Literature and Literary Study in the Digital Age

gutenberg_ipad_header_transDigital technology is transforming the way we produce, distribute, and study literature. Under the umbrella term “digital humanities,” scholars are building electronic archives that put literary texts in historical, biographical, geographical, and other contexts; using computational tools to analyze and visualize the form and content of texts; creating new platforms for scholarly communication about texts; and trying to understand the larger cultural impact of the digital revolution. In this course, we’ll undertake a close examination of all these developments while also rolling up our sleeves to try out some basic tools for digital publication and textual analysis.

We’ll do much of our work in face-to-face meetings twice a week, following the schedule laid out in our syllabus. But we’ll also do a lot of work together online. ENGL 340 is as much a community as a course. That’s why this website is part of the English @ SUNY Geneseo network, a virtual commons built with the Commons In A Box plugin to WordPress. And that’s why it’s important for you to create a profile here and contribute to online tasks and conversations.

Many of the activities in the course will revolve around a collaborative project involving SUNY Geneseo, the Thoreau Society, and the Thoreau Institute Library at Walden Woods — a project called Digital Thoreau. This explains why the central text for the course is Thoreau’s Walden. But our interest in Walden will extend beyond Digital Thoreau, because Thoreau’s book turns out to be a perfect way to focus a discussion of digital technology’s impact on the human.