Fall 2019

The Literary Histories of Technology

Listed in: English, as ENGL-309


Amanda K. Henrichs (Section 01)


[Before 1800] What does a reader in 1620 have in common with a reader in 2020? They are both faced with an overwhelming explosion of textual information made possible by technology. In both 1620 and 2020 readers are confronted with massive quantities of information that threaten to overwhelm. The causes differ: in 1620s London, advances in printing and paper-making technologies made textual materials cheaply and widely available on an unprecedented scale. In 2020, we have the Internet.

This course proposes that the seventeenth- and twenty-first centuries share similar methods of controlling their new information environment; both use creative and figurative language to talk about it. Readers in 1620 used recently-Anglicized terms like metaphor or synecdoche, whereas readers in 2020 talk about uploading everything to the cloud. In this course, we will explore the humanist rhetorical handbooks of the English literary Renaissance as a means to two ends: one, to better understand the literary production of canonical authors like Shakespeare; and two, to engage with the rhetoric of digital creativity in the twenty-first century. We juxtapose readings from Renaissance rhetorical handbooks with poetry and essays from that period and with digital humanities scholarship. The final project of the course will ask students to perform individual research as part of a collaborative, multimodal guide to the information structures of the Internet.

Fall semester. Visiting Professor Henrichs.


Attention to Issues of Social Justice, Attention to Research


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019