English 25 (2021 Spring)

English 25: Literature and the Information, Media, and Communication Revolutions

Quarter: Spring 2021
Class Meeting Time: MWF, 1:00-1:50pm (Pacific time)
Location: Lectures given synchronously at this Zoom URL (passcode required after March 29) (Lectures will also be recorded)
InstructorAlan Liu | Office Hours:  Wed. 2-3 pm (Office hours Zoom)

How have language, reading, and literature responded to revolutions in media, communication, and information technology? This course introduces the history and theory of the major changes in human discourse that have led up to our current information age. Readings in literary and artistic works exemplify the creative artist’s response to these changes.

Logo from original UCSB English Dept's Transcriptions Center -- Literature & Culture of Information site, c. 1998

Logo from original UCSB English Dept’s Transcriptions Center — Literature & Culture of Information site, c. 1998. (Current Transcriptions site)


Highlights of the Course
(see Schedule & Assignments for more information)

Course content units:

  • Literature Across Media Ages
  • The Communication/Information Age — Information’s impact on what we mean by “meaning”
  • The Postindustrial & Neoliberal Age — Information’s impact on work and power
  • Processing Literature — Information’s impact on the way we study literature

Key readings:

  • Novelists: Thomas Pynchon (The Crying of Lot 49), William Gibson (Neuromancer)
  • Media theorists: Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong, N. Katherine, Lev Manovitch, etc.
  • Historians and theorists of communication/computing: Claude Shannon, Warren Weaver, Vannevar Bush, etc.
  • Business historians & theorists on the information age: Joseph Schumpeter, Shoshana Zuboff, Peter Senge, Manuel Castells, etc.
  • Critics, cyberlibertarians, and hackers of the information age: John Perry Barlow, Critical Art Ensemble, Donna Haraway, Jodi, etc.
  • Theorists and practitioners of the new “digital humanities”: Franco Moretti, The Stanford Literary lab, Ted Underwood, etc.
  • Theorists of digital “deformance” and “glitch”: Lisa Samuels, Jerome McGann, Mark Sample, Rosa Menkman, etc.

Key assignments:

  • Short essay in which you imagine what computing will be like in the year 2050.
  • Short essay on Thomas Pynchon’s novel.
  • Short essay on Being Human in the Digital Age
  • Optional: Spreadsheet & Short Essay: spreadsheet comparing work life of a student and your imagined life in your desired future career, accompanied by short essay on “Being Human in the Age of Information Knowledge Work”
  • Optional: Text-analysis exercise on a work of literature accompanied by short commentary.

Exams: (mostly “factual” in nature)

  • Mid-term exam
  • Final exam