Week 1: Literature and/as Media

August 21: Introduction to Course

  1. Note card activity.  Class expectations.  Digital etiquette and online materials.
  2. In Class: Marshall McLuhan, excerpts from “The Medium is the Message” (1964) and “Is it Natural that one Medium…” (1967).  Here are the excerpts in PDF form.  We will also watch two short video clips of McLuhan trying to explain the “medium is the message.”  This one from 1974, and this one from 1978.
  3. Optional: Steven Shapin, “What Else is New?  How Uses, not Innovations, Drive Human Technology”


August 23: Past and Future Attention

  1. Be sure to review the course policies and assignments.  Come to class with any questions.
  2. Ambrose Bierce, “The Suitable Surroundings” (1889).  Print, read, and bring to class.
  3. Cathy N. Davidson, excerpt from the “Conclusion” of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn
  4. Nicholas Carr, “Does the Internet Make You Dumber?”
  5. Optional: As a review of Tuesday’s class, watch the first five minutes of this interview with McLuhan.


Remember to sign up for Google Documents and Pinterest.  I will assign everybody a group number and a WordPress username in class on Thursday.  Also, please add your Pinterest username to the appropriate Google document so I can add you to the class board.

In Class Material for Week 1: Original Publication of “The Suitable Surroundings”


Week 2: From Cave-Painting to Google Doodles

Roles: Collectors (1), Respondents (2), Synthesizers (3), Observers (4)


August 28: Reading and Writing Signs

  1. Reread Ambrose Bierce, “The Suitable Surroundings” (1889).
  2. Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony” (1914).  Print, read, and bring to class.  Read at least the first half for Tuesday; be sure to finish the entire story by Thursday.
  3. Plato on writing, from Phaedrus
  4. Nancy R. Mayer, “The Mysterious Birth of Art and Design”
  5. Read the first few paragraphs of Daniel Chandler’s introductory essay, “Semiotics for Beginners.”  The three terms you need to know from this essay are “sign,” “signifier,” and “signified,” which are defined and discussed in the first few paragraphs.
  6. Optional: Ferdinand de Saussure, from Course in General Linguistics.
  7. In Class: Scenes from Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams


August 30: Writing Machines

  1. Finish reading “In the Penal Colony” (1914)
  2. Dennis Baron, “From Pencils to Pixels: The Stages of Literacy Technology”
  3. In Class: Watch Michael Wesch, “The Machine is Us/ing Us” and “Information R/evolution”
  4. Optional: Leonard E. Read, “I, Pencil.”  The first section of Bill Burns, “Edison’s Electric Pen”


Week 3: The Age of Print and Enlightenment

Roles: Collectors (4), Respondents (1), Synthesizers (2), Observers (3)


September 4: Blake’s Bibles

  1. Read the entirety of Tim Carmody’s “10 Reading Revolutions Before E-Books”
  2. Visit and read around in “Books Before and After The Gutenberg Bible”
  3. Skim the details of William Blake’s printing process in Illuminated Printing.  Everybody should read the section titled New Printing Technologies, but then, to save time, let’s have Group 1 be responsible for the details of Chamber One: Preparing the Plate, Group 2 for Chamber 2: Executing the Design, Group 3 for Chamber 3: Etching with Acid, and Group 4 for Chamber 4: Inking the Plate.  Come to class prepared to give a brief overview of your section that describes the basic processes and technologies it involves. 
  4. William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience.  We will be reading selected poems from Blake’s work and then exploring the visual materiality of their original presentation.  Blake was both a poet and an engraver, and thus the medium and the message of his poems go hand in hand.  So here’s what to do.  First, read the following poems simply as poems: “The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Innocence),” “The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience),” “The Tyger” and “London.”  Take notes on their possible meanings.  Once you’ve done this, then go and read the poems in the 1789 edition from the British Libraryas well as the two title pages and two frontispieces.  Spend time browsing the poems, comparing different editions, and playing with the archive’s ability to juxtapose different images from different editions, but focus most of your attention on the poems and pages listed above.  If your computer can’t handle the archive’s format, please find one that can.  The library computers should work fine. 
  5. Optional: Watch the first nine minutes of Stephen Fry’s television feature on Gutenberg, “The Machine That Made Us”
  6. Optional: Peter Stallybrass, from “Books and Scrolls: Navigating the Bible” (42-47)


