Tuesday, January 7: Introduction to the course and to each other

Unit 1: Media Matters

Friday, January 10: Media Matters

Virtual Class: Professor Cordell away at a conference

  1. Plato, selection from Phaedrus
  2. Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message”
  3. Alan Liu, “Imagining the New Media Encounter”

You’ll also be signing up for class technologies and presentation days with the practicum students during this class period.

Tuesday, January 14: Orality and Writing

Virtual Class: Professor Cordell away at a conference

  1. Bede, “The Story of Cædmon”
  2. Walter Ong, “Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought”
  3. Spencer Holst, “The Zebra StoryTeller”

Friday, January 17: Texts as (Carriers of) Information

  1. James Gleick, The Information, to pg. 77
  2. Peter Stallybrass, “Books and Scrolls: Navigating the Bible”

Unit 2: The Textual Machine

Tuesday, January 21: Scrivening


Lab #1: Simulating the Scriptorium

  1. Ælfric, Preface to his translation of Genesis. You can also see (but probably not read) Ælfric's (Old) English translation.
  2. Geoffrey Chaucer, “Chaucer’s Words to His Scrivener”
  3. Herman Melville, “Bartleby, the Scrivener” 

Friday, January 24: Moveable Type


Guest lecturer: Erika Boeckeler, Northeastern English

  1. (watch) Stephen Fry, The Machine that Made Us
  2. Elizabeth Eisenstein, from The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (read Chapter 2 only)
  3. Adam G. Hooks, “How to Read Like a Renaissance Reader”
  4. Compare Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech in three editions of William Shakespeare's Hamlet:

Tuesday, January 28: Illuminated Printing

  1. William Blake’s printing process, described in “Illuminated Printing” (make sure to read each of the 9 short sections e.g. “Engraving,” “New Printing Technologies,” &c.)
  2. William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (I’ve chosen one edition here, but browse the others in the Blake Archive for a sense of how the work varied from printing to printing)

Friday, January 31: Paper
MEET OUTSIDE 601 NEWBERRY STREET (Near Kenmore Square station)
Lab #2: Papermaking at Art Institute of Boston/Lesley University

Tuesday, February 4: Letters and Type

Guest lecturer: Nathan Felde, Chair of Northeastern Art+Design

  1. John Powell Ward, from The Spell of the Song, 46-72
  2. (Play) Type:Rider
  3. (Watch) Gary Hustwit, Helvetica

Friday, February 7: Field Trip to the Edes and Gill 18th-Century Print Shop in the North End

Lab #3: Letterpress Printing

  1. Review the Museum of Printing’s quick guides to letterpress printers and image carriers

Unit 3: Information Overload

Tuesday, February 11: Technologies of Self (Un)Making

  1. Follow the readings Benjamin Doyle outlines on his website

Dead Media Presentation: Angelo

Friday, February 14: The Bestseller

  1. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the first two and third chapters from Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  2. Michael Winship, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin: History of the Book in the 19th-Century United States”
  3. Then, turn to the Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture Archive. Using the reception materials here, attempt to figure out what happens in the parts of the novel you did not read. There’s far too much for anyone to read here—choose 1 or 2 categories and dig in. Be prepared to report at the beginning of class.

Dead Media Presentation: Nick

Tuesday, February 18: Encoding

Lab #4: XML and TEI Encoding

  1. James Gleick, The Information, 78-167
  2. Edgar Allan Poe, “A Few Words on Secret Writing”

Dead Media Presentation: Rowan

Friday, February 21: (Mis)information

  1. Edgar Allan Poe, “Hans Phaall—A Tale”
  2. “The Great Moon Hoax” 
  1. selected internet hoaxes

Dead Media Presentation: Heather

Tuesday, February 25: Infectious Texts

  1. Ellen Gruber Garvey, “Anonymity, Authorship, and Recirculation: A Civil War Episode”
  2. ——, “Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Appropriation"
  3. selected texts from Prof. Cordell’s Infectious Texts project (link to relevant spreadsheet here; I’ll explain in class what to do with it). For context you might read/listen to:
  1. Going viral- the 19th century way,” interview by Anthony Funnell, Future Tense, ABC Radio (Australia), February 16, 2014
  2. Life Advice for Young Men That Went Viral in the 1850s,” by Rebecca Onion, Slate Magazine’s The Vault, December 4, 2013
  3. Going Viral, Antebellum Style,” interview by Bob Garfield, On the Media, WNYC, November 22, 2013
  4. Here’s How Memes Went Viral—In the 1800s,” by Greg Miller, Wired MapLab, November 4, 2013

Dead Media Presentation: Christina

Friday, February 28: Simplify, Simplify!

  1. Henry David Thoreau, “Economy;” “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For;” and “Sounds” from Walden

Dead Media Presentation: Anna


Unit 4: (Hyper)Modernisms

Tuesday, March 11: Art, Industry, and Authenticity

  1. Henry James, “The Real Thing”
  2. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

Dead Media Presentation: Taryn

Friday, March 14: 1st Student Project Conferences

Professor Cordell away at a conference


Tuesday, March 18: Not Reading a Victorian Novel

Lab #5: Distant Reading (Computational Text Analysis)

  1. Michael Whitmore, “Text: A Massively Addressable Object”
  2. Stephen Ramsay, “The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around”

Dead Media Presentation: Jillian

Unit 5: Textual Futures

Friday, March 21: Manifestos

  1. F. T. Marinetti, The Futurist Manifesto
  2. T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land
  3. if you have an iPad, the Waste Land app is truly wonderful

Tuesday, March 25: An Index of All Knowledge

Lab 6: Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon

  1. Joseph Reagle, "The Pursuit of the Universal Encyclopedia"
  2. Watch the “Recent Changes to Wikipedia” map for awhile (look at some of the languages other than English, too)
  3. You can also listen to recent changes on a related page

Dead Media Presentation: Jennifer

Friday, March 28: 2nd Student Project Conferences

Professor Cordell away

* Tuesday, April 1: Writing and/as Programming


  1. Stephen Ramsay and Geoffrey Rockwell, “Writing as Programming as Writing”
  2. James Gleick, The Information, 310-323 and 373-426


  1. Stephen Ramsay, “Algorithms are Thoughts, Chainsaws Are Tools” (at least the first 5 minutes)

Friday, April 4: Letterpress Redux (in 3-D)!

Lab #7: 3D Printing 

Tuesday, April 8: Future Reading

  1. Leah Price, “You Are What You Read”
  2. N. Katherine Hayles, “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine”


  1. Clay Shirky, “Does the Internet Make You Smarter?”
  2. Nicolas Carr, “Does the Internet Make You Dumber?”

Friday, April 11


Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store (to the end of “The Bookstore” section)

Tuesday, April 15: Course Wrap-Up


Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store (to end of novel)

Wednesday, April 23: FINALS DAY

Final Project Pecha Kucha Presentations