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Since there is no exam in this course, regular attendance and participation is a must (and will figure in the final grade).  To pass the course you must be in class the majority of the time (you are allowed a maximum of two absences, with the count started after the first week of classes).


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Assignment Due
4-page Essay due Feb. 3
(Counts for 25% of final grade)
Must be posted on course site in Folder for 4-Page Essays by early evening.


This assignment asks you to show your understanding of the "close reading" approach in literary studies by thinking about it from a parallax viewpoint (i.e., by looking at it in comparison to a different approach or in a different context). Choose one of the following two topics:


  1. Write an essay in which you compare the way the New Critics or Russian Formalists read a literary work to the way a scientist studies a phenomenon.  Base your essay on a comparison between a specific writing by such critics as Ransom, Brooks, Wimsatt, Shklovsky, Tomashevsky, etc. (e.g., an essay or part of an essay where they closely read a poem) and compare a specific scientific article. Look for similarities and differences in regard to such issues as::


    1. What is truth from the point of view of a scientist and a literary close reader?
    2. What is observation?
    3. What is analysis?
    4. What is logic?
    5. What is aesthetics?
    6. What is the relationship of the pursuit of knowledge to society or culture?
    7. What is "good"?


Be sure to focus your essay around just one main issue, (See "General guidelines for designing your essay below.)


  1. "Close read" something that is not a work of literature--e.g., a photograph, film, video, graphic novel, video game, advertisement, press release, government document, company annual report, Web site, etc.  Your close reading must be organized so that your observations lead up to or support some focal thesis (it cannot just be miscellaneous observations on sequential parts of the work you are reading; see "General guidelines for designing your essay below.)  Also, you must be able to document by way of footnotes (or endnotes) at least three specific ways that your analysis corresponds to New Critical or Russian Formalist "close reading."  (For this close-reading assignment you may find helpful a "Close Reading" tip sheet used in English courses today.)


Instructions for submitting your essay:

Name the document containing your paper "[Your Name] - Short Essay" and upload it to the course site in the 4-Page Essay folder.  The paper must be uploaded by the evening of Feb. 3 at latest because we will be discussing the student papers in class on Feb. 4.  Also, please email a copy of the paper to the instructor at ayliu [at] english [dot] ucsb [dot] edu -- preferably as a PDF file.


General guidelines for designing your essay:

Assume that your reader is intelligent and educated, but does not know everything you do about your topic.  Arrow right Your reader thus needs your help in focusing on a particular path through an issue (rather than being lost in a forest of issues).  Arrow right Your reader needs your help in getting from point A to Z in your argument, which means that you need to lead the argument through points B, C, D, etc. (even if it appears blindingly obvious to you). Arrow right Last, but not least, your reader doesn't want to be bored to death with totally predictable arguments that steamroll over everything in their path to get from their beginning "This is what I will argue" through their middle "This is my argument" to their concluding "This is what I argued."


So be sure to: Arrow right focus your essay around a main issue, including other issues as necessary but in a manner logically subordinate to your argument (i.e., as supports, components, extensions, or challenges to your argument). Arrow right Be sure to demonstrate the steps A to Z of your logic so that the reader can follow your trail of thought.  Arrow right And also be sure that you actually deal with something important or that you care about, which naturally means that there is some problem or open question that puts a kink in any totally predictable argument.  For example, good essays often include a pivotal intellectual turning point, question, challenge, or complicating problem in mid-flow of the sort:

[a] Thesis argument (e.g., "Today we live in what is often called both an 'information society' and a 'knowledge work' economy...")

[b] Turning point or challenge (e.g., "But what actually is the relation between 'information' and 'knowledge'?  The former sometimes seems to make the latter difficult....")

[c] Resolution (e.g., "If we look more deeply into the issue, we can see that the idea of 'knowledge' has changed since the time of the classical philosophers and today has these different features....")


You must upload your essay to the course site in this folder by the early evening of Feb. 3 because we will be discussing the student papers in class on Feb. 4. 