September 6: Franklin’s Applications

  1. Read Benjamin Franklin’s experiments in “Moral Perfection” (pages 87-99) from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1784)
  2. Excerpt on Benjamin Franklin’s writing technologies from James N. Green and Peter Stallybrass, Benjamin Franklin: Writer and Printer (pg. 12-17)
  3. Optional: Check out the sections “Scientist and Inventor” and “Printer and Writer” from the website Benjamin Franklin…In His Own Words


Week 4: Technology, Invention, and Romanticism

Roles: Collectors (3), Respondents (4), Synthesizers (1), Observers (2)


September 11: Creation and Remix

  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Volume I.

 In Class MaterialDrawing Electricity from the Sky


September 13: The Sublime

 In Class Material: Frankenstein at the Movies


Week 5: Monsters and Modernity

Roles: Collectors (2), Respondents (3), Synthesizers (4), Observers (1)


September 18: Prometheus Unbound

  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Finish Volume II.
  • Deadline to sign up for Review Essay.

In Class Material: The Symbolic, the Real, and the Imaginary and Technological Sublime


September 20: Fatalism and Fate

  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Volume III, Ch. 1-5.
  • Read “The Evolution of the Novel: Composition, Publication, Reception, Revision,” “A Note on the Text,” and the “Brief Chronology” (p. 32-44 in the Introduction)
  • Watch the short video Climbing by media-artist Jesse McLean.  Then complete the brief assignment.
In Class MaterialWhat is bibliography?



Week 6: Composition, Publication, and Reception

Roles: Collectors (1), Respondents (2), Synthesizers (3), Observers (4)


September 25: Primary Documents – Special Collections Visit (Meet in the third floor hall of the main library)

  1. Prepare for Special Collections Visit.
  2. Listen to this NPR report on the University of Virginia’s Rare Books School
  3. Read Summer of Love: The Romantics at Lake Geneva
  4. Read The Making of Frankenstein
  5. Read the two articles on Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley featured on the New York Public Library Biblion website.  Also, here’s a nice article and video on Lord Byron’s copy of Frankenstein.
  6. Keep reading Frankenstein.  
In Class Material: Notes on Textual Criticism, What is bibliography?


September 27: Cultural Afterlife of Frankenstein

  1. Finish Frankenstein.
  2. Visit the New York Public Library’s exhibit on the “Afterlife of Shelley and Frankenstein.”  Read around at your leisure, but focus particularly on the links below.
  3. Henry Jenkins, “The Modern Prometheus: Pushing the Limits of Creation and Remix”
  4. Madeleine Cohen, “Spark of Being: Electricity and the Human Body”
  5. Erminio D’Onofrio, “Automata and Frankenstein”
  6. Paul Flaig, “The Creature in the Cinematic Machine”

In Class MaterialFrankenstein Adaptations


Week 7: New Spectacles, New Sensations

Roles: Collectors (4), Respondents (1), Synthesizers (2), Observers (3)


October 2: Telegraphic Time

  1. Watch the following three videos on the history of the telegraph, posted here.
  2. Thomas A. Edison, The Telegraph in America (1879).  Read the first 5 sections.
  3. Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour” (1894).  To practice close reading, please print out the story and read it two times, then mark it up in the margins with comments, questions, observations, definitions, etc.  Bring your marked copies to class on Tuesday.


October 4: Henry James and the Sentence

  • Henry James, In the Cage, Ch. 1-4
In Class Material: Jamesian Consciousness

Week 8: Papers, Privacy, and Social Media

Roles: Collectors (3), Respondents (4), Synthesizers (1), Observers (2)


October 9: Relationships and Social Codes

  • Henry James, In the Cage, Ch 5-14


October 11: Rewiring the Imagination

  • Henry James, In the Cage, Ch. 15-19


Week 9: Rewriting Time and Space

Roles: Collectors (2), Respondents (3), Synthesizers (4), Observers (1)


October 16: Love’s Labour’s Lost


October 18: Ingenuity and Invention

  • Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Read the Preface, “A Word of Explanation,” and Ch 1-4)
  • Rough Draft of Reality TV Review due.
In Class Material: King Arthur and Description vs. Analysis


Week 10: Technology and War

Roles: Collectors (1), Respondents (2), Synthesizers (3), Observers (4)


