Lit 400: Literature Seminar

Reading Cyberliterature, from Print to the WWW,

(Or, Explorations in New Media Literacy)

Fall 2004
Main 213 and Anderson 017
M 7:15-9:55

Dr. Robert Fletcher
Main 541

Hours: MW 1:30-3, W 5:30-7:30, and by appointment

Onward to the Course Schedule

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 will

read fiction about cyberspace,

view a film about androids,

navigate hypertexts fictions about the 1st Persian Gulf War and the life of a female monster,

explore the web looking for poetry,

play some games,

perhaps visit a virtual world,

try our hands at composing critical/creative cybertexts. 

Along the way, we will study the historical development of new media and a number of the social and theoretical issues it has raised.  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.


Course Goals

Enhance students’ skills in reading literature and working with computers;

Refine students’ writing skills through workshops on hypertext/hypermedia composition and by facilitating the writing process through opportunities for feedback and revision;

Develop students’ critical thinking skills by building on the theories of reader response covered in LIT 168 and by introducing them to theories and histories of cybertextuality;

Introduce students to significant literary and cultural developments of the last twenty years and relate them to older traditions of print culture.

Course Materials

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---not ordered for the bookstore!

William Gibson, Burning Chrome (Ace Books, 1986)

Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl (Eastgate Systems, 1995, CD for PC or Mac)

Stuart Moulthrop, Victory Garden (Eastgate Systems, 1991, CD for PC or Mac)

Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, eds., The New Media Reader (MIT Press, 2003, Textbook and CD); Abbreviated on reading schedule as NMR and NMR CD

Plus other readings either in the form of websites, handouts, or documents at Blackboard (BB)

NOTE: You should purchase several floppies or CDs and devote them to this class exclusively (WARNING: Save your work often during the process of creating it and make multiple copies!  Computer/disk failure will not be accepted as an excuse for failure to turn in an assignment.)

Course Requirements

Close and consistent study of all required course materials, as demonstrated through classroom participation  15%

Weekly contributions to online collaborative journal (discussion board) 15%

Reader-response essay on Victory Garden, written in "Storyspace"  20%

Hypertext/website on some aspect of the cyberpunk/posthuman theme (“Patchwork Girl, Burning Chrome, “Blade Runner,” or Down and Out20%

Final multimedia/hypertext project (creative/critical in nature, two drafts or versions)  30%


We at West Chester University wish to make accommodations for persons with disabilities.  Please make your needs known by contacting me and/or the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities at ext. 3217.  Sufficient notice is needed in order to make the accommodations possible.  The University desires to comply with the ADA of 1990.

In West Chester University’s Mission Statement says, in part, “We appreciate the diversity the members of our community bring to the campus and give fair and equitable treatment to all; acts of insensitivity or discrimination against individuals based on their race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, abilities, or religious beliefs will not be tolerated.”   Based on West Chester University’s commitment to diversity, I believe that everyone in my classroom should feel safe.  I have completed the University’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Ally training.  In becoming an ally I made the commitment to offer a safe space for all of my students, not just those who identify as LGBT.  If you or someone you know would like to know more about this program, or needs to speak confidentially about issues of sexual orientation or gender identity, please feel free to see me during my office hours.

Late Assignments: Papers or other assignments submitted late will have 1/3 of a grade deducted for each day (not class period) that passes after the due date. I will not accept any assignment more than 1 week late.

Plagiarism: "Plagiarism is using another's words or ideas without appropriate acknowledgement" (MLA Style Manual 4). In formal essays, "acknowledgement" means using conventions of citation such as the quotation marks and parenthetical note in the previous sentence. Even if you paraphrase someone's words, you must provide a note showing your debt. NOTE: If you plagiarize or use commercial study aids (e.g. Cliff's Notes), in your formal essays, you will receive an irrevocable "F" grade.

Attendance: A class that studies reader response, as ours will, has to have some healthy discussion of actual responses to readings, and so attendance will be part of your participation grade. You are permitted one absence during the semester, excluding those for major medical problems, which will be handled on an individual basis. If you miss too much of the semester--even with a legitimate medical excuse--I may have to ask you to withdraw. After one cut, your final grade in the course will be lowered a third of a grade (e.g. from C to C-) for each cut.