English 370: Multimedia Literature

Professor Joseph Conte

Fall 2006

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This course will address the meeting of literature, science and information technology through an examination of multimedia fiction and literary theory.  In the current period of overlap between print culture and electronic culture, a nonlinear approach to writing and reading (analog and digital) texts plays a formative role in our understanding of cyberspace and the information age.

We will critically engage the electronic culture in which we are immersed through a study of print books and electronic materials available on the Internet.  In our “always on, always connected” culture, the superabundance of information, the decenteredness, and the constant change demands a new textual strategy from literary writers if their work is to avoid becoming irrelevant in what has been called “the late age of print.”  Even so, we’ll read the work of postmodern novelists who, though still bound to the print order, are provocatively critique the terms and conditions of an information society, and who invoke the cascade of associative thought that characterizes the experience of digital media and the Internet.  Where applicable we’ll examine their involvement in digital, film, and other media projects, and visit the scholarly web pages and popular discussion lists that make these novelists the subject of considerable online activity.  Possible readings would include cyberpunk founder William Gibson’s Neuromancer or Pattern Recognition, Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2 or Plowing the Dark, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Don DeLillo’s White Noise, and other print fiction that responds to the crises of technology and information science in ways that have enriched contemporary culture.

We will also read a selection of non-fiction essays and critical theory on information culture, hypertext, and technology, such as Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto,” Jean Baudrillard, “The Precession of Simulacra,” Jane Douglas, “The End of Books,” John Barth, “Click,” Pynchon, “Is It O.K. to Be a Luddite?” and Sherry Turkle, “Identity in the Age of the Internet.”

In addition to the reading of fiction and critical theory in both print and electronic formats, students will participate in an on-line discussion list for English 370.  Requirements include two 5-7 page essays and a research paper presented in either print or digital format.


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Last revised on Monday, August 28, 2006
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6 Joseph M. Conte.  All Rights Reserved.