Web Design for Literary Theorists

Table of contents


In conjunction with my responsibilities as co-lead TA this academic year, I will be presenting a short series of lecture/workshop pairs throughout the year — one lecture/workshop pair per quarter — on creating websites using the fundamental web technologies HTML and CSS. Our primary goal will be to help you build the skills required to develop websites for courses and discussion sections that you teach, though the skills you learn will be helpful in building other types of websites, as well. (If you want examples of what you might, theoretically, wind up building, you can see a fairly representative sample of what I build for my courses these days during each quarter at my course website for fall quarter 2014, see what may be a more reassuring example of the kinds of less-ambitious-but-still-useful-to-students websites that I built earlier in my TA career, see a very ambitious course or section website, or can see the comprehensive list of all of the course and section websites I've built here, if you'd like.) I would love for anyone in our community who is interested to attend — and to bring along a laptop and work along, if possible!

You might wonder why it's a good idea to do something like this. I have a lot of thoughts on this issue, and I'll talk in detail about this during the workshops, so (for now) I'll just give you a short list of bullet points.

Now, you may be thinking, Wait, learning HTML? Isn't that hard? And the answer is NO! You're all smart people. You do not need to learn programming, which is a difficult skill involving learning new ways of thinking that can take a long time (months or years, even) to learn to do well — but this isn't programming. All you need to learn is some basic information about a specific (and, perhaps, somewhat new) way to think about text, and you deal with text all the time already. You can learn the essential elements of how to write good HTML in our first workshop. You can learn the basics of supplementary skills in a couple of similar-length workshops later this year. All you really need to do is to think about the text you're already writing in a particular, specific way that leverages textual practices in which you already engage. This is absolutely within the horizon of possibilities for each and every one of you.

You may also be thinking But I don't want to build web sites in this way. I'm going to use WordPress/Drupal/GauchoSpace/Tumblr/academia.edu/LinkedIn/whatever. Again, we'll talk about this issue in more detail during the workshops, but here are some reasons why you might want to think about building web sites this way, or at least attending one or more of the workshops that will occur this year:

And — finally — you might be thinking But I already know [some/a lot of] HTML. I don't need to attend the entire workshop series; I'll just come to later workshops. You might want to think about attending throughout the series anyway, because I'll not only be talking about how to write HTML during the first workshop, but how to write it well: part of what will happen from the very beginning of the series will involve discussing best practices and setting up conceptual frameworks that will pay off in our other, later workshops.

Please do come to these lecture/workshop events! I would love to have you there! And — if at all possible — bring your laptop and work along, because this is a workshop, not a lecture. As with so many skills, you'll learn this one better if you're actively employing it during the workshop than if you're just sitting there passively trying to absorb information. (You're educators. You already understand this. But if you can't bring a laptop, come anyway.) If you absolutely can't make it, I'll produce a screen cast and audio recording that you can watch later, but I suspect you'll learn more if you can come, work along, and ask questions.

If you have additional questions, you are perfectly welcome to contact me, or take a look at the information (including full screencasts) from last year's workshops.


One lecture/workshop pair will be taught each quarter, with the two events separated by a week or so (depending on what the consensus is of people interested in attending). I will send out an email requesting that interested people fill out a scheduling poll and will leave the poll open for at least a week before looking to see when people are able to attend, then will schedule an available room at an appropriate set of times and send out another email announcing it.

Each workshop will end with a suggested small- to medium-scale project that attendees are encouraged to perform, and a follow-up workshop will be scheduled several days later, at which people can work on the project and/or bring up troubles that they had doing so. Each project is designed to be easily scalable so that those with more or less time than others will be able to adjust what they get out of the experience. Each project is also intended to contribute toward the overall goal of helping you to build a section/course website (which you will then be able to re-use as a template for future course/section websites) to the greatest extent possible.

By default, all graduate students in the Department of English will receive announcements about the events themselves and requests for scheduling input. Other members of the community are welcome to participate — please contact me if you would like to receive these announcements and requests!

First workshop: Introduction to (X)HTML
3:00 p.m., 20 November 2014
South Hall 2635

More information about this workshop and its content.

Watch the presentation online

Useful links for this workshop

Available here, and divided into these categories:

You may also want to see information about the first workshop in last year's series.

Second workshop: Overview of CSS
Online only due to scheduling constraints

More information about this workshop.

Watch the presentation online

Useful links

Available here, and divided into these categories:

Third workshop: Machines Read, Too (with a little help from their human friends)
Online only due to scheduling constraints

More information about this workshop.

Watch the presentation online

Useful links

Available here, and divided into these categories:

Software we're using

Developing static web sites using HTML and CSS does not require you to invest money in any commercial software. You will need to install software of certain types, but you have many many choices for what program to use within each of these categories, and there are many good, free choices in each category.

Here's what you'll need to get started:

But don't let software installation woes prevent you from attending! If you want to come but can't get software installed, I'll do my best to help you. You're also welcome to attend the workshops even if you can't work along.

Last year's workshops

Last year's workshops were presented as single two-hour lecture/workshop instead of a two-hour lecture followed by a one-hour workshop. I found that this tended to rush us through the material too much to allow for sufficient time for in-class development, so this year's workshops will be split into two parts to allow for enough breathing room to work on projects as a group. .