Course Description

MWR 1:35-2:40 | Snell Library 119 | Professor Ryan Cordell | TA Kevin Smith

When you hear the word “technology,” you may think of your computer or smart phone. You probably don’t think of the alphabet, the book, or the printing press: but each of these was a technological innovation that changed dramatically how we communicate and perhaps even how we think. Literature has always developed in tandem—and often in direct response to—the development of new media technologies—e.g. moveabe type, the steam press, the telegraph, radio, film, television, the internet. Our primary objective in this course will be to develop ideas about the ways that such innovations shape our understanding of texts (both classic and contemporary) and the human beings that write, read, and interpret them. We will compare our historical moment with previous periods of textual and technological upheaval. Many debates that seem unique to the twenty-first century—over privacy, intellectual property, information overload, and textual authority—are but new iterations of familiar battles in the histories of technology, new media, and literature. Through the semester we will get hands-on experience with textual technologies new and old through labs in paper making, letterpress printing, data analysis, and 3D printing. The class will also include field trips to museums, libraries, and archives in the Boston area.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, you will:

  1. Understand technology and new media as historical rather than exclusively recent phenomenon;
  2. Analyze books and other textual technologies as material objects and within their social contexts;
  3. Experiment with a range of textual technologies, both historical and modern;
  4. Examine interplays, both thematic and material, between literary works and contemporaneous technological innovations;
  5. Draw parallels between literary studies and diverse fields such as information science, computer science, communications, and media studies;
  6. and Create original, public, creative research projects using archival materials.