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Literary Kinds, Emerging Genres...

Anne Dalke's picture

An evolution working from the centre outwards... offers
more space at the edges for the fully grown figures. The
central word 'Verbum' recalls the biblical story of
creation. Out of a misty grey there loom triangular
primeval figures which, by the time they reach the edges
of the hexagon, have developed into birds, fishes and
frogs, each in its own element: air, water and earth.
Each kind is pictured by day and by night, and the
creatures merge into each other as they move forward
along the outline of the hexagon, in a clockwise direction
(from M.S. Escher, The Graphic Work).


English 209, Spring 2012
Bryn Mawr College

TTH 9:45 AM—11:15 AM
Dalton Hall 10
Anne Dalke

Our Course Forum

Our Password Protected File

Notes Toward Class Discussions

Password Protected File of Readings

Our Web Events #1, 2, 3 & 4

Our Final Teach-In, In Images!

Instructions for Preparing
checklist and final portfolio

Instructions for Weekly On-Line Postings


" genre, you’re sort of buying a guarantee that you are going to have essentially the same experience again and again.  It’s a novel. It won’t be too novel. Don’t worry." (William Gibson, "Back From the Future," New York Times Magazine, August 19, 2007)

"All great works of literature either dissolve a genre or invent one .... Genre is a minimum-security prison." (David Shields, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, 2010)

In this course, we will explore together the ways new genres evolve, and ask what aesthetic, cultural and political purposes those transformations may serve. The development of literary forms has long taken as its point of departure the Darwinian theory of evolution. Our thinking will begin with our own experiences in constructing academic papers: how is this genre shifting, under the presssure of the digital revolution? Our first and ongoing set of imaginative test cases will be our own writing on the internet; each of us will be publishing on Serendip as a portion of our work for this course, with particular attention to its collective, dialogic dimensions. The second "genre" we'll look @ will be the graphic narrative, as finds its way in the digital age. For the last month of the semester, the class will select together a third (and fourth?) genre for shared examination.

Course Requirements:

Bi-weekly attendance and participation in class
10 on-line reflections on our discussions/assigned readings/related topics
Three 4-pp. web events
A final in-class reflection, 12-pp. web-event, self-evaluation and portfolio.

Reading Schedule (some texts are available in a password protected file)

I. Exploring the evolution of our own (academic) writing

Day 1 (T, Jan. 17)
Introduction: Classifying Ourselves

Michael Foucault. Preface. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of
the Human Sciences.
1966; rpt. and trans. New York: Vintage, 1973. xv-xxiv.

Day 2 (Th, Jan. 19)
Jonathan Lethem, The ecstasy of influence: a plagiarism. Harper's Magazine. February 2007.

Ed Folsom, Database as Genre: The Epic Transformation of Archives and
Peter Stallybrass, Against Thinking. PMLA Special Topic:
Remapping Genre. 122, 5 (October 2007): 1571-1588.

bring to class two copies of a recent sample of your own writing
(and, if possible, the instructions/prompt that provoked it):
what genre is it? what are its defining characteristics? what form does it follow?
in Lethem, Folsom and Stallybass's terms, how does it "think,"
"think with,"or "think against" other forms?
in what ways is it individualized, imitative, collaborative, creative?

5 p.m. Sun, Jan. 22: post on-line some reflections about writing in your discipline--
(or: if you don't have one yet, "college-level writing"):
what do you understand, from our class discussion or elsewhere,
about the conventions = genre of academic writing?
what ideas do you have about (digitally initiated?)
transformations of your own writing, or that in your discipline?

Day 3 (T, Jan. 24) Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0
Three digital senior projects:
A Moment's Ornament (Aya, Summer 2011)
Seeing Stigma (An Active Mind, Spring 2011)
Mooring Gaps: Marianne Moore's Bryn Mawr Poetry (Jen Rajchel, Spring 2010)
Two of the authors, Jen Rajchel '11 and Aya Martin-Seaver '13, will be joining us for class.

Day 4 (Th, Jan. 26) Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Networking the Field (January 10, 2012).
Introduction: Obsolesence. Planned Obsolesence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy.
New York University, 2009.

4:30 p.m., Th, Jan. 16: "Applications of Digital Cartography to
Digital Humanities," Phillips Wing, Magill Library, Haverford.

5 p.m. Sun, Jan. 29: post on-line some reflections about possible
transformations of digital writing in the humanities
, and beyond

Day 5 (T, Jan. 31) Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Chapter One: "Peer
Review" and Chapter Two: "Authorship," Planned Obsolesence.

Cassie Kosarek, Coming @ Poetry from Two Directions;
On the Argument of the Origin/On the Origin of the Argument;
The Role of Fiction in Science, on Tumblr and Facebook;
and Wanderings Pertaining to my English Thesis.
Cassie will be joining us for class.

Day 6 (Th, Feb. 2) The Breaking Project
The founder, Alice Lesnick, will be joining us for class.

