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ENGL 563: Introduction to Digital Humanities:
Literature in the Digital Age (Spring 2017)


Course Information

Schedule Number 21267
Class Days: Mondays and Wednesdays
Class Times: 2:00–3:15pm
Class Location: Life Sciences North 134

Instructor: Dr. Adam Hammond
Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, 10–11am and by appointment
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 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? We will seek answers to these questions not only by analyzing existing literary objects, but also by making literary objects of our own, using platforms and languages such as Twine, HTML, and CSS.

Note: this class will teach you basic programming and web coding 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, and SugarCube 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)
  • Literature in the Digital Age: An Introduction by Adam Hammond (Cambridge)

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 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 (25%)

  • You will submit a short critical essay (1250-1500 words) or Creative Intervention (with approx. 500 words of explanation) into one of the texts/debates we’ve studied this semester. This assignment must be submitted in a digital web-based format (i.e., either in HTML/CSS or as a Twine 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 (35%)

  • 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 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 the second week of the semester.

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 recommended are marked with the (laptop icon) icon. “LitDA” refers to my book Literature in the Digital Age.

Date Texts Assignment
January 18 Introduction
January 23 The Digital Age and/or Literature

January 25 No class.
January 30
February 1 (laptop icon) Plain Text (skill)
February 6 (laptop icon) HTML (skill)
February 8 Digital Theory in the Electronic Age

  • Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage (book, $)
February 13
  • The Medium is the Massage
  • LitDA chapter 2 (recommended)
February 15 (laptop icon) CSS (skill)
February 20 (laptop icon) Making a simple web site (skill)
February 22 Digital Literature in and about the Digital Age

  • Dash Shaw’s BodyWorld (printed graphic novel, $) as Digital Theory
February 27
  • BodyWorld (web comic) as Digital Practice
  • LitDA chapter 6
March 1 Interactive Fiction and Hypertext: Then

  • LitDA chapter 7, pp. 154-163.
March 6 Incredibly Ugly 90s Homepage Due (10%) 
March 8  (laptop icon) Interactive Fiction and Hypertext: Now (aka, Twine)

  • Anna Anthropy, “Love, Twine, and the End of the World” (article; on Blackboard)
  • Anna Anthropy, Queers in Love at the End of the World (Twine game)
  • Making a simple Twine game (skill)
March 13
March 15 (laptop icon) Programming in Twine (skill)
March 20 (laptop icon) Making your game look awesome in Twine (skill) + Adding music and building folder structures in Twine (skill)
March 22 DIY Publishing Panel + Holy Cow Porpentine is here (at 3:30 and 7pm)!
—Spring Break—
April 3 “Regular Fiction” in and about the Digital Age

  • Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad (print novel, $)
April 5 Short Essay or Creative Intervention Due
April 10
April 12 Are Videogames Literature?

  • LitDA pp. 187-197
  • Tom Bissell, “Fallout” (book excerpt; on Blackboard)
April 17
April 19 Final Project Plan Due 
April 24 The Universal Library

April 26 “Distant Reading”

  • LitDA pp. 82-119
  • Franco Moretti, “Conjectures on World Literature” (recommended article; on Blackboard)
May 1 (laptop icon) Large Text Collections and Some Tools for Analyzing Them

May 3 In-Class Final Project Prototype Demos Final Project In-Class Prototype Demo
May 10 (No class) Final Project Due 

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.