English Studies in the Digital Age


M/TH 12:15-1:40

Location: SJH 111A

Instructor: Dr. Jennifer Travis

Department of English

Office: St. John’s Hall, B40-1

Email: Please be in touch via email rather than office phone. I strive to return emails within 24 hours.

Skype: jtprofessor

Google hangout:

Office Hours: M/TH 10:45-12:10

Student Hours: Mondays and Thursdays 10:45-12, and by appt. Please note: I am always happy to meet with you in my office. If the above times do not work for you, I will try to coordinate with your schedule. I am on campus Mondays and Thursdays. I encourage you to stop by during my office hours to chat about your work and interests. I am also available via Skype or Google Hangouts. Just let me know you would like to meet virtually and we will arrange a date and time.

Course Format: This course will be conducted as a seminar. Class time will be spent primarily in dialogue and discussion rather than lecture. Everyone should come to class prepared and ready to participate.

Grades will be based on a weekly assignments posted to your blog, class participation,  a midterm reflection paper, and a final project and presentation.

*Always come to class on time. If you are routinely more than 5 minutes late I will counts it as an absence (one or two emergency late arrivals will be tolerated).

*Always come to class with your computer/technology and reading materials and assignments in hand.

*Always come with plans to participate.

*Always keep up with the readings even if class discussion has fallen behind.

*Always treat each other with social and intellectual respect.

Required Books (ebook or used are fine):

All books are available online or at most bookstores, including the St. John’s Bookstore:

Dave Eggers, The Circle

Other texts will be posted as links on our website.



Final project: 40%

Weekly Blog Posts: 30%

Midterm Reflection: 10%

Participation: 20% (includes sparking class discussion, attendance, and presentations)

Students will be asked to share their daily creates with the class. Students will sign up for a specific spark date listed on the syllabus.

Weekly Creates must be complete by 12 pm on the date due, unless otherwise specified. Late assignments will be marked down accordingly.

Academic Integrity: Please refer to the university honor code policy: Copying another person’s words or ideas without crediting him or her constitutes plagiarism. It doesn’t matter what the source: an article, a website, class notes, etc. Plagiarism is serious matter and is grounds for failure of the course and even possibly expulsion from the University. It is important to learn how to document online sources accurately, especially when we will be doing multimodal work (including images, videos, audio, etc.).

Please refer to this guide for more information about using materials from the Internet:



WEEK ONE: Introduction

1/18:   Tim Urban on “The Best Writing Advice for the Digital Age”

4Humanities Manifesto

Introduction to WordPress


WEEK TWO: Digital Literacies

1/22:   Digital Literacies…Is Google Making Us Stupid?


The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

Nichole Pinkard on Digital Literacies


Blog:  Send me the URL for your blog.  Please be sure to make it public for the semester (otherwise I can’t read it).


  1. Nicole

2. Makhye


1/25: The Remix/Mashup

Kenneth Goldsmith Uncreative Writing Excerpt (handout)


Goldsmith, Interview and Reading: Assume No Readership

Goldsmith Reading of Uncreative Writing

Goldsmith appearance on Colbert Report


“Author, 17, Says its Mixing not Plagarism”

“When the Remix is Just Plain Ole Plagarism”

Blog: Blog about an example of remix culture that you might want to share with the class and write about how it relates to what you have read or viewed for this week.


  1. Jean




1/29: Copyright:  Creative Commons with Kathryn Shaugnessy, Libraries


Lawrence Lessig on Colbert Report

Lessig/Colbert Remix

“A Fairy Use Tale (not a Disney movie)”


 Jonathan Lethem, “The Ecstasy of Influence”

Blog:  Write about an idea, question, or problem raised in the Lethem article or any of the videos.  Be prepared to share!


2/1:  The Selfie


Why We Take Selfies (through Foucault)


James Franco, “The Meanings of the Selfie”

Jill Walker Rettberg, Seeing Ourselves Through Technology

Anything on this list


Choose 3 selfies of yourself and analyze them for your construction of intersecting and overlapping identity characteristics.

