What in 18th Century Audio is going on here?

Last week Professor Marie McAllister sent me an email suggesting that something “odd” was happening on her amazing Eighteenth-Century Audio site over on UMW Blogs.  The site has over 300 audio recordings of various people reading Eighteenth-Century poems, which is an amazing resource and one of UMW Blogs oldest sites. Well, apparently someone in Holland has been assigning Arabic-named students to write mini-essays in the comments of various poems on the site.  For example, Alexander Pope’s “Ode on Solitude” has gotten 10 comments/mini-essays over the last week from a range of students that are discussing what they think this poem means, when Pope wrote, its critical reception, etc.

For example, Mazen Ahmad Dhafer wrote the following:

Pope wrote this poem before he was twelve years old .In first stanza he talked about free man who is not care about city. About a man who owns his own small farm and breath air (he calls it happiest man). In second stanza he described the farmer’s life. He has his own milk from his own cows, he makes his own bread from the grain he grows in his own fields, he makes his own clothes from his own sheep’s wool, and his trees shade him from the sun in summer and supply wood for heating his home in winter. Also in third stanza the farmer has “health of body” and “peace of mind. In the forth stanza he said how the farmer sleep without noisy. He passes his days harmlessly and enjoys his hours of quiet meditation. The young Pope paints a scene that many would find ideal. In the fifth stanza He wants to be like the farmer at least in his status as a commoner who lived silently and did not intrude on others. And when the speaker dies, he wants no fanfare. He just wants to flit off from the world and not even have his name engraved on a tombstone.

And soon after Mohammed Ali Alqarni wrote:

I think its all about what make a man really happy and how is this related to the idea of “solitude”.
In the first 4 lines there is obviously a a beautiful picture of a happy man. Here the speaker shows how a man would be happy if his ” wish and care ” was figuratively.
“a few paternal acres bound”, indicate all of his dreams and wishes in a “paternal” way.
In short, a man could be happy if he keep connecting to the nature and never be away from it where his own live and airs are surround him.
The seconed verse emphasizes the idea of own a land with everything to sustain you such as milk, bread, clothes from flocks etc.
clearly, he hints that a man could has a really good live of his own work without any need from society.
Third verse, again emphasizes the significance of “solitude” live to be happy.
he said that the happy man who live of his own is blessed because he dosen’t care about worldly things , he has a healthy body and piece of mind.
Fourth verse talks about that this happy man could sleep very well at night in his farm and study with ease as ” sweet recreation”.
Finally , The speaker comments that he hopes to be “unknown” in his life of solitude, and he even goes so far as to say that he wants to be “unlamented” as his death.

And my favorite, aleh alqurashi wrote:

I think Pope is talking about living a satisfying and fulfilling life free from ego. To enjoy the wonder and simplicity of what life offers, without judging others or being judged, without identifying with things and worrying about what others think of us. Content to breathe and live. Attribute wealth to good health and peace of mind, rather than money and fame. What we do create we do with an innocent nature that pleases us because it is done with a presence of mind that in clear and focused attention, rather than hoping for gain or acknowledgement. I think he is talking about free and actualized life. I don’t think such an experience is something that Pope’s infamous life made possible.

I’m all about a “fulfilling life free from ego.” 🙂

Now, let me ask you, dear reader, what the hell is happening here?

My guess, open education resources at work, and it ain’t a textbook, or an expensive, overly metadata’d OER, it’s simply a blog post with useful information that got discovered on the internet. It’s open education happening on the open web, and it is a by product of a professor and a class creating resources from the work they are already doing in their course. That, for me, is open education (we know what will happen when we  leave the “open resources” to the publishers, don’t we?), and the fact that the publishing platform is open source, affordable, and shareable just makes it all the sweeter.

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