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ENGL 563: Introduction to Digital Humanities:
Literature in the Digital Age (Spring 2016)


Course Information

Schedule Number 21217
Class Days: Mondays and Wednesdays
Class Times: 3:30–4:45pm
Class Location: AH-3110

Instructor: Dr. Adam Hammond
Office Hours Times (and by appointment): Mondays and Wednesdays, 11:00am-noon
Office Hours Location: Arts and Letters 213
Email: ahammond@mail.sdsu.edu

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, Davey Wreden, and Marshall McLuhan, we will ask what is at stake in the shift from print to digital forms. Engaging with digital archives 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? We will seek answers to these questions not only by analyzing existing literary objects, but also by making digital literary objects of our own, using platforms and languages such as Twine, R, HTML, CSS, and XML.

Note: this class will teach you basic programming skills, but no previous programming experience is required or expected.

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 new genres of born-digital fiction
  • Learn how the advent of the digital is affecting more traditional print-based literary genres
  • Master the rudiments of coding in the HTML, CSS, XML, and R languages
  • Apply your knowledge of coding to produce electronic literature and videogames in the Twine platform
  • Produce critical assignments in which the digital medium is a crucial element of your argument

Course Materials

All texts indicated with a $ on the syllabus must be purchased. All others are free.

The following required texts can be purchased from the SDSU Bookstore:

  • The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan (Gingko)
  • BodyWorld by Dash Shaw (Pantheon)
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Anchor)

The following required videogames can be purchased (for multiple platforms) through the Steam online store:

All other texts are linked from the syllabus and/or available on Blackboard.

Course Structure and Conduct

This is a lecture-discussion course. Participation and attendance are very important in this course. Participation in online discussions is also very important.

We will discuss sensitive subjects in this course. I expect all students to respect all other students during these discussions. In accordance with California state law, discrimination based on the following categories will not be tolerated: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation and identity, AIDS/HIV, medical condition, political activities or affiliations, military or veteran status, or status as a victim of domestic violence, assault, or stalking.

Course Assessment and Grading

Your final grade will be based on the following:

Participation (20%)

  • This grade is determined equally by:
    • Your in-person contributions during lecture, your contributions to a Cool Things You Learned session, and your participation in the Final Project Prototype Demo session
    • Your contributions to the course discussion board on Blackboard. You are expected to make one post per week (approximately 250 words) and to leave one comment on another student’s post. Your posts can be on any topic related to that week’s course material: something you liked, something you hated, something you discovered, something interesting that you noticed, etc. Posts and comments must be submitted by 11:59pm Sunday; no late submissions are accepted.

Incredibly Ugly 90s Homepage (10%)

  • You will hone your HTML and CSS skills by making a deliberately ugly 1990s-style “homepage” for a fictional/literary character of your choosing.

Short Critical Essay/Creative Intervention (20%)

  • You will submit a short essay (approx. 1000 words) or a Creative Intervention (with approx. 500 words of explanation). This assignment must be submitted in a digital web-based format.

Incredibly Stupid Twine Game (10%)

  • You will hone your Twine and programming skills by producing a deliberately silly videogame/story.

Final Project Plan (10%)

  • Approximately one month before your Final Project is due, you will submit a detailed plan for your project.

Final Project (30%)

  • Your Final Project (which can be a traditional research paper; a digital object such as a Twine game; a report on a computational text-analysis experiment; etc.) is due on the final day of class.

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. Online discussion and commentary is not accepted past the weekly deadline of Sunday at 11:59pm.

Attendance and Participation

Each student is permitted to miss up to three weeks of online discussion and commentary. Every week beyond this will reduce your overall participation grade by 10% (e.g., missing four weeks [3 + 1] of online discussion will reduce your participation grade by 10%; missing five weeks [3 + 2] will reduce your participation grade by 20%).

Failure to present during a Cool Things You Noticed session will result in a 25% reduction in your participation grade.

Failure to participate in the Final Project Prototype Demo session will result in a 25% reduction in your participation grade.

Attendance in lecture is necessary. If you anticipate missing more than three class sessions, please drop this course. If you are a campus athlete, please provide a complete list of classes you will miss by September 14th.

