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MLI 305: Authors, Readers, and Texts 1

University of Stavanger
Literacy in the Digital Era
Week 40: 05 Oct. 2016
Instructor: Eric Dean Rasmussen

Literacy in the Programming Era


TEXTS (REQUIRED)
Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Atlantic July-Aug. 2008,
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/ . (in
compendium)
Goldsmith, Kenneth. “It’s Not Plagiarism. In the Digital Age, It’s ‘Repurposing.’” The Chronicle of Higher
Education, 11 Sept. 2011, http://www.chronicle.com/article/Uncreative-Writing/128908. (in compendium)
Hayles, N. Katherine. “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine.” ADE Bulletin 150 (2010): 62–79. Print. (in
compendium)
Lethem, Jonathan. “The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism.” Harper’s Magazine. Feb. 2007: 59–71. Print and
Web. http://harpers.org/archive/2007/02/the-ecstasy-of-influence/ (in compendium)

TEXTS (RECOMMENDED)
Gillespie, William and Travis Alber. Morpheus Biblionaut. Urbana, IL: Spineless Books, 2009.
http://morpheus11.com
McPherson, Tara. “Digital.” Keywords for American Cultural Studies, Second Edition. Eds. Bruce Burgett and
Glenn Hendler. New York: New York University Press, 2014. Print and Web.
http://keywords.nyupress.org/american-cultural-studies/essay/digital/. (in compendium)
Rasmussen, Eric Dean. “Narrative Affect in William Gillespie’s Keyhole Factory and Morpheus: Biblionaut, or,
Post-Digital Fiction for the Programming Era.” CounterText 2.2 (2016): 140–171. Print and Web. DOI:
http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/count.2016.0050 (in compendium).

Recommended selections of electronic literature and new media writing (available online)
“Pla(y)giarism.” remixthebook. Mark Amerika. n.d. Web. http://www.remixthebook.com/the-course/playgiarism
Clark, David. 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein (to be played with the Left Hand).
http://collection.eliterature.org/2/works/clark_wittgenstein.html
Jackson, Shelley. my body—a Wunderkammer.
http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/jackson__my_body_a_wunderkammer.html
Moulthrop, Stuart. Deep Surface. http://collection.eliterature.org/2/works/moulthrop_deepsurface.html

Recommended resources on electronic literature


• Electronic Literature Organization: http://eliterature.org
• ELMCIP: http://elmcip.net
• ELMCIP Electronic Literature
Knowledge Base:
http://elmcip.net/knowledgebase
• Electronic Literature Collection,
Volume One:
http://collection.eliterature.org/1/
• Electronic Literature Collection,
Volume Two:
http://collection.eliterature.org/2/
• Electronic Literature Collection,
Volume Three:
http://collection.eliterature.org/3/

Instructor’s Remarks
This week’s readings address large-scale changes in literacy and that are occurring now, in what I call the
Programming Era. We will be considering how new media and intellectual technologies are altering our reading
and writing habits, and informing the way we think.

The works of electronic literature (e-lit), some of which you’ll be reading later this semester, suggest how some
contemporary writers have responded to the affordances provided by computer technologies. If you are curious
MLI 305: Authors, Readers, and Texts 2
University of Stavanger
Literacy in the Digital Era
Week 40: 05 Oct. 2016
Instructor: Eric Dean Rasmussen

to learn more about e-lit, please ask. Norway, it turns out, is host to some of the most important hubs in the
transnational e-lit network, and I am happy to introduce you to various actants (look it up) in this dynamic field.
I was the first editor on the ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base, which is based at the University of
Bergen (UiB). I began working for the non-profit Electronic Literature Organization shortly after it was founded,
in Chicago, in 1999 and remain an active ELO member. UiB hosted a fantastic citywide ELO festival and
conference in 2015. Information about ELO 2017 in Porto, Portugal is available here:
https://conference.eliterature.org/2017/elo-2017-call-papers-and-works

