ENGLISH 420 - Technology and the Humanities
Winter 2018, Section 001 - Reading With Your Laptop
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


Computers are changing how we read. If you have ever googled a word you didn’t know, or used the “find” function to locate a word in a digital file, then you are already reading with your laptop. Even more potent methods are emerging within literary analysis and allied fields. This course will introduce you to them.

Course readings are fairly light. We will be reading three novels, and possibly one play, over the course of the semester: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, and possibly Shakespeare’s MacBeth. The light reading load will give us the time and space to learn the rudiments of R, a popular programming language that can handle large data sets (like, for instance, all the words in a novel). This, then, is the goal of the class: to learn to use R to develop novel interpretations of literary texts.

Past students have found these techniques to be transformative; you will look at books in ways that you never looked at them before. Indeed, you will be producing readings of books that even experts have never considered—for computer-assisted approaches suggest interpretations that human beings cannot arrive at alone. Finally, you will gain basic familiarity with an important programming language.

Course Requirements:

Students will be responsible for three essays, based on skills we develop in class and through a short, user-friendly textbook on programming with R. You will also complete weekly “challenges,” which ask you to adapt and employ your new skills to particular reading and interpretive tasks.

Intended Audience:

This is an introductory course for upper-level students of literature, culture, and the arts. Aside from an active mind and a willingness to think differently, there are no other prerequisites. If you know how to use a keyboard when you arrive, you will be reading with your laptop by the end of the class. Actually, you will be doing some of this by the end of the second week!


ENGLISH 420 - Technology and the Humanities
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 1:00PM - 2:30PM
1/3/18 - 4/17/18

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