ENGL 457S: Code(s) Culture and the Postmodern

16 Oct in course description, teaching
In this Spring 2010 seminar, students will explore the concept of code as both a figure in and function of postmodern literature. The texts we examine in the course of this intensive study will either treat code thematically or figuratively, or they will literally involve the reader in decoding content. Taken together, the texts in this class will reside within the realm of the literary postmodern, broadly considered. Readings will also include relevant critical theory that informs our study.

The major project of the seminar will be a long paper. Students will also be expected to blog and lead class discussion on selected readings or topics.

NOTE: Students will, in the progress of this seminar, encounter and write simple computer programming. This, however, is not something to be feared. Moreover, no prior experience in programming will be expected, and students with prior experience will have no advantage over those with none. Above all, this is a seminar in literature, not computer science.

Required Texts

Danielewski, Mark Z. House of Leaves. Random House, Inc., 2000.

---. Only Revolutions. Pantheon Books, 2007.

Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Macmillan, 2008.

Hayles, N. Katherine. Writing Machines. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002.

Singh, Simon. The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography. Reprint. Anchor, 2000.

Stephenson, Neal. Cryptonomicon. HarperCollins, 2000.


Mark Sample's picture

Late additions

So I know it’s too late now for other texts, but it occurred to me suddenly this morning that Hari Kunzru’s Transmissions would work for this class, as would Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts.

zach's picture

Not too late

It isn’t necessarily too late to add more, and I’ve been thinking I want to add another novel anyway. (What’s not obvious from my course description, by the way, is that I’ll be including at least two electronic works: Darwinia and Lexia to Perplexia).

I’m not familiar with Transmission, so I’ll have to check it out. But I decided to leave off Raw Shark because, if I remember correctly, it’s more about performative typography and metafictional playfulness than codes, isn’t it? I don’t think I ever finished it, though, and it’s been a while.

Does it involve more coding (thematically, figuratively, or literally) than I’m recalling?