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Electronic Literature
ENGL 146EL - Fall 2009,  Rita Raley

  • The Eastgate disks may be purchased directly from Eastgate or the bookstore, checked out from the reserve desk in Davidson library, or read in the Transcriptions studio (SH 2509). You might also be interested to browse Transcription's collection of Eastgate texts, including Michael Joyce's Afternoon, a story and Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl.
  • One of our print texts, Electronic Literature, includes a CD on which you will find many of the works that we are going to discuss this quarter. They are marked as (CD) on the syllabus.
  • Online readings are all reachable from our class webpage. Much of the reading will require programs and plug-ins such as Java, QT, and Shockwave (all free and easy to install; you will generally be prompted if you need to download). If you are working on an older computer at home, I recommend you visit our Transcriptions studio in the English department, or one of the computer labs such as Phelps, for your reading.
  • When it comes time to browse an index or site, I will direct you to a few particular texts. The online version of the syllabus will be updated throughout the quarter.
  • Note that the list of "recommended readings" is often quite extensive: these mini-bibliographies will provide context for some of the primary readings, lectures, and class discussion. The general equivalent in print culture would be the headnote in an anthology. Often I have given you links to author webpages, e.g. a "Borges" site for the day we are to discuss two of his stories. Some of the links will be used as illustrations in lecture and will appear in our "class notes" sub-pages, e.g. the visual explanation of programming languages recommended for class on May 22. The "recommended readings" section will also direct you to related material, so for more examples of Flash poetry (May 8), you can visit the "Poems That Go" website.
  • All assignments for this course must be completed. There will be no incompletes.

  • Participation
    Weight: 20% of final grade

    Since this course is mid-sized, it will balance lecture and student participation. You should come to class prepared to answer general and detailed questions about the texts on the syllabus. You will also have a chance to participate in class discussions over our listerv. I will post questions and comments to the list, but this forum should allow you to engage with the other members of the class and pursue discussion topics that spring from our regular class sessions.

    Regular attendance is expected and more than two absences will adversely affect your final grade.

    - As part of your class participation, one substantive email message to the class listserv will be required. This can be in response to one of my messages, a response to the reading, or a response to a topic discussed in class. The address for our class listserv is <>. The archives for this listserv can be found at <this address>.


    Midterm Paper
    Weight: 25% of final grade
    Due: October 28, 2009

    The midterm paper should be 4-5 pages. Questions and topics will be assigned. Hard copies only.


    Final Project
    Weight: 40% of final grade
    Due: December 11, 2009

    For the final course project, all students will compose an electronic text that is placed online at the end of the quarter. You should all determine your own topics, but you should do so in consultation with me. If the project is a standard seminar paper, then the approximate length should be 8 pages in print and the supporting research should be substantial. If the project is not a linear critical paper, however, then the guiding quantifiable principle should be subsumed to conceptual scope; that is, the project should be equivalent to a final course paper in argumentative range and ambition. This project will allow you to demonstrate the extent and quality of your engagement with the material and issues covered in this course.

    - Hypertext fiction, poetry, and experimental writing projects are also welcome, but they should be accompanied by a short (3 pg.) critical analysis and close reading of the composition. Creative projects should be original to this course and cannot simply be a mark-up of a previously composed piece.

    - Another option for this final assignment: "discover" and curate a mini-exhibition of work(s) of electronic literature. Perhaps you know of other instances of literary composition in social network applications (Facebook novels) and could use social computing as the theme for your exhibition. Perhaps you were particularly taken by Donna Leishman's interactive fictions and want to assemble a set of related works that combine reading, viewing, and play. As with any gallery exhibition, you will need to compose an overview or viewing guide for the works on display.

    - Marthine Satris, the LCM/Transcriptions RA, will be available in the lab to assist you with the basics of HTML, WYSIWYG editors, FTP, and umail. You may also ask for assistance with Flash, wikis, and other production environments but you may have to get outside help with these. There will be regular drop-in hours in the Transcriptions computing studio in South Hall 2509; during these hours the lab will be open to all members of the class for reading and web authoring. The studio has a scanner, PC computers, and all of the production tools you will need to compose your project, including Photoshop, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, and a sound editor from Sound Forge. There are HTML reference manuals and most of the texts in the Eastgate Library are also on hand for you to read. The Transcriptions web archive also contains a great deal of information about web authoring. Also, please note the Transcriptions page on "Evaluating and Citing Online Resources."

    - Instructional Computing offers a series of free software tutorials (including Flash, Dreamweaver, and Photoshop). The schedule for these workshops can be found online here.

    - You might also work through some of the online tutorials, e.g.

    - For the basics of UWeb accounts, see the Transcriptions guide to UWeb.

    - In the 8th week, a 1 pg. abstract of your final projects will be due.

    - On or before December 11, you should send me an email message that includes the URL of your final project. I will link all of the projects to our class webpage. If your critical response does not already comment on the technical specs of your site (e.g. the number of pages), you might want to mention them in your email message. If some of your links are buried, for example, mention this.

    - As you begin planning your own electronic text, it may be helpful and interesting to see some of the previous student projects (note that pages of graduated students may be missing).


    Close Reading of an Electronic Text
    Weight: 15% of final grade
    Due: varies

    One of the assignments for this course is a formal analysis of one of the electronic texts on our syllabus. You may choose any genre that you like: story, poem, experimental writing, hypermedia text. Your analysis should present an argument about the text that accounts for both its form and its content. Some of your close reading, then, should concern the design and related elements of the text (e.g. links and linking structure, layout, colors, fonts, maps, images, sound, movement, interactivity). To begin developing your argument, you might ask yourself these questions: How does the text "work"? What are its primary themes? What motifs emerge in the language of the text? What is the relationship between the medium and the content of the hypertext? What are the effects of the formal and technological design and would they be repeatable in a different moment or in a different medium? What are the temporal and spatial perimeters of the electronic text? To what extent does the text depend upon your interaction and response to it?

    - Length: 1 page, single spaced, narrow margins

    - Please note that you should attend to the scale of both the electronic text and of your paper. Since the close reading is to be relatively short, you will need to establish a balance between general and particular comments (between the work or project as a whole and the work in its component parts). To allow for focused and detailed analysis, you will need to single out a few elements (thematic, formal, machinic) of the text.

    - Close readings are due the day we are to discuss your chosen text in class. So, for example, if you wished to write about Olia Lialina's "Boyfriend," your paper would be due on October 14; if you wished to write about Young Hae-Chang, your paper would be due on November 2 or November 9, etc.



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