ENGLISH 313 - Topics in Literary Studies
Fall 2022, Section 001 - The Novel and Virtual Realities
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 8 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:


Long before our digital lives, the novel was a key technology and art form for immersing readers in real and imagined worlds. Then and now, the novel has held out the promise of encounters with historical actors and far-away spaces, and of opportunities to know the inner lives of others and strangers.  In the context of racial and social justice reckonings in the 21st-century U.S., and of our increasingly digital lives, these have only become more alluring.  

This course considers the durable power of the project of “knowing” lives other than our own, in both textual and virtual reality (VR) forms.  Working with earlier texts (including Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Richard Wright’s Native Son) and contemporary novels (Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine), we’ll consider them in relation to VR titles that also aim to put us “inside” real-time experiences of displacement, migration, racial and social inequality, and radical change. Across media, we’ll explore what it means to attempt to know or connect imaginatively with lives beyond our own. What kind of immersive experience have novels aimed to create? How do the aesthetics of VR world-making mimic or challenge the strategies of the novel?

We’ll focus on works that aim to create--and sometimes resist—the cultivation of empathy in our encounters with other subjects and worlds, and we’ll explore critical understandings of empathy and immersion and their limits in readings on the novel and VR environments and practice.  A significant portion of our work will take place in a virtual reality lab, where we’ll develop collaborative strategies for exploring VR and multi-media texts, accounting for that experience, and responding critically to it.  

Major Requirement: American Literature

Course Requirements:

No previous experience with VR or digital platforms is required—just interest, curiosity, and a willingness to experiment in format and materials; VR hardware will be provided.  Class requirements will include weekly writings/postings, collaborative class work, a midterm exercise, and a final project.  Students will have opportunities to collaborate on projects and to engage in VR pre-production and design.

Intended Audience:

Class members from all disciplines and schools across campus are welcome. 


ENGLISH 313 - Topics in Literary Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
002 (LEC)
 In Person
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM
004 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM

Textbooks/Other Materials

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