Digital Literature: The Death of Print Culture?
Honors Colloquium

English 190, T/R 10:30-11:45am (Fall 2010)
Clark Hall 111

Dr. Katherine D. Harris
Office: FO 220
Office Hours: W 1-3pm & via online tools
Phone: 408.924.4475
Email: katherine.harris@sjsu.edu

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Some foundational quotes
In Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (rev. ed., New York: Verso, 1991), Benedict Anderson argues that very large communities are formed simply by the act of reading similar materials, like these people depicted in this image:

[The community] is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion. . . . it is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. (6-7)


At what point do we now, in the 21st Century separate ourselves from our mode of transmission? our media? our cyborg selves? 

All media eventually become more human in their performance – that is, they facilitate communication that is increasingly like the ways humans process information "naturally," or prior to the advent of given media. (Levinson xvi)

These questions gave rise to this Course Description:
"If it’s on the screen, I can’t take it into the tub!" This is the main cry of bibliophiles everywhere against literature’s digitization. Should we hoard all of our paperbacks, even those that fell into the tub? Will the Internet, Web, hypertexts and born-digital overtake and render obsolete our treasured and well-marked books? Will blogging, emailing, wiki-ing, even Facebooking destroy the English language with its abbreviated syntax and visual culture? And, what of all the world’s literary treasures? Will Google possess them all in their archives and render the material object obsolete? Even as we become more digital, we are not experiencing a new anxiety.

With the evolution of print technology in the early nineteenth century, authors, reviewers and publishers began descrying the ease with which someone could call himself or herself an "author." However, the evolution of language, the dissemination of print materials, the creation of a larger community has always been part of the human condition. Now, we call it social networking, an atmosphere in which readers become users as well as authors and a time when we can respond to each other virtually but in real time. So, what does this mean for Literature and the literary? In this course, we will explore the impact of Web 2.0 on our literary culture by tapping into our own existing digital literacy. We will explore, intellectualize and critically examine the content creation in these social spaces – even the creation of fiction and poetry as digitally-enhanced, multiple authored texts. After all, didn’t Dickens do this when he altered the conclusion of Great Expectations three times to suit his fans?

Questions to ponder throughout the semester
  • What is Digital Humanities?
  • What is Print Culture?
  • What is a "text?"
  • What is "digital?"
  • What is "literature?"
  • What are multi-modal essays and visual narratives?
Where we begin...
Our first session focused on questions about aesthetics, visual objects, art, social media, narrative, and digital presence. We concluded our meeting with "Pulp Fiction as Typography" (some graphic language):






Dr. Katherine D. Harris
Last updated: 12/04/2010 09:40 AM
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