"If it’s on the screen, I can’t take it into the tub!" This is the main cry of bibliophiles everywhere against literature’s digitization. Should we hoard all of our paperbacks, even those that fell into the tub? Will the Internet, Web, hypertexts and born-digital overtake and render obsolete our treasured and well-marked books? Will blogging, emailing, wiki-ing, even Facebooking destroy the English language with its abbreviated syntax and visual culture? And, what of all the world’s literary treasures? Will Google possess them all in their archives and render the material object obsolete? Even as we become more digital, we are not experiencing a new anxiety.
With the evolution of print technology in the early nineteenth century, authors, reviewers and publishers began descrying the ease with which someone could call himself or herself an "author." However, the evolution of language, the dissemination of print materials, the creation of a larger community has always been part of the human condition. Now, we call it social networking, an atmosphere in which readers become users as well as authors and a time when we can respond to each other virtually but in real time. So, what does this mean for Literature and the literary? In this course, we will explore the impact of Web 2.0 on our literary culture by tapping into our own existing digital literacy. We will explore, intellectualize and critically examine the content creation in these social spaces – even the creation of fiction and poetry as digitally-enhanced, multiple authored texts. After all, didn’t Dickens do this when he altered the conclusion of Great Expectations three times to suit his fans?
Slasher films used to be a great way to spend "date night." However, we've become so jaded about horror films (and the girl who always falls during the chase scene) that we are amused by them instead of genuinely terrified and awe-struck. These movies were inspired by horror fiction, including Stephen King's The Shining and multiple incarnations of Frankenstein and Dracula. All of these literary texts originate from the Gothic novel tradition, where psychological disintegration is quelled by sweeping landscapes. In this course, we'll establish the definition of "gothic" by reading Matthew Lewis' The Monk and Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto. (No Frankenstein this semester). Moving through the nineteenth century, we'll explore monsters, landscapes and female victims as they appear in Gothic novels. In the twentieth century, we'll discover that "gothic" becomes synonymous with "horror," very similar to King's The Shining and Stanley Kubrick's film version. Students will bring in horror films and media (e.g., video games, novels, etc.) from the last 10 years to finish off our semester.
The British Romantic-era (1780-1837) was perhaps one of the most intellectually and technologically productive eras in all of England: The Industrial Revolution forced citizens to abandon agrarian life and embrace an urban existence that was full of prostitutes, raw sewage, cholera and scientific experimentation. Literature during this time reflects the anxiety caused by this shift, but it also reflects an excitement about England’s potentially terrifying future. In Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, our hero(es) embody all of these aspects of British life. For this reason, the course will center around the themes prevalent in Frankenstein but with a slight twist. In "TechnoRomanticism," we'll create our own modern, annotated version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (complete with film references and any online links, e.g., YouTube, etc.). We'll read into the Romantic period through this 1818 text and then read Shelley's second novel, The Last Man, a very futuristic view of the nineteenth century.
In "TechnoRomanticism," we'll collaborate on our own modern, annotated version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein by using Google Docs, web pages, blogs, discussion forums and more in the most technologically advanced classroom on campus (Clark 111, Incubator Classroom). Each student will be given a laptop (PC or Mac) to use during each class session in addition to learning about lots of online 19th-century projects. Come learn the latest in collaborative digital tools that will help you in any career! Several tutorials and unending help will be offered with the technology.
With the Industrial Revolution in full swing, the nineteenth century saw many technological improvements and even more class disparity. With the mechanization of paper-making and the distribution of various reading materials, many British citizens became literate, some even clawed their way into the middle class, as was recorded by Dickens and George Eliot. However, the nineteenth century isn't all about great expectations and marches through the middle. We'll visit with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Dickens' lesser known Old Curiosity Shop to discover the impact of technology. By this time, it was agreed that women had a soul, thanks to Mary Wollstonecraft. But the problem of "uppity" women who wanted to be authors was inexhaustible. Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh will introduce the "woman question" that so plagued their minds. By its conclusion, the nineteenth century had novelists declaring that "art is for art's sake" in a decadent flourish of bloodsucking (Stoker's Dracula). Other novelists were inviting readers to solve mysteries (Wilkie Collins' Woman in White) and go on adventures for the first time -- and many went because they couldn't afford the actual travel. H. Rider Haggard hosts such an adventure in his novel, She, and invites readers to unmapped regions of Africa where the main character, "She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed," dominates two of Brittania's most masculine citizens!
According to Thomas Arnold, in Observations Concerning . . . Madness (1782-86) "[s]ome of the most powerful causes of . . . Insanity are –religion,–love,–commerce, and the various passions which attend the desire, pursuit, and acquisition of riches,–every species of luxury,–and all violent and permanent attachments whatever" (15, 25). By 1798, the definition of madness was revised to include the social, political and cultural upheaval that was caused by the Industrial Revolution and the disintegration of Enlightenment reason. Advances in science and technology as well as experimentation in literary genres signaled this change and the acceptance of insanity as a medical condition sparked a debate about the disease’s victims and society’s responsibility. In other words, madness became a disease caused by all facets of British society. In this course, we will investigate the demarcations of madness in poetry, novels, short stories and historical accounts published 1780 to 1837. We will begin with Arnold’s Observations and literary accounts of that famous insane asylum, Bedlam/Bethlem. Arnold proposes that the British are more susceptible to madness (or insanity) because its citizens are allowed to better themselves by "acquiring opulence." This, in turn, gives "birth to the desires, fears, anxieties, disappointments, and other affections which accompany the pursuit, or possession, of riches" (21). We’ll see if this is true.
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