Lit 400: Literature Seminar

Reading Cyber-Literature and Culture, from Print to the WWW

Or, Explorations in New Media Literacy

Spring 2006
Main 316 and Anderson 017
TR 2-3:15

Dr. Robert Fletcher
Main 541

Hours: TThF 11-12, Th 4:30-6:30, 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 topic of literary representations, and 2) begun to change the very media and forms of "literature."  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 a hypertext fiction about the life of a female monster

        explore the web looking for poetry

        perhaps play a game or a simulation

        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 these media have raised.  I hope you will leave the course with a greater appreciation for how technology is changing the ways in which 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)--abbreviated as BC on reading schedule
  • Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl (Eastgate Systems, 1995, CD for PC or Mac)— ordered for the bookstore late
  • 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 (abbreviated on schedule as Bb)
  • NOTE: You must have consistent and reliable access to a PC (or Mac) that is able to run the NMR CD and Patchwork Girl, and you will need storage media (hard drive, floppies, CDs, flashdrive) for the texts you create for this class (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

        Consistent close reading of all required course materials, as demonstrated through classroom participation and/or quizzes  15%

        Weekly contributions to online collaborative journal (discussion board) 10%

        Leading class discussion on e-lit text of your choice 5%

        Hypermedia translation of print literary text 20%

        Hypertext/website on some aspect of the cyberpunk/posthuman theme 20%

        Final multimedia/hypertext project (creative/critical in nature, two drafts or versions)  20% (or, if no final exam is given, 30%)

        At instructor’s discretion: final examination (which will ask you to think about and respond to issues raised throughout the term) (10%, if given)


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, 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: You are permitted two absences 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 two cuts, your final grade in the course will be lowered a third of a grade (e.g. from B to B-) for each cut.