Narrative and Digital Media

Course Description
Work Required
Grades
Attendance
Books
Class Schedule

ENG495.D, Section A
Professor Laura Mandell

529-5276; 370 BAC

mandellc@muohio.edu

Spring 2006

(H) (before 9 p.m.) 765-647-2096

MWF 1:00-1:50 p.m.,
136 Art

Office Hours:
Mandell TR 9:00-12:00 and by apptmt.

Syllabus Available Online: go to http://www.muohio.edu/englishtech
and click on our class.

 

Course Description

In this course, we set out to study what Espen Aarseth has called “the variable expression of the nonlinear text” in graphic novels, hypertexts, code poetry, and digital games, contrasting it to conventional print texts that are at first sight almost as destabilized in narrative structure: postmodern stories and novels by Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, and Paul Auster.  Relying on theories of narrative produced by French structuralists such as A. J. Greimas and Gérard Genette, as well as work by the primary theorist of digital narrative, Marie-Laure Ryan, we will review one of the first-generation hypertexts by Shelley Jackson, and then read Stuart Moulthrop’s The Color of Television and the epic code poem Stephanie Strickland’s V:WaveSon.nets.  In one unit, I will ask students to mark-up a narrative using XML, the markup language of the future that forces one, as its proponents insist, to come up with the “grammar” of any textual form, thereby transforming content into “smart data” or data that knows itself.  In performing this markup task, students will have to ask, what is “the grammar” of narrative, the rules and laws governing its production, and what do narratives know about themselves?  In another unit, we will look at what Lev Manovich has called the “metarealism” that he claims structure digital games (we’ll analyze Myst as well as -- I hope -- a game now under development by a faculty member), involving “periodic shifts between illusion and its suspension”: no longer a matter of identifying with a novelistic hero, “the user invests in the illusion precisely because she is given control over it.”  Throughout the semester, we’ll think about the effects of digital interactivity and code language on narrative structure and meaning.  By the end of it, you should be able to read a range of new media arts, from video games to graphic novels to avant-garde poetry, and to judge which among them will become part of the future canon of great literary works.

Required Work

You will contribute to the class Wiki:

  1. Go to: http://www.units.muohio.edu/composition/index.html
  2. Log in twice, using your Netware uersid and password (the same thing you use to get into the library catalogues, etc.
  3. You will come to Miami University’s Composition WIKI.  Here you should go to the Literature Annex: click on “Literature Annex” under “MENU.”
  4. Click on your course number: ENG495.D Section A

Contribute by taking notes everytime you read or explore a digital artifact. You may upload any kinds of material you wish (that is respectful of others, of course). Be concerned primarily to define terms and describe the meaning of concepts that you will use in writing your final project. In your postings, think about what makes the cool site or object you found "art" (or not), what makes it cool (if it is), and why. Post the URLs for any digital objects you discuss. Comment on and revise the entries of your peers, working together to build up a kind of class glossary or dialect according to which we can discuss works together.

You will also explore new digital Media:

Find something on your own that we haven't seen to present to the whole class. Show me: what's cool? What game, Web site, or new media art? (If film, it has to be digital or involve a large digital component). After presenting the work to me and to the rest of your class, you will write an essay about it (either with links or screen-captures) answering the following questions, quoting and citing the theories we read throughout the semester:

  1. Analyze the narrative structure of the new media artifact you chose to work with, going describing it in concrete detail using the narrative terms we developed throughout the semester on the class Wiki. Don't presume that you are writing to people who know those terms. Reiterate and/or quote the definitions on the Wiki as a way of introducing each term you use.
  2. What features of your digital artifact make it literary, and why?
  3. Is it good literature, and, if so, why exactly? what specific features make it good? (Define how you are using 'good' and 'bad,' quoting or citing some the theoretical texts that we read this semester.)
  4. Is it cool, and if so, why exactly? what specific features make it cool? (Define how you are using the term 'cool,' again, relying on theory.) Is there a better term than 'cool' to describe the most captivating new media art? If so, use it and define it.
  5. Conclude your essay: what's the relationship between the literary and 'the cool,' or whatever other term you have mobilized to describe your digital object?

