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Textuality and New Media Ecologies, 1600-2000
ENGL 236 - Winter 2006,  Alan Liu

Writers and readers of literature have a special relation with the written word. How did that relationship arise and change in the historical moments—from pre- to postmodernity—when "text" arose, or was redefined, in relation to new technologies that reconfigured the whole ecology of media and communications? This course will study "new media texts" (texts and reading practices responsive to new media ecologies) with attention both to larger cultural/theoretical issues Text+and a succession of specific case studies from the Early Modern to contemporary periods. The framework portion of the course will study the historical transitions and interfaces between orality, writing, print, images, and, most recently, digital new media. ("Images" is important in this list because a special focus of the course will be on the way that complex intermedia relations and their underlying social struggles get mapped over "verbal vs. visual"—or, today, "textual vs. multimedia"—distinctions). The case studies portion of the course will then touch down sequentially on the Renaissance, the eighteenth century, romanticism, modernism, and the contemporary information age. These historical moments will be studied through an "extensible" case study method. That is, the class will focus on a set of common case studies: emblem books and ballads in the Renaissance; personification and visual/verbal narrative in the 18th century; imagery and imagination in romanticism; imagism, advertising, and electronic media in modernism; and the transition from "hypertext" to "new media" paradigms in the information age. But in their presentations and papers, students will be asked to hook their own research interests (and alternative case studies) onto these historical moments.

Primary readings/viewings from literature and visual works (including both print works and recent "born-digital" works) will be complemented by recent historical, critical, or theoretical writings. (All readings are from the course reader or are online; there are no required books at the bookstore.)

One presentation; one final project (paper and/or digital project). This course is associated with the UC Transliteracies Project (Research in the Technological, Social, and Cultural Practices of Online Reading). Students will fashion their presentation in the format of a report like those the Project is creating for its online research clearinghouse on the history and future of reading practices and technologies. (Reports created for this class directly relevant to the Project may be included in the clearinghouse.)


Alan Liu

Office and Office Hours
SH 2521
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SH 2635
T, 11:00 AM1:30 PM

Required Texts

Reader, 2 vols. (Alternative Copy Shop)

35% Report and Presentation
65% Final Paper/Project (12-16 pp. (or equivalent))
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