Assignments

Participation (30%)

Since this course is a seminar, general attentiveness and active contribution to discussion will be particularly important, and more than two unexcused absences will significantly and adversely affect your final grade.  Please read the assigned material before class and come prepared with questions and issues you would like to address (at times I will give you more specific instructions for this).

–!> There are two concrete assignments for class participation:  a week-long log of your information consumption and blog posting.

Log of information consumption (Week 3)

In the spirit of the UCSD studies of information consumption (we will discuss), I would like you to keep a rough log of the same for one week, beginning September 17. The mode of documentation and reporting is up to you. Results will be presented and discussed in class when the experiment is over. This is the week in which we generate our own quantitative data about our reading practices.

Blog posts

As part of your participation grade, a small number of blog posts will be required throughout the term. Apart from posting your close reading of House of Leaves and your reflections on machine-assisted reading (see assignments below), you will be asked to do the following:

(1) Contribute one post of substance about the course reading or lectures. “Of substance” means that you will be writing more than one-two sentences. You might also find an article or cultural object (art, film, novel) that would be of interest to the class and post about that, including external links. Again, you would need to do more than provide a link; your blog post should contextualize your find and relate it to the class.

(2) Contribute one post of substance on the specific topic of present and future forms of literary reading. The rhetorical model will be the entries in I Read Where I Am, so the deadline will be November 13, the day we discuss this text. The topic of “futures” is grandiose so your comments can and perhaps should be speculative, if not visionary, if you take this approach. You may want to be less speculative, however, and comment on present habits, an experimental print text, or one of the works of electronic literature on our syllabus.

Position paper (25%)
Questions and topics for the midterm papers will be assigned. Papers will be 4-5 pages in length. Papers are due Thursday, November 8, in class. Hard copies only.

Close reading assignment for House of Leaves (15%)

“Close reading” means you should give an explication, exegesis, or exposition of a part of the text as a way of gesturing toward a reading of the whole.  The easiest way to achieve this narrow telescopic focus is to pick a passage, or a set of passages, and tell the reader what you see; what the passage, word, or phrase means on its own; and what it means in the context of the overall narrative.  From this close reading or exegesis, you will generate the thesis of your short paper.

–!> 500 words minimum; due in hard copy and also posted on this blog.
–!> Ideally you would post before the class discussion of the novel ends but you should finish this assignment by October 18 at the latest.

Final project: Machine reading (30%)

For your final projects, you will use one of a set of tools (e.g. Many Eyes, TAPoR, PieSpy) to perform a computer- or machine-assisted reading of either Henry James, In the Cage or Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener, both of which you can download from Project Gutenberg. For more information about the tools available for this assignment, see Alan Liu’s Toy Chest. More details available on the machine-assisted reading page of our course website.

Final projects due in hard copy December 20. At the same time you should post on this blog a short reflective statement about the utility and value of machine-assisted reading for humanities scholarship. What in your view are the possibilities and limitations of using a text-analysis or visualization tool in your coursework?

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