Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG287H1F L0101

ENG287H1F    L0101    LEC T3-5; TUT R3 or R4
(Please note: on ROSI, students must sign up for a tutorial on Thursdays at 3 or 4 PM)
The Digital Text
Instructor: Dr. S. O'Flynn
Office Location: UC B304

Brief Description of Course: Digital technologies are changing both the material form of the book in the popularization of e-books and iBooks and the methods whereby we can study texts. The increasing availability of free and sometimes open source digital platforms, analytical, mark-up, and visualization tools make it possible to identify trends and patterns in large data sets or in individual texts that can, for example, give surprising insights into the concerns of specific cultural periods or of individual authors, and track marked shifts over time. By playing with new tools, students will have the opportunity to consider the impact of our increasing reliance on digital archives and databases for research in primary and secondary sources. Questions we will discuss are:

What might the impact of digital technologies be on academic studies in the future? How can new tools enhance our understanding of past works and inform present analytical practices? What is gained and what is overlooked when research focuses on quantitative measures and what Franco Moretti has termed ‘distant reading’ as a method of analysis that "allows you to focus on units that are much smaller or much larger than the text: devices, themes, tropes – or genres and systems”? Playing with new multimodal and interactive iBooks, games, and storytelling platforms, we will explore cutting edge narrative projects and reflect on what might constitute the digital text of the (near) future. What changes for the reader when texts become interactive and participatory? What disruptive technologies are driving these new forms?

Recognizing that the practice of Digital Literary Studies is rapidly evolving with the development of new tools and new methodological approaches, the course will focus on four main areas of inquiry: Debates, Tools, Disruptions, and Emergent Forms. Throughout the course, students will:

- read key critical essays and online dialogues between experts currently shaping the field of Digital Humanities and Digital Literary Studies;
- engage with innovative digital projects, new digital-born textual forms (hypertext, webcomics, i-books, and videogames), and platforms (social media, participatory storytelling, and others TBD);
- explore new creative and analytical tools (eg. text encoding, word clouds, Voyant);
- participate in a collaborative class experiment in the creation & publication of an online interactive text(s).
No technical background is required though students should expect to be active online on a variety of social media platforms.

Required Reading: TBA.

First Three Authors/Texts: McLuha, Shirk and Sandstrom

Method of Evaluation: Short assignments; short essays; class digital text project; exam.

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