Look at all elements of the way you present yourself
—Clothing, pose, facial expression

But also the elements of the framing of the picture:
—Background, lighting, proximity, angle of the camera.

And last any other elements in the picture:
—People, animals, objects…

Some questions for reflection as you prepare your response.

What in your selfies is accurate?
What is obscured or ambiguous?
Does the image portray one identity trait more than others?
Where do the images place you in the spectrum of possibilities for each characteristic trait — for example, more or less feminine or masculine.
How might different audiences perceive the images differently?
How is the viewer addressed in the image?
How do your selfies play off other well-known images? How do they play off each other?
What is the apparent context of this image? How does that affect how it might be read?

How does your reading of your selfies compare or relate to some of our readings for this week?


  1. Erika

2. Amanda


WEEK FOUR:  On Newspeak and Bullshit



Calling Bullshit

Calling Bullshit: How Fake News Spreads


“Before Fake News Came False Prophesy”

How to Spot Fake News

“The Agency” New York Times Magazine

Blog:  Try this Exercise


  1. Nicolas K.

2. Iris


2/8:   Selection from 1984:  Privacy/Surveillance


Hasan Elahi, FBI Here I Am/TED


Chapter 1, George Orwell’s 1984

Chapter 2, Orwell’s 1984

“The End of Privacy” New York Times

“Your Cellphone is Spying on You”

Blog:  Respond to reading and/or viewing.  What was interesting to you and why?  Questions, observations, comments…be ready to share!


  1.  Rumman

2. Brianna S.


WEEK FIVE:  Digital Activism and Trolls

2/12:  Activism


Intro to Digital Activism, Mary Joyce


Laura Kipnis on #MeToo


Why Social Media Matters to Protestors, The Atlantic

Unconditionally Accepted











These words with #’s in front of them aren’t just collating social media content around specific interests; these conversations and their participants come to think of these more like an event or social movement. In many cases the hashtag becomes a platform for voices that otherwise might not be heard.

Something new seems to be happening around how users leverage different social media platforms to do something that matters.   (Adapted from DGST101)

Write about an example of digital activism.  Think critically about its impact and possible future.


1.Nicholas C.

2. Scott


2/15:  Trolls


Why People Troll

Why Women Get Attacked by Trolls: A New Study

Why I am Masquerading as a White Bearded Hipster Guy on Twitter


Experiences, thoughts about reading, ideas, questions, and concerns about trolling? Blog about them…


  1.  Zak

2.  Erin



Spring Break


WEEK SEVEN: Digital Editions/Archives/Tools

2/28 (WED):  Digital Editions/digital archives—using digital editions for field based research


Blake Archive
British Booktrade Index
British Fiction 1800-1829: A Database of Production, Circulation and Reception
British Library Full Text Treasures
British Library Turning the Pages Project
British Women Romantic Poets Project, UC Davis
Bronte, Charlotte Juvenilia, Houghton Library, Harvard
Collex, NINES
Crime Broadsides Project, Harvard Law School Library
David Rumsey Map Collection
Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustrations
Cather Archive
Digital Collections, Library of Congress
 Emblem Project Utrecht
    Google Books
 Global Poetry System
Emily Dickinson Archive
MITH’s Vintage Computers Archive
Whitman Archive
Charles Chesnutt Archive
NYPL Digital Gallery
Nineteenth Century Disability
Reading Experience Database
Science in the 19th-Century Periodical
Vault at Pfaffs-Bohemians of NYC
Transcribe Bentham
Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe
Turning the Pages, British Library


Choose a digital edition or archive that interests you and consider at least three of the following questions to write about:

  • What contribution does it make to scholarship?
  • What is being done with this project that could not be done in print-based scholarship?
  • Is the purpose of the site/project/archive clearly articulated?
  • Is the site easy to navigate?
  • How can you use it for your research?
  • Is it aesthetically pleasing? Is it searchable? Static?
  • Who are the authors/contributors? What are their roles?
  • Is it a collaborative project?
  • Who is the primary audience?
  • What are the strengths? What are the weaknesses?


  1. Pricilla



3/1:  Digital Tools for Literary Study


Explore the tools on our website and choose one to demo and write about.