Reading Tips
• Pay attention to the rhetorical moves particular authors use to stage a conversation and assert their
position. That’s what academic writing entails, in short. Observe, for instance, how Hayles eloquently
summarizes Nicholas Carr’s book of investigative journalism (67) in a couple sentences. She does the
same for a theoretical text we’ll be reading later this term, Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the
Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” In the same passage, Hayles clarifies one of Carr’s concerns with a
gloss on Kurt Vonnegut’s science fiction “Harrison Bergeron” (Had we more time, I would have
assigned Vonnegut’s short story in this unit.)
• After reading Lethem’s “The Ecstasy of Influence” in your compendium refer to the online version,
making use of the color-coded key. Doing so will help you to understand what Hayles (citing James
Sosnoski) means by hyperreading.
• Reading “Pla(y)giarism,” the web page from Mark Amerika’s remixthebook course, will help situate
Lethem’s position in relation to other critical and creative activity.
• We’ll focus on the compendium texts. But I encourage you to start exploring some works of electronic
literature during the reading week.
• Hayles refers to Shelley Jackson’s canonical work of e-lit Patchwork Girl. Perusing my body – a
wunderkammer will give you a sense of Jackson’s hypertext writing. In the mid-to-late 1990s, hypertext
was synonymous with e-lit for many readers.

Questions for Discussion


“Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr
01. Nicholas Carr references media theorist Marshall McLuhan to suggest, “media are not just passive channels
of information […] they also shape the process of thought” (2). How, according to Carr, is the Internet is
changing the way we think? What evidence does Carr provide to support his position?

02. Briefly explain the following terms: deep reading, intellectual technologies, plasticity, Taylorism. How is
each one relevant to the specific debate about digital literacy staged in Carr’s essay?

03. Why is Carr skeptical of the vision of technological progress forwarded by Google founders Sergey Brin and
Larry Page? What counter-arguments does Carr present that might encourage readers to be “skeptical of [his]
skepticism” (6)?

“How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine” by N. Katherine Hayles


04. Define and describe the three types of reading referred to in the s title: close
reading, hyperreading, machine reading. What are some of the advantages and
disadvantages of each mode of reading?

05. Explain the difference between working memory and long-term memory. How do
these two types of memory become an issue in debates about the effects of
hypertext and Web reading?

06. Hayles recounts teaching Shelley Jackson’s hypertext fiction Patchwork Girl to
an honors writing class. What points does Hayles intend to make with this
anecdote about teaching electronic literature?
MLI 305: Authors, Readers, and Texts 3
University of Stavanger
Literacy in the Digital Era
Week 40: 05 Oct. 2016
Instructor: Eric Dean Rasmussen

“The Ecstasy of Influence” by Jonathan Lethem


07. What do we learn about the method by which Lethem composed this essay? At what point in the essay does
Lethem disclose his compositional technique? How does this knowledge enable readers to better understand
the essay’s title?

08. Briefly explain the following terms as Lethem uses them in his essay: appropriation, contamination anxiety,
enframing, usemonopoly, source hypocrisy, gift economy, public commons, undiscovered public knowledge,
collage text.

09. Some readers have suggested that Lethem is making a case for plagiarism. Is that an accurate interpretation
of his essay? Refer to specific passages to make your argument.

Tip: Explain this passage: “For the moment I’m grateful to be making a living, and so must ask that for a
limited time (in the Thomas Jeffersonian sense) you please respect my small treasured usemonopolies. Don’t
pirate my editions; do plunder my visions” (68).

“It’s Not Plagiarism. In the Digital Age, It’s ‘Repurposing.’ by Kenneth Goldsmith
10. Explain literary critic Marjorie Perloff’s notion of unoriginal genius and how it relates to contemporary
literary production. What are some of the points Goldsmith makes about unoriginal genius? How does it relate
his notion of uncreative writing?

11. What are some of the strategies and techniques that uncreative writers deploy?

12. Describe what is unusual and controversial about class on “Uncreative Writing” that Goldsmith teaches.
What are some things he has his students do?

13. In the closing paragraphs of his essay Goldsmith responds to concerns raised about uncreative writing
practices. What are some of these concerns? How does Goldsmith respond?

Tip: Pay particular attention to what Goldsmith claims characterizes successful plagiarism and appropriation.

Morpheus: Biblionaut by William Gillespie and Travis Alber


14. Writing exercise: Use your checklist for analyzing short stories and other narratives (for details, see the
writing assignment on the “Narrative” study guide) to take preliminary notes that could be used to conduct an
interpretive analysis of Morpheus: Biblionaut’s narrative.

Tip: Pay particular attention to the treatment of time or the “temporal perspective of the story” (Bennett and
Royle, TTCL, 61) in this “post-digital” fiction.

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