Welcome to Living Annotations!
If you’ve come this far, then it is fair to say that you are interested in exploring a piece of medieval literature from an angle never before imagined. Great, so let’s get straight into it!
First off, you will need to purchase/acquire a copy of William Langland’s poem The Vision of Piers Plowman. All though any translation of the B-Version of the text will do, the edition I had in mind when creating this project was the translation done by Peter Sutton (which I have linked to above). There is a relatively inexpensive version available on Kindle which might be an option to look into for the cash-tight reader.
Once you have acquired your book, next you will need to acquire a composition notebook along with a small variety of highlighters. These should be available at any number of stores near you, but for convenience, I have also linked the relevant Amazon pages (though any kind of notebook or highlighters will do).
Finally, you can begin playing the game. Read below to discover the game objective and rules.
(1) What is Living Annotations?
Living Annotations (LA for short), is an interactive series of challenges administered through a HUB overworld; this overworld is a superstructure where you, the player, take on the role of a student in an advanced English class at a fictional university.
(2) What is the Goal of Living Annotations?
Your ultimate objective is to finish reading the text of William Langland’s poem The Vision of Piers Plowman and complete every “literary event” in the HUB overworld (see below for details). Doing so will fill your composition notebook and provide you with a unique artifact of literature that no one else possesses.
(3) What is a “literary event”?
A literary event is defined as an event within the HUB overworld that asks players to complete a challenge relevant to the chapter of Langland’s poem. There is consistency to these challenges, however, in that the same types of challenges will be asked of players from chapter to chapter (though a unique response is expected).
Literary Events are divided into three distinct categories and are as follow:
(1) Academicism: events which ask players to closely engage with their bound copy of The Vision of Piers Plowman. These challenges can range from players being asked to provide brief interpretations of passages to more creative applications of close reading such as “Priest Mode” where players are asked to find and “rectify” the “corruption” (or mistake) in a passage. These events will require access to a copy of Langland’s poem.
(2) Artistry: if you are asked to produce an artistic take on the text, this can mean anything unique that you make. From simple cut and paste collages to convoluted photoshop masterpieces, there are no grading schemata with Artistry challenges; I simply ask you to produce something unique and share it with the world. The parameters of these challenges will be disseminated in full when they are assigned.
(3) Activism: these challenges are usually involved pieces. Unlike the previous two categories, Activist challenges usually require more than one person or require you to decisively engage with the real world in a concrete capacity. Sometimes these challenges are as simple as creating a flier that raises awareness about a pressing issue, to more protracted events such as starting a book club or founding an organization to assist in local problems.
If literary events sound stressful then do not worry. Each category of challenges will start simply and only gradually climb in difficulty. The goal of Living Annotations, after all, is for fun and unique engagements with literature so classic books can find new value in the world we live in. Ideally, this is done by encouraging people to return to and engage with the text day-after-day. Impossible, stressful difficulty day-after-day would not make for an entertaining affair!
(4) The Journal (Your Composition Notebook)
Now, because the specifics of the literary events will be told in-depth when they are assigned in the HUB overworld, I want to focus a bit on how you, the player, should keep and organize your journal.
The length of your average composition notebook is 200 pages. Because Langland’s poem is divided into 20 chapters (plus a prologue), this means you should allocate about ten notebook pages per Langland chapter (depending on the size of your journal, you might have to add in a few pages). Literary events will ask you to record, in some way, every challenge in your notebook. All though you can always write as much as you want for each challenge, to avoid having to insert too many loose pieces of paper into your composition notebook journal, I would recommend writing a paragraph (or about eight lines) for each challenge unless specifically asked otherwise. (Unless you are fine with inserting many pieces of additional paper into your notebook or even buying another whole notebook. If that’s the case, then disregard this bit.)
Finally, I want to quickly touch upon one final detail: you do not need everything listed above to participate in Living Annotations.
I request people purchase assorted highlighter colors because I feel that for the context of Academicist literary events, multiple colors would do best, but if you lack the highlighter colors, you can denote your “color” through use of a non-offensive symbol. Likewise, if you are low enough on funds that you can not buy a composition notebook, you can use scrap paper for your journal. Substitution can even be done with the primary text, such when if you find a PDF online, you can print off pages and annotate those pages. Again, I list the materials here in order to help readers along, not as a steadfast system of absolutes.
Well, with those things out of the way and explained, I hope you found this handbook handy. If there is a question you have that is not explained here, please comment below so that I might address the issue in a future edit. Thanks and have fun!