Lit 400: Reading Cyberliterature, from Print to the WWWwcu logo

Fall 2003
Main 300 and Anderson 019
MWF 10-11

Dr. Robert Fletcher

Course Description

This course will introduce you to the ways in which technoculture has 1) become the subject of literary representation, and 2) begun to change "literature" in its very forms.  In other words, we'll look at how computers and network culture are now often both the subjects and media chosen by imaginative writers.  We'll read fiction about cyberspace, view a film about androids, navigate a multimedia text about California history, explore the web looking for poetry, and try our own hands at composing critical/creative works for the WWW.  I hope you will leave the course with a greater appreciation for how technology is changing the ways we read and write and also how we think about ourselves and our relationship to the world.

DISCLAIMER:  I am neither a scholar of sci fi nor a computer geek.  Why, you may then ask, am I teaching this course?  Well, I started getting interested in the form of hypertext (electronically linked text) and how it was affecting reading and writing about six years ago; people writing about that subject tend also to philosophize and imagine in broader terms how technology is affecting human (or "posthuman") existence.  So this course is modeled on those by scholars in the field (such as Rita Raley and Alan Liu) to reflect in different ways on the implications of living in a wired world.

Course Goals

  1. Enhance students’ skills in reading literature and working with computers;
  2. Refine students’ writing skills through workshops on hypertext/hypermedia composition and by facilitating the writing process through opportunities for feedback and revision;
  3. Develop students’ critical thinking skills by building on the theories of reader response covered in LIT 168 and by introducing them to theories of cybertextuality;
  4. Introduce students to a significant literary movement of the last ten years and relate these developments to older traditions of print culture.

Course Materials

  1. M. D. Coverley, Califia (Eastgate Systems, 2000, CD-ROM for Windows)
  2. Cory Doctorow, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (Tor Books, 2003, discounted over 6 bucks at; also available free over the web in different formats, including .pdf file for Adobe Acrobat)---Not ordered for the bookstore!
  3. William Gibson, Burning Chrome (Ace Books, 1986)
  4. Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl (Eastgate Systems, 1995, CD for PC or Mac)
  5. Stuart Moulthrop, Victory Garden (Eastgate Systems, 1991, CD for PC or Mac)
  6. Plus quite a few other readings either in the form of handouts or at Blackboard (BB)
  7. Several floppies or CDs devoted to this class exclusively (WARNING: Save your work often during the process of creating it and make multiple copies!)

Course Requirements

  1. Close and consistent reading of all course materials, as demonstrated through classroom participation  5%
  2. Weekly contributions to online collaborative journal (discussion board) 10%
  3. Reader-response essay on Victory Garden, written in "Storyspace20%
  4. Website on some aspect of the cyberpunk/posthuman theme (“Patchwork Girl, Burning Chrome, “Blade Runner,” or Down and Out25%
  5. Oral presentation on a piece of web-based electronic poetry or fiction  10%
  6. Final multimedia/hypertext project (creative/critical in nature, two drafts or versions)  30%

Course Schedule

Part One: Reading Interactive Texts

(Week 1)
M 8/25: Introduction.  Deena Larsen's flash poem "Intruder"

W 8/27: A Bit of Prehistory and  Propaganda
Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” (Atlantic Monthly July 1945) (Focus on sections 6, 7, and 8; merely skim the rest.)
Robert Coover, “The End of Books” (from The New York Times Book Review
June 21, 1992)
Geoffrey Batchen, "Spectres of Cyberspace," Afterimage 23.3 (1995): 6-7 (BB)
Marie-Laure Ryan, from Introduction to Cyberspace Textuality (Indiana, 1999) (BB)

F 8/29: "The Tradition of Experiment"
Excerpts on "Interactive Fiction" from Jay David Bolter's Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print (2nd ed., 2001) (handout or on reserve)
Jorge Luis Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths” (1941), “Funes, His Memory” (1944), and “The Book of Sand” (1975) (all at BB), plus the hypertext version of the last story assembled by Maximus Clarke
Your first message should be posted to the electronic discussion board by class time today.

(Weeks 2)
M 9/1: Labor Day.  Begin reading Moulthrop's Victory Garden on your own.

W 9/3: Hypertext and Interactive Reading
Robert Kendall, “Writing for the New Millenium: The Birth of Electronic Literature”
J. Yellowlees Douglas, “What Hypertexts Can Do That Print Narratives Cannot (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader—click here to get it if you don’t have it.)

F 9/5: Stuart Moulthrop, Victory Garden

(Week 3)
M 9/8: Meet in Anderson 019 and begin learning how to write in Storyspace.  Continue reading Victory Garden.

