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The Digital Lives of Books

ENGL 208.301
MW 3:30-5
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

What happens when literature goes digital? In this course, we'll explore how texts move through electronic media, tracking them across Facebook and Snapchat, into spam folders and onto our memory drives. Authors are forging new born-digital genres of writing, and we'll experience many of them. We'll read AI-generated poetry, watch a netprov performance, and play text adventure games. As we encounter these new forms of writing, we will consider bigger questions about the history, politics, and agency of books as they "go digital." For instance, how do algorithms amplify racial, gender, or linguistic biases online? And how did servers in the Ukraine become a major site of e-book piracy? Grounding these wide-ranging investigations will be a material history of electronic text technologies, from the development of the ASCII encoding standard and HTML to PDFs and epubs, learned by working hands-on with these formats. Students will leave the course with a concrete grasp of how texts operate in digital spaces, as well a set of critical concepts for understanding the future of reading and writing today.