ENG 287: The Digital Text (Fall 2019) (DRAFT SYLLABUS)

Course Information

Course Code: ENG287H1-F LEC0101
Lecture time: Mondays, 2–4pm
Lecture location: WB 116

Tutorials: Wednesdays, 2–3 or 3–4pm, various locations

Instructor: Prof. Adam Hammond
Office Hours: TBA
Office Hours Location: JHB 624
Email: adam.hammond@utoronto.ca

Course Overview

This course offers a practical and theoretical introduction to the new creative and interpretive possibilities opened up by digital forms of literature. Reading novels, graphic novels, short stories, videogames, and media theory by writers such as Jennifer Egan, Dash Shaw, Jorge Luis Borges, Porpentine, and Marshall McLuhan, we will ask what is at stake in the shift from print to digital forms. Engaging with digital libraries and computational techniques in literary analysis, we will ask what new insights we can gain into literature once it is digitized. Is the digital age making literature more accessible, more inclusive, and more interactive? Or will the digital age, with its many multimedia distractions, make literature obsolete?

Students will gain hands-on experience with tools and techniques for analyzing and producing digital literary texts. Students will submit their first assignment and final essays in “interactive” digital form using the Twine platform.

In this course you will:

  • Become familiar with the major contemporary debates (social, political, aesthetic) concerning the fate of literature in the digital age
  • Investigate the new research questions that we can ask of digitized texts using computational textual analysis
  • Explore digital theory and several genres of born-digital fiction
  • Learn how the advent of the digital is affecting more traditional print-based literary genres
  • Learn the rudiments of Twine, HTML, and CSS
  • Write a final essay in which the digital medium is a crucial element of your argument

Course Materials

The following required texts can be purchased from the University of Toronto Bookstore at College and St. George:

  • The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan (Gingko)
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Anchor)
  • How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti (Anansi)

The following books are recommended:

  • BodyWorld by Dash Shaw (Pantheon)
  • Literature in the Digital Age: An Introduction by Adam Hammond (Cambridge)

The following required videogames can be purchased from Steam (for multiple platforms, including Windows and Mac desktops/laptops), the Apple App Store (for iPhones), and, through the links below, for many other platforms (Android devices, various gaming consoles), too.

  • Gone Home (The Fullbright Company)
  • Sword and Sworcery (Superbrothers, Capy, Jim Guthrie) NB: Sworcery requires a full lunar month to complete properly. Consider starting early.

Those who are unable to purchase the above or to play them on their devices can rely on “Let’s Play” videos. Search for “let’s play gone home” and “let’s play sworcery” on YouTube.

Additional readings will be posted in Quercus.

Course Schedule

September 9: Is Literature Dying in the Digital Age?

September 18: The Medium and the M[e]ssage

  • Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage
  • LitDA chapter 2 (recommended)

September 20

  • Tutorials begin: The Carr Debate and The Medium is the Massage

September 23: Interactivity, Hypertext, and Twine

September 25

  • Tutorial: hypertext and Twine

September 30: Digital Texts in the Communications Circuit

  • Dash Shaw, BodyWorld (web comic): PreludeChapter 123456789101112. (You may also want to purchase the printed book version, which is really great and totally recommended and is available at the U of T Bookstore.)
  • LitDA chapter 6 (recommended)

October 2

  • Tutorial: BodyWorld

October 7: Indie Games and Multimedia

  • The Fullbright Company, Gone Home (videogame)
  • Superbrothers, Capy Games, Jim Guthrie, Sword and Sworcery (videogame)

October 9

  • Tutorial: indie games and multimedia

October 14: Twine Games vs. Indie Games?

October 16

  • Tutorial: Twine vs. indie games
  • Assignment #1 due in tutorial

October 21: Computational Literary Analysis and TTRs

All the below will be demonstrated in class (nothing for you to prepare)

October 23

  • Tutorial: TTRs

October 28: Can Analogue Fiction Be Digital? (I)

  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Anchor)

October 30

  • Tutorial: Goon Squad and/as hypertext

November 11: Can Analogue Fiction Be Digital? (II)

  • Goon Squad continued

November 13

  • Tutorial: Goon Squad and remediation
  • Assignment #2 due in tutorial

November 18: Can Analogue Fiction Be Digital? (III)

  • Sheila Heti, How Should a Person Be?

November 20

  • Tutorial: How Should a Person Be?

November 25: The Universal Library

November 27

  • Tutorial: the Universal Library
  • Final Essay due in tutorial

December 2: Rescuing Texts That Weren’t Happy As Printed Books

Marking Scheme

Your final grade will be based on the following:

  • Assignment #1: Creative Intervention (20%)
  • Assignment #2: Computational Analysis (20%)
  • Final Essay (35%)
  • Participation in Tutorial (25%)

Late policy

All late assignments will be reduced 3% per day, including weekends. Assignments will not be accepted more than one week after the due date. All assignments are due through the course’s Quercus page, which can be accessed at q.utoronto.ca.


Active participation in tutorial is necessary. Students are expected to contribute constructively to discussion in each tutorial session.


Students with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. In particular, if you have a disability/health consideration that may require accommodations, please feel free to approach me and/or Accessibility Services at (416) 978 8060; accessibility.utoronto.ca.


The University of Toronto treats cases of academic misconduct very seriously. Academic integrity is a fundamental value of learning and scholarship at the UofT. Participating honestly, respectfully, responsibly, and fairly in this academic community ensures that your UofT degree is valued and respected as a true signifier of your individual academic achievement.

The University of Toronto’s Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters outlines the behaviours that constitute academic misconduct, the processes for addressing academic offences, and the penalties that may be imposed. You are expected to be familiar with the contents of this document. Potential offences include, but are not limited to the following.

In papers and assignments:

  • Using someone else’s ideas or words without appropriate acknowledgement
  • Submitting your own work in more than one course without the permission of the instructor
  • Making up sources or facts.
  • Obtaining or providing unauthorized assistance on any assignment (this includes working in groups on assignments that are supposed to be individual work)

On tests and exams:

  • Using or possessing any unauthorized aid, including a cell phone
  • Looking at someone else’s answers
  • Letting someone else look at your answers
  • Misrepresenting your identity
  • Submitting an altered test for re-grading


  • Falsifying or altering any documentation required by the University, including (but not limited to) doctor’s notes
  • Falsifying institutional documents or grades

All suspected cases of academic dishonesty will be investigated following the procedures outlined in the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters. If you have any questions about what is or is not permitted in this course, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you have questions about appropriate research and citation methods, you are expected to seek out additional information from me or other available campus resources like the College Writing Centres, the Academic Success Centre, or the U of T Writing Website.

Communication Policy

My preferred method of contact is via e-mail. I will respond to e-mails within 24 hours, though I generally will not respond to e-mails sent on weekends until the following Monday.

Additional Notes

This syllabus is subject to change. Because of this, you are encouraged to consult this web page throughout the year, rather than printing it off.
Your remaining in this class constitutes acceptance of the conditions outlined in this syllabus.
Please be aware that we will discuss sensitive issues in the course, related to topics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and politics.