W 9/10 and F 9/12: Victory Garden.

for 9/10:  Jean Baudrillard, from "Simulacra and Simulation" (1981) and NY Times article: "Reality TV Goes to War"

for 9/12: Wall Street Journal article on the U.S. Army's use of the Internet  and website for U. S. Army recruiting game: "America's Army"

(Week 4)
M 9/15: Meet in Anderson 019.  Work on response essay to Victory Garden.

W 9/17 and F 9/19:  Shelly Jackson, Patchwork Girl

Part Two: Reading the Posthuman and Writing Hypertext

(Week 5)
M 9/22:  Meet in
Anderson 019.  Work on Victory Garden projects.

W 9/24: Patchwork Girl

Jackson, “Stitch Bitch: the patchwork girl”
Jackson's homepage: "Ineradicable Stain"


F 9/26: Patchwork Girl

Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”


(Week 6)
M 9/29:  Meet in Anderson 019.  Begin reading Gibson's Burning Chrome.

Response essay on Victory Garden (written in Storyspace) due today.

W 10/1:  Gibson's Burning Chrome.

F 10/3: Gibson's Burning Chrome.
Gareth Branwyn's "The Radio Days of Cyberspace."

Beyond Cyberpunk Index
Po-Mo Sci Fi

(Week 7)
M 10/6:  Meet in Anderson 019.
Lance Olsen, "Virtual Termites: A Hypotextual Technomutant Explo(it)ration of William Gibson and the Electronic Beyond(s). Style 29.2 (1995): 287.  Access by searching phrase "virtual termites" in EBSCOHost database.
N. Katherine Hayles, "Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers"
Sample Bruce Sterling's The Hacker Crackdown.
Listen to NPR segment on information markets; read article on Information Markets by Robin Hanson.

W 10/8 and F 10/10: Film: Blade Runner: The Director's Cut

(Week 8)
M 10/13:  Fall Break

W 10/15: Cory Doctorow, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

F 10/17: Doctorow, Down and Out.
Umberto Eco, "Travels in Hyperreality" (1975) (BB)
Sample the essays on Disney at "Transparency Now"
Doctorow's Blog,

Part Three: The State of the Arts

(Week 9)
M 10/20:  Meet in Anderson 019.  Training in web page design and creation (HTML and WYSIWYG editors).
Yale Web Style Guide: second edition
Beginner’s Guide to HTML (NCSA)


W 10/22:  A Bit More Theory/Criticism
Espen Aarseth, “Chapter 1: Ergodic Literature,” from Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature
Nick Montfort, "Cybertext Killed the Hypertext Star."  (review of Aarseth's book) Electronic Book Review 11
Stephanie Strickland’s “Reader’s Guide” to E-lit genres
Optional: Markuu Eskelinen, Cybertext Theory and Literary Studies, A User’s Manual” Electronic Book Review 12

F 10/24:  Class canceled for EAPSU conference.  Be reading Califia on your own.

(Week 10)
M 10/27:  Meet in Anderson 019.  Continue training in webpage creation.

W 10/29:  Coverley, Califia

F 10/31:  Coverley, Califia.
Plus the following:
      Coverley, Califia—Historical Notes”
      Jaishree Odin, “Unraveling the Tapestry of Califia: A Journey to Re-member History” (EBR 12)
      Carolyn Guertin, “Anamnesis and Amnesia: The Cyberfeminist Archive in M.D. Coverley's Califia

(Week 11)
M 11/3:  Meet in Anderson 019.
New Media Poetry and Other Multimedia Forms on the WWW
Reading: Michael Joyce, "New Readers for New Stories" from Othermindedness: The Emergence of Network Culture (2000) (BB or on reserve)
We'll look together at a couple of sites and then I'll turn you loose to find your own favorite examples of literature on the WWW.

A couple of resources:
Electronic Literature Organization Directory
Literature Unbound
Deena Larsen's Addicts Attic
Poems that Go
New River
Plus, see the webliography of online sources I provide.

W 11/5:  Discussion of selected web lit (texts TBA)

F 11/7:  Discussion of selected web lit (texts TBA)

(Week 12)
M 11/10:  Meet in Anderson 019 to discuss and begin brainstorming on final hypermedia projects.  Webpage on some aspect of cyberpunk or the posthuman due at beginning of class.

W 11/12 and F 11/14:  Presentations of chosen sites.

(Week 13)
M 11/17:  Meet in Anderson 019.  Prospectuses for final project due at end of class.

W 11/19 and F 11/21:  No class.  Time to work on final projects.

(Week 14)
M 11/24:  Meet in Anderson 019.  Work on final projects.

W 11/26 and F 11/28:  Thanksgiving break.

(Week 15)
M 12/1 through M 12/8: Work on final projects.  Draft of project due on 12/3 at beginning of class.  Final version due 12/12.

Final Exam:  TBA