October 23: The End of Chivalry

  • Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Ch 5-19
In Class Material: Thomas Edison


October 25: “Hello-Central”

  • Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Ch 20-24
  • Reality TV Review Due


Week 11: Mark Twain and the End of “Man”

Roles: Collectors (4), Respondents (1), Synthesizers (2), Observers (3)


October 30: Markup Twain

  • Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Ch 25-37
  • Visit “Mark Twain in His Times” online.  Pay particular attention to the section dedicated to A Connecticut Yankee, especially “Selected Illustrations” and “MT, His Time, & the Machine”

In Class Material: Photographs and Postcards of Lynching in America, Without Sanctuary

November 1: Back to the Future

  • Finish Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Finish the novel (Ch 38-44, plus “Final P.S. by M.T.”)


Week 12: The Reproduction of Sound and Image

Roles: Collectors (3), Respondents (4), Synthesizers (1), Observers (2)


November 6: The Phonographic Mind

  1. Edward Bellamy, “With the Eyes Shut” (1898), originally published in Harper’s Monthly.  The story is also available through Project Gutenberg.  Print, read, and bring to class.
  2. Ambrose Bierce, “A Benign Invention” (1911)
  3. Watch Gizmodo, “Take Me To a Future Where Books Act Like This”
  4. Optional: Benjamin Kunkel, “Goodbye to the Graphosphere”
  5. Optional: Craig Mod, “Books in the Age of the iPad”

In Class Material: A Visual History of Audio Recording, 19th Century Music and Laughter, Edison’s 50 Names for the Phonograph, Siri – iPhone Commercials


November 8: The Mind in the Mirror

  1. Brothers Grimm, “Little Snow-White”.  Print, read, and bring to class.
  2. Ray Bradbury, “The Veldt”
  3. Lewis Mumford, “Glass and the Ego” from Technics & Civilization
  4. Watch “A Day Made of Glass (1 and 2)” and “Project Glass”
  5. Watch the short film “Sight” (directed by Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo)
  6. Optional: Kevin Kelly, “Reading in a Whole New Way”

In Class Material: Selections from Mumford’s Technics & Civilization and discussion questions on the videos.


Week 13: Reality Hunger

Roles: Collectors (2), Respondents (3), Synthesizers (4), Observers (1)


November 13: Base and Superstructure

  1. Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
  2. David Shields, “Reality TV” from Reality Hunger: A Manifesto


November 15: The Ethics of Performance

  1. Finish The Hunger Games
  2. Ned Vizzini, “A Grosser Power: A Contrarian Look at The Hunger Games
  3. Stanley Fish, “Staging the Self: The Hunger Games


Week 14: Thanksgiving Break


November 20: Thanksgiving

November 22: Thanksgiving


Week 15: Electronic Literature


November 27: Digital Poetics

  1. For an introduction to Electronic Literature, watch “E-Literature Explained” and then read Stephanie Strickland’s “Born Digital”
  2. Watch at least two “Single Sentence Animations” from Electronic Literature
  3. Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar, “Cruising”
  4. Sharif Ezzat, “Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky”
  5. Robert Kendall, “Faith”
  6. Dan Waber, “Strings”

In Class Material: Brian Kim Stefans, Star Wars, one letter at a time


November 29: Digital Narrative

  1. Kate Pullinger, “Inanimate Alice” (Watch only Episode #4: Hometown)
  2. Roderick Coover, “Voyage Into the Unknown”
  3. Christine Wilks, “Fitting the Pattern” with Emily Dickinson’s “Don’t put up my Thread and Needle.”  Read the three definitions of “text” in the Oxford English Dictionary.  Pay particular attention to the etymology of the word.  How does the meaning of the word shed light on the poetic expressions created by Wilks and Dickinson?  In what ways do their creations exploit, expand, and stretch the literal and metaphoric meanings of text?
  4. Lance Olsen and Tim Guthrie, “10:01”


Week 16: Final Records and Reflections

December 4: Off-Loading Memory

  1. Samuel Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape.  Print, read, and bring to class.
  2. Workshop the Final Papers


December 6: Live Media

  1. Samuel Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape
  2. Watch Atom Egoyan’s film version of Last Tape, starring John Hurt.
  3. Workshop the Final Papers
  4. Short Papers Due.

Final Exam: Monday, December 10, 5:30-7:30 pm, 214 EPB