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Contemporary Experimental Narratives
ENGL 146EN - Fall 2003,  Rita Raley

This course will focus on contemporary experimental narratives that self-reflexively engage in some way with their own materiality. Throughout the quarter, we will come to understand these narratives as "technotexts" or "writing machines." We will thus be specifically concerned with the relations between these experimental narratives and media (print, film, photography, writing technologies, digital technologies, graphic design). The opening line of Italo Calvino's novel, If on a winter's night a traveler -- "You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler" -- will introduce us to self-reflexivity and narrative fragmentation. We will trace this fragmentation through the montage form of storytelling (especially Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's meditation on memory), hypertext fiction, and David Lynch's film Mulholland Drive, all of which gesture toward, but refuse, narrative unity. We will also consider the narrative structures of interactive fiction and a graphic novel (Chris Ware).

Further themes: the role of the reader and literary interpretation (what Danielewski calls "cool, pseudo-academic hogwash"); labyrinths; found manuscripts; mapping.

Further questions: How do the texts that we will read – both print and electronic – thematize their own forms? In what sense are experimental print novels such as Italo Calvino’s precursors to electronic literature, IF, and graphic novels? What kinds of narrative possibilities are created by the new technologies? What is the relationship between experimental print fiction and new digital narratives? To what extent does the information architecture of a website, for example, enable a narrative form not afforded by print technologies? What are the relations between stories and gaming?

This course meets the requirement for English majors specializing in Literature and the Culture of Information (LCI). It also meets GE Area G.


Rita Raley

Office and Office Hours
SH 2703
On leave 2012-2013


South Hall room 1415
TR, 3:30 PM4:45 PM

Required Texts

Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler
I Have Said Nothing (Eastgate Quarterly Review of Hypertext)
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee
Paul Auster, City of Glass
Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves
N. Katherine Hayles, Writing Machines
Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth

20% Participation
30% Midterm paper
20% Reading Annotations (1 page, single spaced)
30% Final Web Project
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