ENG 287: The Digital Text (Winter 2018)

Course Information

Course Code: ENG287H1-S LEC0101
Class Times: Tuesdays 10-11am, Thursdays 10-12am
Class Location: BA 1220

Instructor: Prof. Adam Hammond
Office Hours: Tuesdays 11:15am-12:15pm, Thursdays 2:15-3:15pm
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, 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?

Students will gain hands-on experience with tools and techniques for analyzing and producing digital literary texts. Students will participate in a class project on “narrative frames” and contribute to producing a “class-sourced” interpretation of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. Students will submit their 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 to produce digital texts in the plain text and Twine formats
  • 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 Bob Miller Book Room (180 Bloor St W):

  • The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan (Gingko)
  • The Original Face by Guillaume Morrissette (Véhicule)
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Anchor)

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 (for multiple platforms) through the Steam online store:

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

Additional readings will be posted in Blackboard.

Course Schedule

Date Readings Assignment
January 4 No Class (AH away at conference)
January 9 The Digital Age and/or Literature

January 11
January 16 Digital Theory in the Electronic Age

  • The Medium is the Massage
  • LitDA chapter 2 (recommended)
January 18
  • The Medium is the Massage
January 23 Analogue Fiction in and about the Digital Age

  • Guillaume Morissette, The Original Face (book, $)
January 25
  • The Original Face
January 30 Digital Literature in and about the Digital Age

  • Dash Shaw’s BodyWorld as Digital Theory (NB: the printed book version is strongly recommended and is available at the Bob Miller Book Room)
February 1 BodyWorld (web comic) as Digital Practice

  • LitDA chapter 6 (recommended)
February 6  Computer-Assisted Textual Analysis

February 8 “Distant Reading”

The Universal Library

February 13 Digitization, Preservation, Remediation

  • Visit from Jess Whyte, Digital Preservation Intake Coordinator, University of Toronto Libraries
February 15  

Rescuing Texts That Weren’t Happy As Printed Books

February 20 No Class (Reading Week)  
February 22 No Class (Reading Week)
February 27 Our class project: Narrative Frames

  • Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (on Blackboard)
March 1
  • The Turn of the Screw
Short Assignment #1 Due
March 6 Interactive Fiction and Hypertext: Then

March 8 Interactive Fiction and Hypertext: Recent Past

  • Emily Short, Galatea (scroll down on linked page)
March 13 Interactive Fiction and Hypertext: Now (aka, Twine)

March 15

Are Videogames Literature?

Short Assignment #2 Due
March 20
  • The Stanley Parable
March 22
March 27 Hybrid Digital/Analogue Fiction?

  • Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad (print novel, $)
March 29
  • A Visit From the Goon Squad
  • “Great Rock and Roll Pauses” (digital version of the Powerpoint slides from the book)
  • LitDA “Coda” (pp. 198-206, recommended)
  • Guest lecture: Nathan Murray
April 3 Essay Due

Marking Scheme

Your final grade will be based on the following:

  • Assignment #1: Computational Analysis (20%)
  • Assignment #2: Narrative Frames (20%)
  • Participation (25%)
  • Essay (in Twine format) (35%)

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 in class. For information on submitting late work outside of class hours, see this page.


Participation is a crucial element of this class. Since this is a large class, participation will largely take place online in the course’s Blackboard discussion forum. Throughout the semester, you will be expected to participate in five of the weekly Blackboard discussions (NB: do you not need to post five times weekly! Just five times total during the whole semester). This means that, on five occasions, you will make one post (approximately 250 words) and comment one one other person’s post. Discussion topics will be provided in class each week.

Weekly discussion threads close each week at 11:59pm on Sundays. Each of the five weeks of discussion is worth 20% of your participation grade; i.e., if you participate in only four weeks of Blackboard discussion, your participation grade will be reduced by 20%, and if you participate in only three weeks, it will be reduced by 40%. N.B.: participation is calculated on a week-by-week basis; posting and commenting five times in one week’s discussion forum counts only as a single week of participation.


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.