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Grades

Contributions to the Class Wiki

35%

Class Presentation

15%

Final Project

30%

Class Participation (if you are shy, post to the class listserv), including assignments

20%

A+ 97-100   C 73-76
A 93-96   C- 70-72
A- 90-92   D+ 67-69
B+ 87-89   D 63-66
B 83-86   D- 60-62
B- 80-82   F 0-59
C+ 77-79      

Attendance

Attendance is critical to your success in this course. Failure to come to class, and to come prepared, will not be looked upon with favor. Please do not expect me to sanction or otherwise tell you it is okay to miss class for anything other than documented illness or a real emergency. You are in college, and I expect you to make your own decisions about whether or not it is worth your while to attend a class for which you or someone else is paying tuition. Except in the case of sustained medical problems recognized as such by the university, more than three absences, even if some of them are excused, will lower your grade; after five absences, you will be asked to drop the class.

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Books

HO Packet from Oxford Copy Shop, 10 S. Poplar Street: ENG 495.D A, "Narrative and Digiital Media"

Italo Calvino, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

Paul Auster, "City of Glass," in The New York Trilogy

Paul Auster, Paul Karasik, David Mazzucchelli, City of Glass (the comic book)

Scott McLoud, Understanding Comics

Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Pat Harrigan, First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game

Stephanie Strickland, V WaveSon.nets / Losing Luna: A Wedge of Our Sky and http://www.vniverse.com

Rand and Robyn Miller, The Myst Reader

Myst III Exile (game)

Born Magazine (free -- online): http://www.bornmagazine.org/

Electronic Book Review (free -- online): http://www.electronicbookreview.com/

Blogs?? Find us blogs to read together . . . . The Blog is one digital object that it is possible to use in your final project.

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Wk Date Day Readings (have these items read by the time class meets) Assignments Due at the beginning of this Class Meeting

1

1/9

M

Introduction

 

 

1/11

W

Narrative Structure-- HO packet, pp. 1-38

post any comment on class Wiki

 

1/13

F

Narrative Structure -- HO packet, pp. 39-62

Post comment on readings on class Wiki

2

1/18

W

(no class on Monday)

Bharati Mukherjee, "The Middleman, HO packet, pp. 63-72

Assignment 1: pick out the narrative features in Mukherjee's "The Middleman" -- to be turned in.

 

1/20

F

Italo Calvino, If on a Winter's Night pp. 3-33

Dino Franco Felluga, "Diegesis," HO Packet pp. 111-112

Post on Wiki

3

1/23

M

Calvino, If (cont') pp. 34-102

Erving Goffman, "Frame Analysis," HO packet pp. 77-90

Post on Wiki

 

1/25

W

Calvino, If (cont') pp. 103-168

Marie-Laure Ryan, excerpts from Narrative as Virtual Reality, HO Packet pp. 91-98

comment on / add to / revise / delete from our class textbook, "Elements of Narrative," drafted in our Wiki

 

1/27

F

Calvino, If (cont') pp. 169-209

Frederic Jameson, from Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, HO packet pp. 99-106

Post on Wiki

4

1/30

M

Calvino, If (cont') pp. 209-260

Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author," HO packet pp. 107-110
Laura Mandell, The Original Author

Post on Wiki

 

2/1

W

Paul Auster, "City of Glass" in New York Trilogy, pp. 3-49

Intro. to Postmodern American Fiction, HO packet pp. 73-76

Post on Wiki

 

2/3

F

Class Cancelled -- Laura out of Town -- keep reading Auster

Asssignment 2: pick out a newspaper article and an episode in your life story. Code the article using our Elements of Narrative" and then do the same with your biographical short. Type it in a text file (NotePad or BBLite), and email it to Laura.

5

2/6

M

Auster, "Glass" (cont'), pp. 50-158

Jot down incidents as they occur with page numbers; bring these reading notes to class

 

2/8

W

Jean Baudrillard, "The Precession of Simulacra," HO packet pp. 113-130

Post Baudrillard's terms on the Wiki: define what he means by simulacrum

 

2/10

F

N. Katherine Hayles, "Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers," HO Packet pp. 131-144
J. Yellowlees Douglas, "Interactive Narratives," HO packet pp. 145-158
Definitions of Hypertext

In class: Laura will give an online introduction to Eastgate Hypertext; demonstration of storyspace

Post Hayles's terms on the Wiki

6

2/13

M

Espen Aarseth, "Ergodic Literature," HO packet pp. 171-182

Nick Montfort, "Cybertext Killed the Hypertext Star" in EBR online -- read all the responses to it as well

Post Aaseth's terms on the Wiki, especially "Cybertext"

 

2/15

W

Waldrip-Fruin and Harrington, eds., First Person, Hypertexts and Interactivities pp. 165-206

Your stories transformed: epic, lyric, comedy, tragedy

Post on the Wiki: what's the difference between hypertext and cybertext?

