ENG 287: The Digital Text (Winter 2019)

Course Information

Course Code: ENG287H1-S LEC0101
Class Times: Tuesdays 4–5pm, Thursdays 3–5pm
Class Location: WB 116

Instructor: Prof. Adam Hammond
Office Hours: Tuesdays 2:30–3:30, Thursdays 1:30–2:30
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 participate in a class project on “quote attribution,” an important unsolved task in computational literary studies. 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)
  • How Do I Look? by Sennah Yee (Metatron)
  • 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 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.

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

Additional readings will be posted in Quercus.

Course Schedule

Date Readings Assignment
January 8 The Digital Age and/or Literature

January 10
January 15 Digital Theory in the Electronic Age

  • Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage
  • LitDA chapter 2 (recommended)
January 17
  • The Medium is the Massage
January 22 Computer-Assisted Literary Analysis

January 24 Computer-Assisted Literary Analysis cont’d

Computer-Assisted Literary Creation

January 29 Interactive Fiction and Hypertext: Introduction

January 31 Interactive Fiction and Hypertext: Twine

February 5 The Universal Library

Short Assignment #1 Due
February 7 Universal Library cont’d

Can Analogue Fiction Be Digital? (I)

  • Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad (print novel, $)
February 12
  • Goon Squad 
February 14
February 19 No Class (Reading Week)  
February 21 No Class (Reading Week)
February 26 Our class project: Quote attribution

  • Ernest Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants” (on Quercus)
February 28 Our class project

  • LitDA pp. 119-130 (recommended; on Quercus)
March 5 Rescuing Texts That Weren’t Happy As Printed Books

March 7 Rescuing Texts That Weren’t Happy As Printed Books

March 12 The Practical Advantages of Digital Texts

  • Dash Shaw, BodyWorld (web comic): Prelude, Chapter 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
  • NB: The printed book version is really great and totally recommended and is available at the Bob Miller Book Room.
March 14 BodyWorld as Digital Practice

  • BodyWorld
  • LitDA chapter 6 (recommended)
Short Assignment #2 Due
March 19 (Indie) Videogames and Literature

  • LitDA pp. 187-197 (on Quercus)
March 21
  • The Fullbright Company, Gone Home (videogame, $)
  • Superbrothers, Capy Games, Jim Guthrie, Sword and Sworcery (videogame, $)
March 26
  •  Gone Home and Sworcery
March 28 Can Analogue Fiction Be Digital? (II)

  • Sennah Yee, How Do I Look? (book, $)
April 2
  • How Do I Look?
April 4 Exam Review Essay Due

Marking Scheme

Your final grade will be based on the following:

  • Assignment #1: Computational Analysis (15%)
  • Assignment #2: Quote Attribution (15%)
  • Essay (in Twine format) (35%)
  • Final Exam (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 through the course’s Quercus page, which can be accessed at q.utoronto.ca.


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.