English 738T, Spring 2015
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Syllabus (Spring 2012)

Download the latest syllabus: English 738T: Syllabus Version 2

English 738T

Professor Neil Fraistat
Office: McKeldin Library 0131 (X5-5896)
Office Hrs.: By appt.
Email: fraistat@umd.edu

Course Description

This course will explore the extent to which the ideological formations of Romanticism both underlie and resist the way technology is imagined in contemporary culture through poetry, fiction, and film. Throughout the semester, we will be concerned with Romanticism as a discourse about cultural change; about monstrosity and the body; about art as technology; about the necessity for and the impossibility of making art or technology that isn’t always already co-opted; about abjected, alienated, resistant subjects at the mercy of phallic power structures; about the gendering of technology; about textual and sexual reproduction; about utopian imaginings and dystopian worlds; and about the world itself as a consensual illusion. We will also be engaging with digital humanities theory and practice–particularly as they intersect with Romantic texts and thought–and will experiment with social media and inter-institutional project-based collaborations with a partner class at the University of Virginia.


William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Dover)
William Blake, The [First] Book of Urizen (Kessinger)
William Godwin, Caleb Williams (Norton)
M. W. Shelley, Frankenstein (Oxford)
Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Norton)
William Gibson, Neuromancer (Ace Books)
Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (U of Michigan P)
Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl (Eastgate)

Xeroxed Material: From time to time, I will be supplementing the assigned reading on the syllabus with critical essays and other material. Notice about this material will be posted on the course discussion list.

Movies: The DVDs for Blader Runner, The Matrix, Memento, and the Frankenstein films are on reserve in the Non-Print Media Room of Hornbake Library and also will be streamed on ELMS: https://elms.umd.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp


Course Blog: http://mith.umd.edu/eng738T

Course Discussion List: engl738t-0101-spr12@coursemail.umd.edu

Course Blog for The Digital Nineteenth Century, our partner class at the University of Virginia: http://digital19thcentury.wordpress.com

Websites on Romanticism:  The Romantic Circles Website <http://www.rc.umd.edu> is an important source of information and critical discussion about writers of the Romantic Period.

Twitter hashtag: #technoro

Working Schedule

Jan.    26     Introduction

Hacking the Book, Hacking the System
Feb.     2    Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Visit Blake Archive and view at least two versions http://www.blakearchive.org/. Andrew Piper, from Dreaming in Books. Cooper and Simpson, “The High-Tech Luddite of Lambeth: Blake’s Eternal Hacking”; Morris Eaves, “Multimedia Body Plans”< http://www.tei-c.org/About/Archive_new/ETE/Preview/eaves.xml>.

Supplemental: On “hacking,” see Wikipedia and Bruce Sterling, from The Hacker Crackdown, Part II: The Digital Underground <http://www.mit.edu/hacker/hacker.html>.

Frankenstein Then and Now
9    Shelley, Frankenstein. Jones, “Monstrous Technology”; Hogle, “The Dream of Frankenstein: An Introduction” http://www.rc.umd.edu/praxis/frankenstein/hogle/hogle.html.
See also Stuart Curran’s electronic edition of Frankenstein: http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/frankenstein/

**Directed Tweet: What is a Monster?

16    Filming Frankenstein: Whale, dir. Frankenstein (1931); Whale, dir. Bride of Frankenstein (1935); Branagh, dir.  Frankenstein (1994).

**Live Tweet Your Comments As You View Frankenstein

Redfield, “Frankenstein’s Cinematic Dream” <http://www.rc.umd.edu/praxis/frankenstein/redfield/redfield.html>.  Heffernan, “Looking at the Monster:  Frankenstein and Film”; Nestrick, “Coming to Life: Frankenstein and the Nature of Film Narrative”; Zakharieva, “Frankenstein of the Nineties: The Composite Body.”

Supplemental: Brooks, dir. Young Frankenstein. Austin, “Frankie and Johnny: Shelley, Gibson, and Hollywood’s Love Affair with the Cyborg” <http://www.erudit.org/revue/ron/2001/v/n21/005958ar.html>.


Mar.     1    Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl. “Stitch Bitch: the patchwork girl”<http://web.mit.edu/ commforum/papers/jackson.html>; Hayles, from “Flickering Connectivities in Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl,” par. 15-End <http://pmc.iath.virginia.edu/text-only/issue.100/10.2hayles.txt>; Mark Amerika, “Stitch Bitch: The Hypertext Author As Cyborg-Femme Narrator”  <http://www.heise.de/tp/artikel/3/3193/1.html>.

Automata and Cyborgs
8    E. T. A. Hoffman, The Sandman http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/sandman.htm. Blade Runner, Ridley Scott, dir. Freud, “The Uncanny” <http://people.emich.edu/acoykenda/uncanny1.htm>; Giuliana Bruno, “Ramble City: Postmodernism and Blade Runner” <http://www.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/Bruno/bladerunner.html>. Clayton, from Dickens in Cyberspace, “Concealed Circuits.”

Supplemental: P. K. Dick, “How to Build a Universe that Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” <http://deoxy.org/pkd_how2build.htm>.

