English 5549: Literary Infrastructures
Professor Thora Brylowe and Professor Lori Emerson
Mondays 9.30am to 12.00pm
Center for Irish and British Studies, Norlin M549
Emerson office hours: please use online scheduler
Brylowe office hours: email for appointment 

This class is co-taught by Professors Thora Brylowe and Lori Emerson on how literary studies engages (or could engage) with media and infrastructure, from the book to the telegraph/telephone to networks such as the internet. The course will first provide you with a theoretical foundation on the story of authorship and then on foundational media studies texts on materiality and infrastructure. We will then try to put these theories in conversation with literary examples/engagements and studies of old media, from paper to the book and larger infrastructures such as the postal system, railroad, telephone, telegraph, and, finally, our modern-day internet. Throughout we will also read literary works engaging with these media/infrastructures and invite you to visit CU Special Collections and the Media Archaeology Lab as a way to have a hands-on experience a range of old and new media/infrastructures.

Required Texts
Please purchase the following books from Innisfree Bookstore:

  • The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
  • The Medium is the Massage, Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore
  • If on a winter’s night a traveler, Italo Calvino
  • Fantasies of the Library, Anna-Sophie Springer and Etienne Turpin
  • The Victorian Internet, Tom Standage

You may wish to purchase these additional books on your own as we will be reading substantial portions from them:

  • Discourse Networks 1800/1900, Friedrich Kittler
  • The Marvelous Clouds, John Durham Peters
  • Mechanization Takes Command, Siegfried Gideon
  • Relays: Literature as an Epoch of the Postal System, by Bernhard Siegert
  • Routes of Power, Christopher Jones
  • The Development of Large Technical Systems, eds. Renate Mayntz and Thomas P. Hughes
  • The Undersea Network, Nicole Starosielski

Course Requirements and Policies
Most importantly, we expect you to contribute to class regularly. In fact, class will be fantastic if you participate regularly! You’re also required to:

  1. Post a total of twelve 200-500 word responses to the week’s reading on our class blog by Sunday 10am; most posts should mention at least one of the “literary engagements” that complement our theory readings; you are also required to comment on at least one classmate’s post as a way to help build an intellectual community;
  2. Two out of the twelve posts should be on a visit to CU Special Collections and a visit to the Media Archaeology Lab and include a reflection on any connections you made to the class reading;
  3. Also, please aim to add to the examples of literary engagements with the media/infrastructure in the week’s assigned reading in the class schedule.

Your final grade will be calculated as follows:

  • Weekly blog posts and syllabus contributions: 30%
  • Final paper (20-25 pages): 70%

Please note: We do not accept late work. If your final research paper is not submitted by the due date you will automatically receive an F for that assignment.