway to Complexity”

Welcome to the English M.A. Capstone Seminar, a curated experience designed to help you create a culminating project for your degree. This project will emerge from your prior coursework but will take a new form. This semester, I will ask you to avoid predetermining this form. Instead, I hope that you will join me in adopting an experimental ethos, one that will allow you to engage with your research materials, the materials of the course, and the digital humanities more generally in such a way that your project will take a form you might not have imagined at the start. I don’t expect this to be a linear process, and I hope you won’t either.

This seminar is now offered in the fall semester rather than the spring semester in which the capstone is due. This change offers us a powerful opportunity your predecessors didn’t have: the time to think more broadly about your projects, the forms they will take, and the methods and tools with which you will build them.

Because we have this additional time, we will be able to take a design approach to the seminar. I have constructed a series of encounters — readings, guest speakers, various tasks, and crits that I hope will help you to move from where you are now (nurturing a loose idea) to firmer terrain by the end of the semester. More specifically, by December you will have written, after a series of iterations, a sharply outlined project blueprint with supporting research and an action plan for the spring semester. And by May, if we all play our cards right, you’ll pivot your project from the work it will have done for you in this program to the work it can do for you afterwards.

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