15    Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Woman; Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto” <http://www.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/Haraway/CyborgManifesto.html>.

Supplemental: Lykke, “Are Cyborgs Queer?”   http://www.women.it/quarta/workshops/epistemological4/ninalykke.htm.

Virtual Realities
29    Andy and Larry Wachowski, dir., The Matrix. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation. Heim, from Virtual Realism: Chapter 1 (“VR 101”); Murray, from Hamlet on the Holodeck: Chapter 3 (“From Additive to Expressive Form”). Bartlett and Byers, “Back to the Future: The Humanist Matrix”  <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/cultural_critique/v053/53.1bartlett.html>. Zizek, “The Matrix: “The Truth of the Exaggerations” <http://www.lacan.com/matrix.html>

Apr.     5    Blake, The Book of Urizen (check other versions as found in the Blake Archive <http://www.blakearchive.org>. Otto, from Romanticism, Modernity, and Virtual Reality. Komisaruk, Guynup, and Yee, “Blake and Virtuality: An Exchange” http://www.rc.umd.edu/praxis/designsonblake/komisaruk/komisaruk.html.

12    Godwin, Caleb Williams.

Prosthetics of the Imagination
19      William Gibson, Neuromancer. Coleridge, from the Biographia (to be handed out); Thomas DeQuincey, from Confessions of an English Opium Eater http://users.lycaeum.org/~sputnik /Ludlow/Texts/Opium/pleasure.html; Percy Shelley, “A Defence of Poetry.” Sandy Stone, Split Subjects, Not Atoms; or, How I fell in Love with My Prosthesis.”

Supplemental: Jerome Christensen, Finding Romantic Commonplaces <http://www.rc.umd.edu/praxis/christensen/site3.html>. Alan Liu, from “Local Transcendence,” 75-76. “Study Guide for Neuromancer <http://www.wsu.edu:8080/%7Ebrians/science_fiction/neuromancer.html>.

Prosthetics of Memory
26    William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1802); “Tintern Abbey,” Michael, Matthew poems, Poems on the Naming of Places. William Gibson, “Agrippa.” http://www.williamgibsonbooks.com/source/agrippa.asp; Online Archive of Agrippa http://agrippa.english.ucsb.edu/. Lev Manovich, from The Language of New Media, 213-43.

May       3    Christopher Nolan, dir. Memento (2000). Responses to Ed Folsom’s “Database as Genre: The Epic Transformation of Archives” (PMLA, Volume 122, Number 5, October 2007, pp. 1580–1612).

10    Presentation of Group Projects



In addition to careful preparation and active participation each week, I will ask each class member to engage in the following activities, the first three of which, and optionally the fourth, will involve collaborative work.

1.  Teaching course material: Twice during the semester, I will ask you to participate in groups of two or three students to share in the teaching of a sixty-minute session of a class.  The group will be free to engage the rest of us in any pedagogical form of its choice: through discussion, performance, debate, or special activity. Creativity is encouraged. Early in the semester, students will be asked to specify preferred teaching dates from a list of possibilities. Questions that will be discussed in class should be posted on the course discussion list by noon on the Tuesday before class.

2. During each half of the semester, you will be responsible for posting on the course blog at least one substantial commentary (of approximately 500-750 words) related to the course material and for responding to at least two commentaries by your classmates. We will also be experimenting with the creative use of Twitter. Your tweets and responses on the blog will factor into your course participation grade.

3.  Group Project: Immediately after the Digital Humanities Bootcamp, you will be asked to participate in a group project at the intersection between the course material and the digital humanities. These collaborations may be with students from our partner class at UVa. One potential project involves hands on work encoding the manuscripts of Frankenstein for the Shelley-Godwin Archive <http://shelleygodwinarchive.org>. We will discuss others at the Bootcamp.

4.  Final project: The final project may be either a collaborative or individual effort and may take a variety of forms, print or digital, including an annotated bibliography, a scholarly essay, a “close reading” of a text or texts, a theoretical inquiry, a visualization and analysis of relevant large dataset, or a technological remediation of part or whole of a Romantic-era work. In each case, I will help you shape your interests into an appropriate project and will expect the work to be of professional quality and interest.  Projects will be due on 17 May.


As a seminar, this course depends upon your presence and active participation in the classroom. More than one unexcused absence will radically affect your participation grade. Missing more than 20% of our classes with unexcused absences will result in your failing the course. See the UMD’s general policies for what constitutes an excused absence: http://www.umd.edu/catalog/index.cfm/show/content.section/c/27/ss/1584/s/1540.


Your final grade for the course will be derived as follows:

Class Participation:                          15%

Teaching Group Grade (each):                20%

Blog Commentary                        15%

Collaborative Project:                         20%

Final Project:                             30%

Towards the end of the semester, the class will have a chance to suggest possible reallocations of these percentages.


The Washington Area Romanticists’ Group will meet once this Spring. Please feel free to take part in the seminar.  I will announce this meeting as a speaker and date become set.

MITH presents weekly Digital Dialogues on Tuesdays 12:30-1:45; many of these will bear upon course content.

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