 

2/17

F

John Berger, excerpt from Ways of Seeing, HO packet pp. 159-164
Definitions of Terms to be used in Visual Analysis, HO packet pp. 165-166
Liz Wells, "Glossary," HO packet pp. 167-170

Post terms on the Wiki

7

2/21

T

(no class Monday; exchange day)

Art Spiegleman, Introduction to Auster, Karasik, Mazzuchelli
Auster, Karasik, Mazzucchelli, City of Glass Comic1-42
Understanding pp. 2-118

Post key terms in understanding narrative in comics

 

2/22

W

AKM 43-99
Understanding pp. 138-161

Post key terms in understanding narrative in comics

 

2/24

F

AKM 100-end
Understanding pp. 162-215

Post key terms in understanding narrative in comics

8

2/27

M

Stephine Strickland, V WaveSon.nets and Vniverse (http://www.vniverse.com)

Post on Wiki anything you learned in previous English classes about the sonnet

 

3/1

W

Strickland, V Losing Luna and Vniverse (http://www.vniverse.com)

Post on Wiki

 

3/3

F

Michael Joyce, "Song of Thy Selves," HO packet pp. 183-190

MOO Instructions

 

9

3/6

M

Read "Amy's Paper" in Information Highway in the Miami MOO
Create your own room

Meet on the Miami MOO, in Information Highway, instead of in class

 

 

3/8

W

Stuart Moulthrop, The Color of Television (traditional hypertext)

(Begin Rand and Robyn Miller, Myst)

Post on the Wiki: what happens in this text

 

3/10

F

Rachel's Room (make sure you look at the domain name)

on reserve, excerpt from Alan Liu, The Laws of Cool, "Historicizing the Cool" (pp. 301-307)

(Miller, Myst -- 100 pages of one tale )

Post on the Wiki (even if you don't make it to class): what does Liu mean by "cool"?

10

 

M

S P R I N G     B R E A K

 

11

3/20

M

REVISED:

Prince of Persia, The Two Thrones, Ubisoft (after putting in your birthdate, and seeing the first trailer, make sure to click on "story" in the top left.)

Wardrip-Fruin and Harrigan, First Person, Cyberdrama pp. 1-34

 

 

3/22

W

Second Life virtual world (click on "watch second life videos," then view "prepare yourself" and "second take")

First Person, Ludology pp. 35-70

Post to the Wiki by proposing a preliminary answer to Ken Perlin's question (stated in his title)

 

3/24

F

Miller, Myst -- the game will be played in class

read any 100 pages of the novel

Post to the Wiki on the story of Myst in the novel: select terms that we have defined on the Wiki to analyze a portion of the text

12

3/27

M

William Gibson, "Agrippa"

The Agrippa Files Web Site, including the essay by Matt Kirschenbaum

First Person, New Readings, pp. 302-319

Post to the Wiki

 

3/29

W

"Incunabula": works by women online artists showcased at Incubation3

First Person, The Pixel, the Line, pp. 207-236

Post to the Wiki

 

3/31

F

habbohotel.com

explore Sim City

First Person, Critical Simulation pp. 71-116

meet on habbohotel?

13

4/3

M

World of Warcraft

Guest speaker: Leanna Chetsko

First Person, Game Theories pp. 117-164

Post to the Wiki

 

4/5

W

Other games: Pat Degnan -- others?

Post to the Wiki

 

4/7

F

Deena Larsen, Shandean Ambles (from Drunken Boat, from ELO)

Explore the ELO (Electronic Literature Organization)

Post to the Wiki

14

4/10

M

Talan Memmott, Lexia to Perplexia

First Person, New Readings pp. 289-301
on reserve at the library, N. Katherine Hayles, Writing Machines: "Electronic Literature as Technotext: Lexia to Perplexia," pp. 46-63

Post to the Wiki

 

4/12

W

Nick Montfort, Ad Verbum

Post to the Wiki

 

4/14

F

Class Presentations

 

15

4/17

M

Class Presentations

 

 

4/19

W

Class Presentations

 

 

4/21

F

Class Presentations

 

16

4/24

M

Help with Final Projects

 

 

4/26

W

Course Evaluations

 

 

4/28

F

Class Party

 

FP

5/5

F

FINAL PROJECT DUE TIME OF FINAL EXAM:

DATE: Friday, May 5
TIME: 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.. -- bring your project to me by 2:30 p.m.; you are of course welcome to turn it in earlier.
PLACE: 370 BAC

 

 

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