[iDC] Alan Liu and Pedagogical Experimentation

Elizabeth Losh lizlosh at uci.edu
Mon Nov 5 23:36:08 UTC 2007

Dear List Members,

Since we had a thread about pedagogical experiments a little while 
ago, I thought I would send along the course description for Alan 
Liu's graduate course, which can also be seen at 


ENGL 236:  Studies in Literary Criticism and Theory :  Literature 
Plus: Cross-Disciplinary Models of Literary Interpretation

Winter 2008
Alan Liu
Meets on: R 11:00 AM - 1:30 PM SH 2509
Prerequisites: Graduate standing

Because of the recent, shared emphasis in many fields on digital 
methods, scholars in the humanities, arts, social sciences, and 
sciences increasingly need to collaborate across disciplines. This 
course reflects theoretically and practically on the new, 
digitally-facilitated interdisciplinarity by asking students to 
choose a literary work and treat it according to one or more of the 
research paradigms prevalent in other fields of study.

Students, for example, could choose a story or poem to "model," 
"simulate," "map," "visualize," "encode," "text-analyze," "sample," 
analyze statistically, "storyboard," "blog," or redesign as a "game," 
"database," "hypertext," or "virtual world."

What are the strengths and weaknesses of one kind of research 
paradigm by comparison with others, including the new paradigms in 
the literary field that some scholars have recently called "distance 
reading" (as opposed to "close reading") and "modeling"? For 
instance, what is the relation between "interpreting" and data-mining 
or visualizing?

The course begins with discussion of selected readings and demos to 
set the stage. Readings include: Franco Moretti's Graphs, Maps, 
Trees, Willard McCarty's Humanities Computing, and Katie Salen and 
Eric Zimmerman's Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, and Jerome 
McGann and Lisa Samuel's essay on "Deformance and Interpretation." 
Demos include: the NetLogo agent-modeling environment, the Scratch 
visual programming environment, digital mapping tools, text-analysis 
programs, the Ivanhoe literary interpretation game, visualization/ 
pattern-discovery tools, Second Life, and other resources usable by 
non-programmers to create interesting projects.

After the initial unit of the course, students break into teams, 
choose a literary work, and collaborate in workshop/lab mode to 
produce a "proof-of-concept" final project. (Alternatively, students 
may work individually on projects designed to support or complement 
their intended dissertation topics.) Collaboration will occur both 
face-to-face and virtually in a class wiki (possibly supplemented by 
virtual meetings in the UCSB English Department's new Second Life 
instructional space). Final projects can be digital, video, acoustic, 
material, social, or some combination, but some digital 
representation must be created that can be exhibited on the class 
wiki or in the English Department's gallery space in Second Life. 
Individual students also prepare research reports as well as write a 
final essay reflecting on the project. (Auditors participate in 
projects and minor assignments.)

Elizabeth Losh
Writing Director
Humanities Core Course
HIB 188
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697
lizlosh at uci.edu
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