Computers and Literature

English 379, Autumn 1999

Jack Lynch

Course Description


Go directly to:

September -- October -- November -- December


Office: (973) 353-5279x516; 516 Hill Hall.

Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 10:30-11:30, and by appointment (appointments are best).

Home: (609) 750-1263 (before 11 p.m.!).

E-mail: jlynch@andromeda.rutgers.edu (the best way to reach me).

Listserv: lynch379@andromeda.rutgers.edu (for the whole class).


Course Requirements

English 379 involves the following responsibilities on your part:

Readings

Two books -- The Electronic Word and Hamlet on the Holodeck -- are available from the Rutgers Newark Bookstore in Bradley Hall. The remainder of the readings are available in a photocopy pack from Affordable Copies (68 Halsey St.) or on-line.

Computing

This class has a mailing list called lynch379@andromeda.rutgers.edu; all students are required to have an E-mail account and to participate in the discussions on the list. Although I have the greatest sympathy for those suffering from technological nightmares, don't expect to use computer problems as an excuse for not doing the reading or writing. If you have a problem, contact me as soon as possible.

Schedule of Class Meetings

Thursday, 2 Sept.
Introduction.

Part I: Computers in Literature

Tuesday, 7 Sept.
Arthur C. Clarke, "The Nine Billion Names of God"; Isaac Asimov, "The Bicentennial Man."
Thursday, 9 Sept.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., "Fortitude"; Tom Maddox, "Snake-Eyes."

Part II: Literature in Computers

Tuesday, 14 Sept.
Electronic texts: The On-Line Books Page, The English Server, Project Gutenberg, The Online Book Initiative, Representative Poetry On-Line, Virginia's Electronic Text Center.
Thursday, 16 Sept.
Electronic texts and textual criticism. CETH Workshop Report, "Plain and Encoded Electronic Texts: A Taxonomy and Guidelines for Evaluation." Exercise: Evaluate a public-domain electronic text and describe it in two or three pages.

Part III: Computers for Literature

Tuesday, 21 Sept.
Collation and concordances. TACT, Compare.
Thursday, 23 Sept.
Attribution and frequency studies. Ian Lancashire, "Computer-Assisted Critical Analysis: A Case Study of Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale." Exercise: Brainstorm a list of at least ten novel uses for computers in literary studies.

Tuesday, 28 Sept.
Literary information on the Web. Student reports on sites.
Thursday, 30 Sept.
Literary information on the Web. Student reports on sites.

Tuesday, 5 Oct.
Literary information on the Web. Student reports on sites.
Thursday, 7 Oct.
Literary information on the Web. Student reports on sites.

Part IV: Computers as Literature

Tuesday, 12 Oct.
Debate: "Resolved, computers will soon render printed books obsolete."
Thursday, 14 Oct.
Marshall McLuhan, selections from Understanding Media; Technologies of the Word: Carla Hesse, "Books in Time."

Tuesday, 19 Oct.
Technologies of the Word: James O'Donnell, "The Pragmatics of the New: Trithemius, McLuhan, Cassiodorus."
Thursday, 21 Oct.
Technologies of the Word: Jay David Bolter, Writing Space, chapters 3 ("Writing as Technology") and 6 ("The Electronic Book").

Tuesday, 26 Oct.
Hypertext: Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think"; Theodor H. Nelson, "As We Will Think."
Thursday, 28 Oct.
Hypertext: William H. O'Donnell and Emily A. Thrush, "Designing a Hypertext Edition of a Modern Poem"; George P. Landow, "What's a Critic to Do?: Critical Theory in the Age of Hypertext."

Tuesday, 2 Nov.
Hypertext Fiction: Walter Sorrells, "The Heist"; Jay David Bolter, Writing Space, chapter 8 ("Interactive Fiction"); Luca Toschi, "Hypertext and Authorship."
Thursday, 4 Nov.
Hypertext Fiction: Deena Larsen, "Ferris Wheels"; Stuart Moulthrop, "Hegirascope"; George P. Landow, "Reconfiguring Narrative."

Tuesday, 9 Nov.
Janet H. Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck, chaps. 1-3. Debate: "Resolved, computers will someday be more intelligent than humans."
Thursday, 11 Nov.
Janet H. Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck, chaps. 4-6. Adventure games, MOOs.

Tuesday, 16 Nov.
Janet H. Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck, chaps. 7-8. Bots: Eliza, Julia. E-mail assignment: Send at least three possible theses for your final paper to the class listserv by midnight on Tuesday.
Thursday, 18 Nov.
Janet H. Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck, chaps. 9-10. E-mail assignment: Comment on at least three possible theses by other members of the class on the listserv by midnight on Thursday.

Tuesday, 23 Nov.
Lanham, The Electronic Word, chaps. 1 ("The Electronic Word: Literary Study and the Digital Revolution"), 2 ("Digital Rhetoric and the Digital Arts"), and 5 ("Electronic Textbooks and University Structures").
Thursday, 25 Nov.
No class -- Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, 30 Nov.
Richard Lanham, The Electronic Word, chaps. 7 ("The 'Q' Question"), 8 ("Elegies for the Book"), 9 ("Operating Systems, Attention Structures, and the Edge of Chaos"), and 10 ("Conversation with a Curmudgeon").
Thursday, 2 Dec.
Donna Haraway, "The Cyborg Manifesto."

Part V: Computers versus Literature

Tuesday, 7 Dec.
Sven Birkerts, "Into the Electronic Millennium," "Hypertext" (from The Gutenberg Elegies).
Thursday, 9 Dec.
Conclusion.