8 p.m. Fri, Feb. 3: first 4-pp. web event, reflecting on
(possible/actual) "breaks" in writing. This could involve
reading an on-line site which represents a "break" in the
writing in your discipline; or examining a social networking site
as a genre (how does it work? what are its characteristics?
what possibilities does it offer for public intellectual work?)
Or you might want to focus on the "breaks" in your own writing,
in light of the generic conventions you've been taught (perhaps
you'd like to create a text for The Breaking Project ?)


Day 7 (T, Feb. 7)
Cathy Davidson and Theo Goldberg. "(In)conclusive: Thinking the Future of Digital Thinking." The Future of Thinking; Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. MIT Press, 2010. 175-199.

Day 8 (Th, Feb. 9) Judith Butler, Chapter 2: “Violence, Mourning, Politics.” Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. New York: Verso, 2004. 19-49.

Margaret Price. "Listening to the Subject of Mental Disability: Intersections of Academic and Medical Discourses." Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011. 25-57.

Margaret Price will join us in class on Thursday.

II. Exploring the evolution of graphic narratives

Day 9 (T, Feb. 14)
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. William Morrow, 1994.

Day 10 (Th, Feb. 16) Understanding Comics, continued

Day 11 (T, Feb. 21) Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood.

Day 12 (Th, Feb. 23) Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return. New York: Pantheon, 2005.

5 p.m. S, Feb. 26: post on-line a proposal for the remainder of our semester's work together. Begin with a paragraph or two of a mid-semester evaluation of how we're doing in learning together: what's working? What needs working on? What should we keep, of our shared practices? What might we change up? Turn then from questions of "form" to those of "content": make a proposal for our next imaginative test case(s). What other genre(s) would you like to explore, if the remainder of the class were an independent study? What do you recommend our exploring together? Why? What might we learn from doing so?

Day 13 (T, Feb. 28) On-line and in-class discussion about our next test case(s)

5 p.m. W, Feb. 29:
respond on-line to two of your classmates' proposals,
trying to nudge us as a group toward some consensus...

Day 14 (Th, Mar. 1) Discussion, continued....until a decision is made!

8 p.m. Fri, Mar. 2: second 4-pp. web event, exploring the evolution of graphic analysis
(or: of the genre of the
classroom? of the evolving, diverse self? of your first web event?)


Day 15 (T, Mar. 13) Persepolis (DVD), 2.4.7 Films. Dir. Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronaud. Culver City, CA: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2008 (95 minutes).

Day 16 (Th, Mar. 15) Neil Gaiman, A Game of You (The Sandman: Volume 5). 1993; rpt. Vertigo, 2011.

Day 17 (T, Mar. 20)  A Game of You, continued

Day 18 (Th, Mar. 22)
Learning and reflecting about how we read/listen to/experience/accept stories:
Listening Beyond Life and Choice: The Civil Conversations Project. August 11, 2011 (51 minutes).
Memory and Forgetting.
Radio Lab 3, 4 (59 minutes).
This American Life, 109: Notes on Camp. August 8, 1998. (58 minutes)
The Way of All Flesh, dir. Adam Curtis. BBC, 1997 (58 minutes).

III. Exploring the evolution (and relation) of realistic and speculative genres

Day 19 (T, Mar. 27)
Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Sacks. New York: Crown, 2010

Day 20 (Th, Mar. 29)
Henrietta Lacks, continued

Law and Order "Immortal," dir. Jim McKay. TV episode, 2010. 60 minutes. (Recap and review).

March 29-30, 2011. The TriCo Re: Humanities Symposium, @ Swat, with keynotes by Katherine Harris (San Jose State University), a leading advocate for undergraduate research in the digital humanities, and Alexandra Juhasz (Pitzer College), who recently published Learning From Youtube (MIT Press).

Day 21 (T, Apr. 3) Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel. 1969; rpt. New York: Dell, 1991.

Day 22 (Th, Apr. 5) Slaughterhouse Five, continued

Day 23 (T, Apr. 10) Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession. New York: Ballantine, 2000.

Day 24 (Th, Apr. 12)
The Orchid Thief, continued

Day 25 (T, Apr. 17)
 Adaptation, dir. Spike Jonze. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, 2003
(114 minutes).

Day 26 (Th, Apr. 19) 
H.G. Wells. "The War of the Worlds." 1898; web edition 1995.

8 p.m. Fri, Apr. 20: third 4-pp. web event, exploring the evolution of a third genre

Day 27 (T, Apr. 24) The War of the Worlds (sound recording). 1938; reproduced Radio Spirits, Inc and Norman Rudman, 1998; also available in seven segments on youtube, or streaming/downloadable as an mp3 file.

Day 28 (Th, Apr. 26) Teach In!
Join with several other students to share your reflections on your experiences over the semester, encouraging, in a provocative and entertaining way, further exploration on the part of others in the class.

12:30 p.m. Fri, May 11:  12-pp. final web-events, checklists, portfolios, and self-evaluations due on-line.