Engl 304: Computing Technology and Culture

Literary Computing

Autumn Term 2007, Tuesdays 1830-2120
HC 2-7 and Rutherford 2-03

David S. Miall

In this course students will be introduced to the field of literary computing, broadly conceived. Literary studies primarily concerns itself with three activities: reading, researching, and writing. The course will examine each of these three sites, and explore the ways that digital technologies are augmenting or changing the way we undertake these activities. As such, the course will develop the literary and computer skills that students already have, although it will not presuppose skills other than a basic familiarity with Windows and word processing.

The course will introduce several specific technologies, such as the concordance (for text analysis and authorship study), statistical analysis, text encoding (for digital editions of literary works), web page encoding and design, and hypertext fiction. Except for two books (see below) the main readings and tools for the course will be provided online.

We'll begin with how to design and place basic webpages online, and to use them for constructing linked clusters of academic or fictional texts; as a part of this we will later look at and critique recent examples of hypertext fictions and the literary theory that they have generated. The concordance involves a set of facilities for looking at word distributions, significant collocations, etc., which have been used for stylistic study of texts and to explore authorship. We'll make use of these and look at the statistical methods that may also be called on to help verify particular findings. Text encoding is a way of describing the features of a text, from layout on the page to items of content, used in particular to support online editions of texts; it's something a modern scholar now needs to be aware of. Overall the course will raise issues about the nature of textuality, literariness, and modes of reading that have a broader significance than the domain of literary computing.

Required texts

N. Katherine Hayles. Writing Machines. MIT Press, 2002.
Susan Hockey. Electronic Texts in the Humanities. Oxford University Press, 2000.

Other readings: see below

Students' home pages and essays

Schedule (tentative)

Date Session; primary reading Links, Assignments
Sept 11 Initial meeting in HC 2-7
Introductions; basic web authoring; use of Dreamweaver, Putty; WinSPC3
AICT web support; test page; website setup; authoring summary (Word)
Sept 18 further web authoring techniques; web design
(email me the URL of your site)
Kapoun (1998); Tognazzini (2003)
Example websites
Sept 25 special session, Natalie Sharpe (student services);
critique of a literary website, to Rutherford [instructor absent, conference]
Voice of the Shuttle
Oct 2 E-texts; Concordances
Hockey, Chs. 1-2; Finch (1995)
Essay 1: Online essay, critique of website
Project Gutenberg / Concordance
Oct 9 Concordances, continued
Hockey, Chs. 3-4; Fraser (2000)
Web concordances
Oct 16 Authorship studies; textual analysis; statistical analysis
Hockey Chs. 5, 7; Holmes, et al. (2001)
Stats examples / Graphs
Oct 23 -- cont. Follow up readings. Olsen (1989); Fortier (1989)  
Oct 30 Text encoding: TEI, etc.; digital editions
Hockey, Ch. 8
Essay 2: Text analysis
XML Guide; Digital Editions
Nov 6 Hypertext: principles and applications
Hayles, Chs. 1-2
Notes on Hayles, etc.; Reading and writing hypertext; Miall (1998)
Nov 13 No class [Remembrance Day holiday]  
Nov 20 Hypertext fiction
Hayles, Chs. 3-4; Gardner (2003)
Notes on readings;
Electronic Literature Organization; Fisher, These Waves of Girls; Joyce, Twelve Blue;
Readers' responses to hyperfictions
Nov 27 Cyberculture Essay 3: Reading hypertext / fiction sampler
Kroker (1996); Silver (2003); Resonance;
Hyperfictions for Essay 3
Dec 4 Final exam 2 hours, in class. Exam questions.


Essay 1. Online essay, critique of a literary website. Due Oct 2 (15%).

Locate and analyse a web site that presents a literary topic or text(s). Evaluate it in about 500 words, including link(s) to the site you are reviewing. How useful is it? How effective is the design? What critical principles does the site depend on or assume? Send me the URL of your review by October 2nd (I will locate it in the Students section of the course web site). Voice of the Shuttle (English literature page) is a good place to start searching.

Essay 2. Text analysis. Due Oct 30 (20%).

Acquire or create an electronic literary text. Explore it through the Concordance, and make an analysis using this tool. Evaluate the results and write a short paper (about 2 pages double-spaced, approx. 800 words) which you will locate on your web site, and hand in on paper. (Do not count reprints of tables from AntConc in your word count.)

Essay 3. Reading hypertext / fiction sampler. Due Nov 27 (35%).

Either offer a critical reading of a hyperfiction or produce a hyperfiction yourself; in either case, your text will amount to between 1500-2000 words; to be located on your website. (Avoid discussing either the Joyce or Fisher works discussed in class.)

Examination. In class. Dec 4 (30%).

Further reading

David Miall and Teresa Dobson (2001). Reading hypertext and the experience of literature. Journal of Digital Information, 2.1.
David S. Miall (2003). Reading Hypertext: Theoretical Ambitions and Empirical Studies. Jahrbuch für Computerphilologie, 5, 161-178.
Jerome McGann, Radiant Textuality (1996).
J. Yellowlees Douglas, Gaps, Maps And Perception: What Hypertext Readers (Don't) Do. One of the few considerations of the differences between reading text and hypertext.
Allen Renear and Jerome McGann, speakers in What is text? A debate on the philosophical and epistemological nature of text in the light of humanities computing research. ACHALLC99, University of Virginia, June 1999.

Collections of essays:

Digital Humanities Review
Essays in Humanities Computing
TAPoR: Essays in Humanities Computing
Text Technology articles


Web design: Special characters
HTML Code Tutorial

Digital editions

Miall, Literature and Psychology: Coleridge, "Frost at Midnight" reading and study guide (illustrates use of frames).
Miall, Swinburne in Sicily (use of table to allow graphics offset; top buttons inoperative).
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (extensive use of hypertext link annotations)
William Hone, The Political House that Jack Built (1819). A Romantic Circles edition. Use of facsimile pages, transcripts, notes.
The Rossetti Archive.
The Perseus Digital Library.


TAPoR prototype of text analysis tools
British and Irish authors on the Web (includes e-texts and concordances)
Hyperizons: Hypertext Fiction directory


Policy about course outlines can be found in Section 23.4(2) of the University Calendar. (GFC 29 SEP 2003)

The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour (online at www.ualberta.ca/secretariat/appeals.htm) and avoid any behaviour which could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University. (GFC 29 SEP 2003)

Photo credits: 1. Photos.com; 2. Bennett 4 Senate, from Flickr.

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Document prepared March 22nd 2007 / Revised December 1st 2007