Arrow right Essays should include notes with citations in MLA style (unless there is a reason to choose a different style). (See the Purdue Online Writing Lab's "MLA Formatting and Style Guide").  Be sure to cite works that  you quote or otherwise use (see course Intellectual Property Guidelines). 


Assignment Due
Practicums (due in Classes 11-18)
(Required to pass the course, but not graded.  The first 4 practicums for classes 11-14 are required; students can then choose to do any 2 of the remaining practicums for classes 15-18.)
Must be posted before the relevant class in the appropriate folder for each practicum.
  Arrow right Go to "Practicum Exercises" assignments page for detailed assignments for each class.
Course "practicums" are hands-on, small-scale exercises that ask students to experiment at a beginner's level with the tools of the digital humanities. The goal is not technical mastery but learning enough about the technologies to think about, and through, their concepts and also to discover which tools might be used in a student's future research.  In many cases, experience gained in the practicums will feed directly into discussion of conceptual issues in class.


Assignment Due
Mock Project Proposal (Due in Classes 19-20)
(Counts for 25% of final grade)
Must be posted before the class in which your presentation is scheduled in (Folder for Mock Proposals).


Ideally, this course would ask students to build a digital project that explores "distant reading" or some combination of close and distant reading.  But due to the time constraints of a ten-week course in a quarter system, it is impractical for students both to accomplish the readings and ongoing assignments for this course and also to execute a full-scale digital humanities project (of the sort that another of the instructor's courses,  "Literature+", incubates by emphasizing project-building).


Instead, therefore, this course requires the next best thing to a completed digital project.   Students are required to create a proposal for a project that they will hypothetically implement in future.  The last week of the course will be devoted to in-class presentations of these proposals.


Mock Project Proposal Requirements:


  1. A mock project proposal (the equivalent of about 4 pages of writing, depending on the kind of materials you include) should include  a main explanatory statement providing the context, rationale, and gist of your idea,   a discussion of existing related projects that overlap with or are relevant to your idea, and a "conceptual vision sketch" of your project.
  2. The "conceptual vision sketch of your project" mentioned above can be a mocked-up image(s), a demo web site, a fictional scenario (like a brief short-story or film script), or anything else that gives a realized "you are there" sense of how your idea would be implemented.  (You don't necessarily have to do this with sophisticated digital tools.  A text or a hand-drawn sketch could do the trick if you can't do better at present because of the nature of your idea.)
  3. Your "conceptual vision sketch" must be backed up by some evidence that you have done in-depth exploration of at least one robust tool for the digital humanities of the sort identified by check marks (red check mark or blue check mark) on the Digital Humanities Tools page for this course.  (Other tools in the list are possible; or propose an alternative tool or tools.)  Students must self-train in the tool(s) they choose to a level that is beyond the elementary beginner level.  They must include as part of their mock proposal some evidence of such exploration (e.g., a link to a trial run, screenshots, preparatory material, etc.).
  4. Students can work individually or in teams.  (A team-authored proposal will be expected to be fuller--e.g., with more demonstration examples or supporting materials--than a solo proposal.)



Assignment Due
8-Page Essay (due March 15) 
(Counts for 50% of final grade)
Must be uploaded by midnight on Mar. 15th to the instructor's DROPitTOme box at www.dropitto.me/ayliu (using upload password to be given you by the instructor).  Preferred file format: PDF file (less preferable: Doc or Docx file). 


This assignment gives you an opportunity to think reflectively about the topics and materials in this course.  Write an essay that either focuses on "distant" digital reading methods or compares "close" and "distant" reading in a way that brings your discussion to bear on some issue that seems important to you (e.g., the present or future nature of literature, reading, knowledge, work, education, the "human," etc.).  If you wish, you can mention your mock project proposal in your discussion (e.g., drawing on its idea, materials, etc. to support an argument your are making).  However, be sure that your essay does not turn into just a description of your mock project proposal.



























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