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English 25 - Literature and the Information, Media, and Communication Revolutions


English 25,"Literature and the Information, Media, and Communication Revolutions" (Fall 2017)


Print book = required print book    Course Reader = required course reader
All other readings are online on Web sites or as downloadable PDFs PDF 
Please read all assigned readings in advance of the relevant lecture.
TAs may flag specific assigned readings to be sure to get to before each week's section discussion.


Class 1 (F., Sept. 29) — Introduction

Class 1 Notes


1. Overture: Literature Across Media, Communication, & Information Ages


 Week 1


Class 2 (M., Oct. 2) — The Idea of Media

Class 2 Notes


Class 3 (W., Oct. 4 ) — From Oral to Writing Media

Class 3 Notes


Class 4 (F., Oct. 6) — (Continued)

Class 4 Notes


 Week 2

Assignment due in section this week: "Create your system for working with online readings" Special early assignment due in section meeting this week: Create your online reading system: Because so many of the readings in this course are online, students are required to demonstrate in section to their TA that they have the means to annotate and save copies of online materials according to one of the methods described in Guide to Downloading and Managing Online Readings.  For your section meeting this week, bring on your laptop or other digital device copies of the two assigned readings for Week 1 of the course (originally PDFs) plus at least one of the readings for Week 2 that was originally a Web page. These are readings that you should have downloaded, stored in an organized manner, and highlighted or otherwise annotated.  If you do not own a laptop, tablet, or other digital device, then bring a printed copy of one assigned reading. 

Class 5 (M., Oct. 9) — "Close Reading" (Past and Present) 

Class 5 Notes


Class 6 (W., Oct. 11) — "Distracted Reading" and "Distant Reading" in the Information Age

Class 6 Notes
  • Distracted Reading
  • Distant Reading and Data Mining
    •  Franco MorettiGraphs, Maps, Trees (2005), pp. 1-33 (print book; please purchase) Print book


Class 7 (F., Oct. 13) — Reading, Continued: Three Experiments in Digital Literature 

Class 7 Notes



2. The Modern Media/Communication/Information Age


 Week 3


Class 8 (M., Oct. 16) — The Communications Revolution & the Digital Principle

Class 8 Notes


Class 9 (W., Oct. 18) — The Computer Revolution (1): History of the Computer

Class 9 Notes
  • Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think" (1945) (read the editor's introduction, and then sections 1, 6-8 of Bush's article)
  • Paul E. Ceruzzi, A History of Modern Computing (2003), pp. 13-36, 44-45 PDF
  • Martin Campbell-Kelly and William Aspray, Computer: A History of the Information Machine (1996), pp. 233-58Course Reader


Class 10 (F., Oct. 20) — The Computer Revolution (2): Rise of the Network

Class 10 Notes


 Week 4


Class 11 (M., Oct. 23) — The Computer Revolution (3): The Emergence of Digital "New Media"

Class 11 Notes


Fiction Unit


Class 12 (W., Oct. 25) — Fiction in the Age of Modern Media, Communication, & Information

Class 12 Notes
  • Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1965) -- read at least to page 88 by today's class. (Print book; available at UCEN Bookstore and elsewhere) Print book
  • Help on the concept of entropy

Assignment due in lecture in Class 12: Essay 1 on the Future of Computing


Class 13 (F. Oct. 27) — (Continued)

Class 13 Notes
  • Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1965) -- finish rest of the novel. (Print book) Print book


 Week 5


Class 14 (M., Oct. 30) — (Continued)

Class 14 Notes
  • Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1965) -- finish rest of the novel. (Print book) Print book


Class 15 (W., Nov. 1) — (Continued)

Class 15 Notes
  • Conclusion of lectures on The Crying of Lot 49
  • Discussion with professor on the novel


Class 16 (F., Nov. 3) — [Midterm Exam]

Class 16 Notes
  • Exam on readings in the course to date. The exam is "factual," and is designed to reward students who have regularly kept up with the assignments and attended lectures and sections. See fuller description.


