For several centuries the novel has been associated with a single material form: the bound book, made of paper and printed with ink. But what happens when storytelling diverges from the book? What happens when writers weave stories that extend beyond the printed word? What happens when fiction appears in digital form, generated from a reader’s actions or embedded in a videogame? What happens when a novel has no novelist behind it, but a crowd of authors—or no human at all, just an algorithm?
We will address these questions and many more in this English Honors Seminar dedicated to post-print fiction. We will begin with two “traditional” novels that nonetheless ponder the meaning of narrative, books, and technology, and move quickly into several novels that, depending upon one’s point of view, either represent that last dying gasp of the printed book or herald a renaissance of the form. Alongside these four novels we will explore electronic literature, kinetic poetry, transmedia narratives, and videogames that both challenge and enrich our understanding of storytelling in the 21st century.
- the materiality of books
- the role, function, and question of authorship
- the narrative and aesthetic potential of procedure and chance
- the impact of technology upon the material and narrative form of fiction
In addition to these texts, we will encounter a range of other online works, e-reserve readings, and in-class material.
The required work for ENGH 400 will take several forms, detailed below: (1) participation, (2) weekly blogging, (3) thisisnotfor.us discussion, (4) two annotations, (5) a creative e-lit work, and (6) a final analytical essay.
(1) This class places a high premium on participation.
Most of our class time will be given over to discussion, and it is essential that everyone has carefully considered the week’s material, attends class, and participates. If you cannot attend ENGH 400 regularly, staying until each session ends at 7:10p, please reconsider your decision to enroll. There will be occasional in-class writing assignments, and these will count toward your class participation.
Participation will be worth 15% of your final grade.
(2) Each student will contribute to the weekly class blog, posting an approximately 300-400 word response to the week’s readings.
Sometimes I will provide specific prompts for you to consider in your post. Other times your blog entry may be more open-ended. There are a number of ways to approach these open-ended posts: consider the reading using critical approaches you’ve used before; write about an aspect of the day’s reading that you don’t understand, or something that jars you; formulate an insightful question or two about the reading and then attempt to answer your own questions; or respond to another student’s post, building upon it, disagreeing with it, or re-thinking it. In any case, strive for thoughtfulness and nuance.
All blog posts will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
|4||Exceptional. The blog entry is focused and coherently integrates examples with explanations or analysis. The entry demonstrates awareness of its own limitations or implications, and it considers multiple perspectives when appropriate. The entry reflects in-depth engagement with the topic.|
|3||Satisfactory. The blog entry is reasonably focused, and explanations or analysis are mostly based on examples or other evidence. Fewer connections are made between ideas, and though new insights are offered, they are not fully developed. The entry reflects moderate engagement with the topic.|
|2||Underdeveloped. The blog entry is mostly description or summary, without consideration of alternative perspectives, and few connections are made between ideas. The entry reflects passing engagement with the topic.|
|1||Limited. The blog entry is unfocused, or simply rehashes previous comments, and displays no evidence of student engagement with the topic.|
|0||No Credit. The blog entry is missing or consists of one or two disconnected sentenc|
To ensure that everyone has a chance to read the blog before class, post your response by 4:30p the afternoon before class.
Blogging will be worth 20% of your final grade.
(3) Each student will participate on a multi-institution House of Leaves discussion board.
During our reading of House of Leaves we will be joined by four other classes on four other campuses (Converse College, Emory University, Temple University, and the University of Mary Washington) who will be simultaneously reading the novel. Our “networked” reading of House of Leaves will play out on thisisnotfor.us, a forum in which students from all five classes will discuss the novel. You will begin at least two threads and post at least four responses on the forum; other details about the assignment will follow. At the end of our time with House of Leaves you will analyze and reflect upon the experience of reading a networked novel in a follow-up reflection paper. We will take a break from regular blogging during our House of Leaves weeks.
Participating in the forum and writing the reflection paper will be worth 15% of your final grade.
(4) Each student will perform two annotations.
During the course of the semester you will work on two “annotations,” in which you heavily annotate a single “page” from one of the works we study. The first annotation must be on House of Leaves. The second annotation will be on a digital work of your choice.
Each annotation is worth 10% of your final grade.
(5) Each student will create a digital work of literature of their own, either from “scratch” or through remixing an existing piece of electronic literature.
The work will be accompanied by an artist’s statement. The creative work is worth 15% of your final grade.
(6) Each student will write a final analytical paper about a work of literature that could be considered “post-print.” The paper will involve some research and will require you to frame and sustain an argument about the work, and place that argument within the broader cultural conversation about the themes you are studying.
The final paper will be worth 15% of your final grade.
I give every assignment a letter grade, except for individual blog posts, which are graded on the 0-4 scale above. In order to calculate your final grade, I convert the letter grade of each assignment into a percentage, weighted according to the chart on the right. I use the following standard grading scale:
A+ = 100% / A = 95% /A- = 90%
B+ = 88% / B = 85% / B- = 80%
C+ = 78% / C = 75% / C- = 70% / D = 65%
F = below 60%
Attendance is mandatory (excepting medical emergencies or observation of religious holidays), and more than two unexcused classes will dramatically reduce your class participation grade, effectively lowering your final grade by one step.
Remember that all written assignments must follow MLA research guidelines. Never take credit for someone else’s ideas or words and always document your sources. George Mason University has an Honor Code, which requires all members of this community to maintain the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity. Cheating, plagiarism, lying, and stealing are all prohibited. All violations of the Honor Code will be reported to the Honor Committee. See honorcode.gmu.edu for more detailed information.
If you do not own a style guide that covers MLA format, I recommend getting one. I also encourage you to begin using Zotero, a freely available open source reference manager for Windows, Mac, and Unix, which runs as either a Firefox extension or a standalone application.
Laptops and other devices may be used in class but only for classroom activities such as note-taking or reading. Text messaging unrelated to class is not acceptable. Late arrivals and early departures from class are disruptive and should be avoided as well.
If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at 993-2474. All academic accommodations must be arranged through the DRC.
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