Blog:  What tool did you choose and why?  How did it work; what applications does it have?


  1.  Summer

2. Garpue





Dave Eggers, The Circle


Pick a scene, character description, or moment to discuss in depth.  Be prepared to share!


  1. Bria

2.  Nicole E.


3/8:  The Circle


Eggers, The Circle


Midterm Reflection:

Write an essay/blog post that both looks back at what you have learned in prior weeks and ahead on the syllabus to what may spark your interest. This should be a thought piece that engages what you have already learned and what you’re curious about: posit a question (or questions),  and think about an issue that you would like to respond to in a final project. How might you explore these questions and perhaps even answer them? What more do you need to know? How can you obtain the resources and assistance that you need to proceed?  What kind of research might you do? What other projects may be similar and inspire you to think more?


  1. Hampton



WEEK NINE: Social Media



Finish, The Circle


Many of the technologies the author invents in The Circle seem futuristic, but they are not so far from realities that exist now: myriad social media sites are obviously omnipresent, but the government is also developing facial recognition to screen for terrorists and Google Glass seems not so unlike the camera necklace that allows for Mae’s transparency. After finishing the novel, did you find this overlap between fact and fiction unsettling? Does it affect how you personally engage with technology or think about that engagement?





3/15:  Social Media


Lisa Nakamura on Social Media


Handouts from Cupcakes, Pinterest and Ladyporn


Respond to any of the ideas, concerns, or insights in the reading and viewing for this week.


  1. Megan



WEEK TEN: The UnEssay and Pecha Kucha

3/19: In Class Project Development and discussion/selection of crowdsourced materials


Pecha Kucha on Pecha Kucha


Review UnEssay assignment (on the main menu) in preparation for discussion


Multimodal handouts

3/22:  NO CLASS (I’m at a conference)

Please work on your project proposals and begin viewing/reading crowdsourced materials (posted in Week Fourteen)



3/26:  Workshop

In class discussion of abstracts/ project pitch for UnEssays

Blog:  Write an abstract/project pitch for your UnEssay.  Include an annotated bibliography of 5 sources.

3/29:  Easter Break


4/5:  Electronic Literature


Alan Bigelow, “How to Rob a Bank”

Stephanie Strickland, “Born Digital”

Jessica Pressman, “Navigating Electronic Literature”

Recommended (for finding other examples):

Electronic Literature Organization

Electronic Literature and Its Emerging Forms (Exhibit)

Electronic Book Review


Blog:  Questions, insights, observations, finds of your own to share?



  1. Eboney




4/9:  Digital media presentation/Branding Yourself


4/12:  Twitterature (Online Class)


Astro Poets

Astro Poets Essay

So Sad Today

Twitterature (sample)

Do:   Follow a Twitter writer/poet this week.

Blog: Who are you following? What observations can you make about their work and how Twitter’s parameters influence their art?



4/16:  Crowdsourced Materials

Is Texting Bad for the English Language?

Video-David Crystal (Linguist) on Texting

Crystal, Language and the Internet (book)

The Dark Web

Visual Capitalist: The Dark Web

What is the Dark Net?

Webcomics: The Influence and Continuation of the Comix Revolution

The Science of Webcomics (The Guardian):

And now some links to webcomics themselves!

Lost Nightmare:


Saint for Rent:

(This one I think is especially interesting for our class given its unique use of gifs. I think this and the next link tie in with interactive e-literature very well!)

And of course, the webcomic that changed the Internet forever, Homestuck:

Dark Patterns:


4/19:  Crowdsourced Materials

Fan Fiction

Fandom in the Classroom

Online Fan Fiction, Global Identities, and Imagination

The Subversive Practices of Fan Fiction

Fan Fiction Online

Undergrad Honor’s Thesis on Fandom


On Fake Instagram


How Technology is Shaping the Future of Education

Article from Business Insider


4/23:  Presentations—Pecha Kucha

4/26:  Presentations–Pecha Kucha



4/30:  Final Class/Presentations–Pecha Kucha


Final projects due May 4th (Friday).  Email me with link.






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