Course Description

ENG 843.3
Topics in Genres and Contexts: Digital Literature and New Media

In this course we will examine the ways in which digital writing and media have altered aspects of how we access, distribute, analyze, conceptualize, and define literature. New media have changed what it means to read and write, to consume and produce, and thus offer us new challenges in studying digital texts as well as printed ones.

In particular, we will look at the ways in which digital media offer us new perspectives on what “counts” as literature and how we contextualize this new form of writing within the expectations and aesthetics of English Literature scholarship. Does Halo have a narrative, for example? Can we even call it literature? In this course we will study “literary” digital texts such as those included in Hayles’ collection Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (Notre Dame UP) and digital poetry self-published on the Internet by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, as well as computer games and possibly other multimedia texts such as Anime Music Videos (AMVs) and award-winning YouTube videos.

Texts to purchase:

Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame UP, 2008.

Jones, Steven E. The Meaning of Video Games: Gaming and Textual Strategies. Routledge, 2008.

Some options for games readings:

The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo, 1986–), Myst (Cyan/Broderbund, 1993), World of Warcraft (1994–), Tomb Raider (Eidos Interactive, 1996), EverQuest (Sony 1999), Deus Ex (Eidos Interactive, 2000), Grand Theft Auto 3 or 4 (Rockstar Games 2001, 2008), Half Life 2 (Valve, 2004), Halo 2 or 3 (Bungie Studios, 2004, 2007), Second Life (Linden Lab, 2003), Lost: Via Domus (Ubisoft, 2008)


Four 1–2 page working papers submitted to the class blog (everyone is required to subscribe to the blog)
2 before the break and 2 any time before March 16
5% each = 20%

Two brief critical presentations (may be on the same topic as a working paper but must significantly expand upon the initial ideas)
1 before the break and 1 after
10% and 15% = 35%

Research paper / major presentation (20 minutes)
handed in for photocopying and distribution to class members 10 days prior to presentation (either March 30 or April 6)

Final Exam 25%


January 5: Introductions

January 12: From Hypertext → Electronic Literature

  • George P. Landow, “Hypertext and Critical Theory” (1–34), Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology (Johns Hopkins UP, 1992)
  • N. Katherine Hayles, “Electronic Literature: What is It?” (1–42), Electronic Literature
  • Richard Holeton, “Frequently Asked Questions about “Hypertext’” (Electronic Literature CD)

January 19: Electonic Literature and Narrative 1

  • David Herman, “Introduction” (3–21), The Cambridge Companion to Narrative, ed. David Herman (Cambridge UP, 2007)
  • Marie Laure Ryan, “Toward a Definition of Narrative” (22–35), The Cambridge Companion
  • George P. Landow, “Reconfiguring Narrative” (101–19), Hypertext
  • Janet H. Murray, “Introduction: A Book Lover Longs for Cyberdrama” (1–10), “Lord Burleigh’s Kiss” (13–26), “Harbingers of the Holodeck” (27–64), “The Cyberbard and the Multiform Plot” (185–213), Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (Free Press, 1997)

January 26: Electronic Literature and Narrative 2

February 2: Linearity / Nonlinearity 1

  • Jay David Bolter, “The New Dialogue” (107–19) and “Interactive Fiction” (121–46), Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991)
  • Judd Morrissey, with contributions from Lori Talley, “The Jew’s Daughter” (Electronic Literature CD)
  • Patrick-Henri Burgaud, “Jean-Pierre Balpeou les Lettres Dérangées” (Electronic Literature CD)

February 9: Linearity / Nonlinearity 2

February 16: Mid-term Break

February 23: Critical Approaches to Computer Games

  • John Kiriemuir, “A History of Digital Games” (21–35), Understanding Digital Games, ed. Jason Rutter and Jo Bryce (Sage, 2006)
  • Julian Kücklich, “Literary Theory and Digital Games (95–111), Understanding Digital Games
  • Geoffrey Rockwell, “Gore Galore: Literary Theory and Computer Games,” Computers and the Humanities 36.3 (August 2002): 345–358
  • Steven Jones, “Introduction” and “The Game of Lost” (1–46), The Meaning of Video Games
  • Garry Crawford and Jason Rutter, “Digital Games and Cultural Studies” (148–65), Understanding Digital Games
  • Ian Bogost, “The Rhetoric of Video Games” (117–140), The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, ed. Katie Salen (MIT Press, 2008)

March 2: Games as Narrative

March 9: Games as Narrative 2

March 16: Social Texts

  • Steven E. Jones, “The Halo Universe” (68–96), The Meaning of Video Games
  • Greg Lastowka, “Planes of Power: EverQuest as Text, Game and Community,” Game Studies 9.1 (April 2009)
  • Martin Hand and Karenza Moore, “Community, Identity, and Digital Games” (166–82), Understanding Digital Games
  • Steven E. Jones, “Second Life, Video Games, and the Social Text,” PMLA 124.1 (2009): 264–72

March 23: Games and Gender

  • Gitte Jantzen and Jans F. Jensen, “Powerplay - Power, Violence and Gender in Video Games,” AI & Society 7.4 (December 1993): 368–85
  • Anne-Marie Schleiner, “Does Lara Croft Wear Fake Polygons? Gender and Gender-Role Subversion in Computer Adventure Games,” Leonardo 34.3 (2001): 221–226
  • Maja Mikula, “Gender and Videogames: the political valency of Lara Croft,” in Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 17.1 (2003)
  • Jo Bryce, Jason Rutter and Cath Sullivan, “Digital Games and Gender” (185–204), Understanding Digital Games
  • Helen Kennedy, “Gender, Technicity and Computer Games,” HUMlab

March 30: Group discussion of major essays 1

April 6: Group discussion of major essays 2