ENGL 4706: Breaking the Book Statement

Fall 2016
ENGL 4706: Breaking the Book + Digital Media
Meets M, 4:00 - 6:40
M C Morgan mmorgan@bemidjistate.edu

Required Texts

All are available via Amazon and (hopefully) the BSU Bookstore. Used copies are showing up on Amazon and elsewhere.

Most of the readings for the course will be online and in printable pdf.


All my notes, the weekly syllabus, classroom materials for this course will be on or linked from the Digital Humanities wiki: http://erhetoric.org/dh/. Any online projects you create will be linked to the wiki. I may need to limit distribution of some materials. If so, links to them will be on the Announcements page of d2l.

Other Materials


This course looks at western print, reading, and writing practices since the codex. Here are the topics we'll look at, in a rough order:

Overview: Selected readings, videos, apps, toys and games (6 weeks)
Hypertext: Kitzmann, Hypertext Handbook (3 weeks)
Digital poetics and media archeology: Emerson, Reading Writing Interfaces (3 weeks) (We'll be dipping into this book through the course.)
Probes, mosaics, word-n-image, aphorisms, attention and antics ... pation: McLuhan and Carson, Probes. (We'll be dipping into this book throughout the course.)

Course Opportunities

Specifically, this course gives you the opportunity to investigate and consider, individually and as part of a group,

How the Course Proceeds

We will be using methods of investigation and study drawn from the practices of the digital humanities. Rather than writing papers or PPTs - two typical methods in the paper humanities - digital humanities methods push us to act, to create things, and then reflect on that process and product. It's like being asked to build a bird house and then use your encounter with that project as a grounding for thinking about architecture. Or like being asked to design and weave a tapestry as a way of coming to understand fabric, visual design, narrative. For us, might be invent a writing technology as a way of getting behind what writing and reading means.

In practice, this means we read some things, view some things, do some things, experiment with some things - then meet to consider what we did and what that doing tells us.

The topics we're addressing won't fall into tidy units. A look at writing practices, for instance, may involve looking at how Emily Dickinson worked, viewing a 1968 video of a word processor, tipping into McLuhan's Probes, and playing around with #hashtags on Twitter, as a way of thinking about how the practices of writing are linked to the media and the time. Sprawl is the word. Constellation is how you place apparently disparate things in an order to see patterns in their connections. Curation is the method.


Reading and Exploring -> Discussion -> Project to Test and Explore those ideas. Projects may entail creating written work, video, images, online presentation, or experimenting with online texts and hypertexts ... You'll have options.

The final project for the course will be your construction of an artifact or material that presents a cumulative understanding or way of seeing what we considered through the semester.

Project: Keeping a Commonplace Book

This is a good idea. Keep it in paper, on your computer, online. As a notebook, a sheaf of papers, notecards, tumblr or blog posts ... This is your collection of notable materials that you encounter during and for this course. Words, images, videos, audio files. More on the KeepingACommonplaceBook page.


Be here. If you miss, you miss course content. If you must miss, email me to let me know, and talk to others in the class to fill you in.


I'll give you written or verbal feedback and a grade on each project. The final project is 1/3 of your final grade, the others are a cumulative 2/3 of the final grade. You need to complete all the projects to be eligible for a final grade.

Alternative Formats
This syllabus is available in other formats. Talk to me, or contact the Office for Students with Disabilities at 755-3883. Contact the Office for Students with Disabilities if you need accommodations in the class.

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