I'm hoping that I'll discover new and varied uses of a Novel Category Machine and even a category machine of different cultural artifacts over the few weeks and months as I receive feedback about the project from viewers like you. In the meantime, I can address a few ways that students might benefit by utilizing my category machine.
Gateway experience -- First and foremost, a novel category machine like mine could serve as a "gateway" for readers who are fairly new to the study of African American literature. Readers unfamiliar with a larger literary tradition can always use some guidance identifying potential narratives and authors that they might consider. At the same time, they benefit from being presented with the possibility to choose from a defined range or category of works.
Recognition of connections -- A novel category machine can also assist readers in recognizing connections between various works by authors. So a student who had read Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye (1970) could click on the "1970s" tab of the category machine to learn that some additional novels published during that decade were Mumbo Jumbo, Sula, Flight to Canada, Meridian, Patternmaster, Roots, Song of Solomon, and Kindred. Or, the student could click on "female protagonists" and see the many other novels in this set that link to Morrison's main characters along gender lines.
Ideas for a personal library -- Students rarely have access to personal collections of African American novels; however, access to even a relatively small collection of books can give potential readers or collectors ideas about building or expanding their own personal libraries. A purposely limited collection of 50 novels such as those I have selected could prompt readers to imagine what additions would need to be added when expanding the collection to 100. Or, readers knowledgeable about hundreds of African American novels might consider might participate in the difficult process of deciding how to present a selection of 50 or even 25 books.
Feel free to let me know about any other uses of a novel category machine.
• The Novel Category Machine: An Introduction