Literature & Technology: The History and Future of the Book
iPad and Kindle, cell-phone novels and e-publishing, Amazon and the fate of the American bookstore. Since the turn of the 21st century, our relationship with the book – and with it, literature itself – has been transformed. What is this analog device that gave shape to writing and storytelling for over 1500 years? Where is it going in the new digital era?
This course offers an introduction to “the book” as a literary technology from ancient wax tablets to today’s tablet PCs. Instead of following the usual arc of literary history in a succession of authors or periods, we will explore the work of writers and readers – primarily in English – as imaginative uses of a variety of book-media: papyrus rolls, animal-skin manuscripts, printed codices, mass-produced periodicals, and e-books, to name a few. Readings will cluster around four or five sustained case studies and will include at least one very old poem, a Shakespeare play, a modern novel, and a piece of cutting-edge digital fiction. Evaluation will be based on a mix of exams, short writing assignments, in-class exercises, and an “adopt-a-book” project in Allen Library Special Collections, where we will gain hands-on experience with actual relics of literary history. Students will leave this introductory course with knowledge of exemplary works of English literature along with fundamental concepts in the study of media.
ENGL 266 may be taken for optional “W” credit and it may be used to meet the pre-1900 requirement in the English major.
Full syllabus available here.