Prof. Ryan Cordell • email@example.com • 423 Holmes Hall
When you hear the word “technology,” you may think of your computer or iPhone. You probably don’t think of the alphabet, the book, or the printing press: but each of these inventions was a technological innovation that changed dramatically how we communicate and perhaps even how we think. Texts are the heart of most disciplines in the humanities—literature, philosophy, history, religious studies—but this course will argue that technology and humanistic study are deeply intertwined. Literature in English, for instance, has always developed in tandem—and usually in direct response to—the development of new technologies—e.g. printed texts, newspaper publication, radio, film, television, the internet. Our primary objective in this course will be to develop ideas about the ways that modern innovations, including computers and the internet, continue to shape our understanding of texts (both classic and contemporary) and the human beings that write, read, and interpret them. In order to help us understand these recent changes, we will compare our own historical moment with previous periods of textual and technological upheaval. We’ll learn that many of the debates that seem unique to the twenty-first century—over privacy, intellectual property, information overload, and textual authority—are instead new iterations of familiar battles in the tumultuous history of technology and literature. We will also see how modern scholars are illuminating these debates from our textual past using the rapidly changing tools of our textual present: e.g. geographic information systems, data mining, textual analysis. Finally, we will gain new skills for working with texts as we develop original, digital research projects using archival materials from the Northeastern and/or Boston Public Libraries.
By the end of this course, you should be able to:
- Understand technological change as a historical rather than exclusively recent phenomenon;
- Analyze interplays, both thematic and material, between literary works and contemporaneous technological innovations
- Draw parallels between literary studies and diverse fields such as information science, computer science, communications, and media studies
- Employ a range of new scholarly technologies and methodologies for investigating and publishing texts;
- and Create original, public, digital research projects using previously unpublished archival materials.
The best source for information about the course is this website—I consider this the authoritative syllabus. However, if you prefer to have a print syllabus, you can download one here.