3. The Postindustrial & Neoliberal Age

      Information's Impact on Work and Power


 Week 6

Class 17 (M., Nov. 6) — Postindustrial "Knowledge Work"

Class 17 Notes
  • "Scientific Management" (The Original "Smart Work")
  • "Knowledge Work" (Today's Smart Work)
    • Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942), pp. 82-84 (on "creative destruction")
    • Shoshana Zuboff, In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (1988), pp., 3-12 Course Reader  Also read these online excerpts.
    • Joseph H. Boyett and Henry P. Conn, Workplace 2000 (1992), pp. 1-46 Course Reader
    • Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline (1990), pp. 3-14 Course Reader


Class 18 (W,. Nov. 8) — Neoliberal "Networked Society"

  • William H. Davidow and Michael S. Malone, The Virtual Corporation (1992), pp. 1-19, 50-66, 184-205, 214-16 Course Reader 
  • Wendy Brown interviewed by Timothy Shenck, "What Exactly is Neoliberalism?" (2015)
  • Manuel Castells, "Materials for an Exploratory Theory of the Network Society" (2000) PDF (read only the abstract and the two sections titled "The Network Society: An Overview" and "Social Structure and Social Morphology: From Networks to Information Networks" on the pages numbered 9-17)

Assignment due in lecture in Class 18: Assignment deadline changed to Class 19 Essay 2 on Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49


[F., Nov. 10 — No Class (Campus Holiday: Veterans Day)] 


 Week 7


Class 19 (M., Nov. 13) — Against All the Above

 Assignment deadline for Essay 2 changed to this date (Class 19) Essay 2 on Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49


Class 20 (W., Nov. 15) — (Continued)

  • Donna J. Haraway, Excerpts from "A Cyborg Manifesto" (1985), chapter 8 in her book Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1991)  PDF  -- The PDF contains the whole book. Read only following excerpts from the "A Cyborg Manifesto" chapter in the book:
    • pp. 149-155
    • pp. 161-165
    • pp. 170-173
    • p. 181 
  • Continuation of above lectures, plus discussion with the professor.


[F., Nov. 17 — No Class (Professor away)] (Friday Section meetings will still occur today) 




 Week 8

Fiction Unit


Class 21 (M., Nov. 20) — Fiction About Postindustrial/Neoliberal Work & Power

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984), read half the novel by this class (Print book; available at UCEN Bookstore and elsewhere) Print book


Class 22 (W., Nov. 22) — (Continued)

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984), finish the novel. (Print book) Print book

Assignment due in lecture in class 22: Spreadsheet on Being Human in the Age of Knowledge Work


[F., Nov. 24 — No Class (Thanksgiving Holiday)] 


 Week 9


Class 23 (M., Nov. 27) — (Continued)

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984), finish the novel. (Print book) Print book


Class 24 (W., Nov. 29) — (Continued)

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984), finish the novel. (Print book) Print book -- Conclusion of professor's lecture on the novel.


4. Processing Literature

      Information's Impact on the Way We Study Literature


Class 25 (F., Dec. 1) — What is Text in the Digital Age? (The Logic of Text Encoding)

Assignment due in lecture in Class 25: Essay 3 on Being Human in the Age of Knowledge Work


 Week 10

Assignment due by email to your TA 24 hours in advance of  section this week: Text Analysis Exercise & Short Commentary


Class 26 (M., Dec. 4) — Text Analysis and Literature


Class 27 (W., Dec. 6) — Topic Modeling and Literature


Class 28 (F., Dec. 8) — Conclusion: What Is Literature For in the Information Age? /
     What Is Information For in Literature?

  • Discussion with the professor. This "Colloquium Class" will use as a thought-prompt the ideas of "deformance" and "glitch" in the literary/artistic use of information technology.



(W., Dec. 13, 4-4:50 pm) Rescheduled to W., Jan. 10, 4-5 pm — Final Exam