Syllabus

Textual media simply refers to new media texts–texts produced and consumed in a digital environment. Hypertexts, multimedia, digital art, even email, instant messaging, and the web are all forms of textual media. These new media works often combine words and images in a nonlinear fashion, making meaning contingent upon the pathways the reader chooses. Thus new media often challenges our commonly held ideas of what counts as “reading,” “writing,” “story,” and “text.”

COURSE GOALS

  • Over the course of the semester we will form a working understanding of what new media is and map its connections to “old media”–such as literature, film, television, art and advertising.
  • We will also develop a language and a set of practices with which to describe, analyze, and produce new media.
  • Finally, we will explore the relationship between new media, literature, and history by examining case studies and posing critical questions about the creative and political implications of digital media.

COURSE MATERIALS

There a four items available for purchase at the GMU bookstore:

  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler (1979) by Italo Calvino
  • Understanding Comics (1993) by Scott McCloud
  • Afternoon: A Story (1990) by Michael Joyce
  • The ENGL 343 Course Reader (CR), available at the GMU Bookstore

There are a number of online works we’ll be studying this semester. Some of these include the following:

We will also be reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book, which you may purchase on your own or borrow from me.

STUDENT WORK

There will be a host of short, exploratory assignments for the class. Although English 343 is not classified as a writing class, there will be a few assignments which involve a measure of creative writing.

At least once a week every student will post a reading response to the class blog. You should strive in this post to frame the day’s reading by raising (but not necessarily answering) key questions that will help guide discussion for the day. You may also respond to another student’s post, building upon it, disagreeing with it, or re-thinking it. The blog is also a forum to express concerns about the texts we encounter and the assignments we undertake, and finally, it is a place to weave in your reflections of new media works that you encounter on your own. To ensure that everyone has a chance to read the blog before class, you must post your response by 8 AM the morning of class in order for it to count as your post for the week.

Throughout the semester every student will produce three new media analyses. The first will be a narratological analysis of one of the classic precursors to digital texts: a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The second will be a collaborative critical analysis of a digital text (interactive fiction or hypertext). Rather than a standard paper, this analysis will take the form of a website, in which students enact the very same principles of new media design that they are critiquing. The final media analysis will focus on online cultural archives, exploring how a specific digital archive “tells” its story. This analysis will be delivered to the class as an interactive presentation. All of the new media analyses will be based on our growing vocabulary and emerging practices we develop to critically engage new media texts.

There will also be a final, summative project for the class, similar in concept to a writing portfolio. This project will build upon all your previous intellectual work in the semester and will involve a significant amount of introspection and reflection. Details about this project will be distributed later in the semester.

The success of this course depends upon student participation; everyone is expected to complete all readings on time and consistently contribute to class discussions. To help me gauge students’ engagements with the readings, there will be occasional unannounced quizzes, which cannot be made up if you are absent or late to class.

Attendance is mandatory (excepting medical emergencies or observation of religious holidays). More than three absences will result in the automatic lowering of your final grade by one step (B becomes a B-, B- becomes a C+, and so on). Every two absences thereafter will also result in the lowering of your final grade by one step. Late assignments will also be lowered one grade for every 24 hours they are overdue.

Grades will be calculated using the following rubric:

  • Exploratory Assignments (15%)
  • Blog (15%)
  • Three Media Analyses (15% each)
  • Final Project (15%)
  • Participation (5%)
  • Quizzes (5%)

Official George Mason University Grading Scale:

    A = 4.00
    A- = 3.67
    B+ = 3.33
    B = 3.00
    B- = 2.67
    C+ = 2.33
    C = 2.00
    D = 1.00
    F = 0.00