Students with Disabilities

If you are a student with a disability and believe you will need accommodations for this class, it is your responsibility to contact Student Disability Services at (619) 594-6473. To avoid any delay in the receipt of your accommodations, you should contact Student Disability Services as soon as possible. Please note that accommodations are not retroactive, and that accommodations based upon disability cannot be provided until you have presented your instructor with an accommodation letter from Student Disability Services. Your cooperation is appreciated.

Academic Honesty

The University adheres to a strict policy regarding cheating and plagiarism. These activities will not be tolerated in this class. Become familiar with the policy (http://www.sa.sdsu.edu/srr/conduct1.html). Any cheating or plagiarism will result in failing this class and a disciplinary review by Student Affairs.

Examples of Plagiarism include but are not limited to:

  • Using sources verbatim or paraphrasing without giving proper attribution (this can include phrases, sentences, paragraphs and/or pages of work)
  • Copying and pasting work from an online or offline source directly and calling it your own
  • Using information you find from an online or offline source without giving the author credit
  • Replacing words or phrases from another source and inserting your own words or phrases
  • Submitting a piece of work you did for one class to another class

If you have questions on what is plagiarism, please consult the policy (http://www.sa.sdsu.edu/srr/conduct1.html) and this helpful guide from the Library: (http://infodome.sdsu.edu/infolit/exploratorium/Standard_5/plagiarism.pdf)

Course Schedule

Note: Class sessions in which a laptop is required are marked with the (laptop icon) icon.

Date Texts Assignment
January 20 Introduction: Digital Humans, Digital Humanities
January 25 The Digital Age and/or Literature

January 27
February 1 (laptop icon) Plain Text and HTML (skills)
February 3 (laptop icon) CSS and Markdown (skills)
February 8 Digital Theory in the Electronic Age

  • Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage (book, $)
February 10
  • The Medium is the Massage
February 15 Digital Literature in and about the Digital Age

  • Dash Shaw’s BodyWorld (printed graphic novel, $) as Digital Theory
February 17 Incredibly Ugly 90s Homepage  Due (10%)
February 22 Cool Things You Learned #1: BodyWorld
February 24 “Regular Fiction” in and about the Digital Age

  • Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad (print novel, $)
February 29
March 2
March 7 Interactive Fiction and Hypertext: Then

  • Adam Hammond, “Interactivity: Revolution and Evolution in Narrative” (on Blackboard)

Cool Things You Learned #2: Black Box and Goon Squad

March 9 (laptop icon) Interactive Fiction and Hypertext: Now (aka, Twine)

March 14 (laptop icon)
  • Zoe Quinn, Depression Quest (Twine game)
  • Me, Boston (shockingly brilliant Twine game taught in at least one college course)
March 16 (laptop icon)
March 21 (laptop icon) Cool Things You Learned #3: Twine Games Short Critical Essay/Creative Intervention Due (20%) 
March 23 The Universal Library

Incredibly Stupid Twine Game Due (10%)
—Spring Break—
April 4 (laptop icon) Large Text Collections and Some Tools for Analyzing Them

April 6 (laptop icon) Introduction to the R Programming Language

  • R (programming language)
  • RStudio (application)
April 11 (laptop icon) R: Type-Token Ratios Final Project Plan Due (10%)
April 13 (laptop icon) R: Sentiment Analysis
April 18 (laptop icon) XML and TEI (skills)

Cool Things You Learned #4: Text Analysis

April 20 Are Videogames Literature?

  • Adam Hammond, “Are Videogames Literature?” (article; on Blackboard)
  • Tom Bissell, “Fallout” (book excerpt; on Blackboard)
April 25 In-Class Final Project Prototype Demos Final Project In-Class Prototype Demo
April 27 (laptop icon)
May 2 (laptop icon)
May 4 How Videogames Get There From Here

  • Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson, “Post-Escapism: A New Discourse on Video Game Culture” (article; on Blackboard)
  • Anita Sarkeesian and Katherine Cross, “Your Humanity is in Another Castle: Terror Dreams and the Harassment of Women” (article; on Blackboard)
Final Project Due (30%)

Additional Notes

This syllabus is subject to change.

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.