English 216, Literature, Technology, and Society: Invented Worlds
Spring 2008, T/TH 3:45-5:00 Ryland 205
Dr. Joe Essid
Writing Center 9c 289-8935 or jessid@richmond.edu
Office Hours: M & TH 10-11 and by appointment

MatrixAbout the class:We will look at a range of fiction and films, mostly American though a few from other nations, that explore the ways in which individuals invent worlds for themselves in the wildernness, in their heads, and in cyberspace.

Students will practice skills of close reading of single works and comparative reading of multiple works. Be warned: the exams are closed-book and in-class. The reading load is not excessive, but if you do not read all the works and see the films, you will fare very poorly. The class will still be quite demanding of your time and intellectual eforts.

This class will demand that you use digital photography, write for a Wiki instead of traditional papers, and use the virtual world Second Life. Having access to a fast PC or Mac, a digital camera, and more time than you might wish to put into a 200-level class will be necessary. Do not stay in the class if you are not willing to work very hard and juggle multiple responsibilites. I am enthusiastic, even obsessed, with this topic, like some of the individuals we'll read or see. I don't tolerate slackers lightly.

Be encouraged by one thing: this class also marks a milestone for Richmond: the first time we will use virtual reality in a sustained way linked to course content. It is an exciting moment for liteary study, because Second Life is closely derived from aspects of the fictional worlds in the novel Snowcrash and the film The Matrix. History is being made, because this is not merely another multiplayer game: it's a virtual world with a working economy, and we'll use it in this course.

Our projects will be closely watched by a national audience, and the best work will be published. We have international mentors to help you in the virtual world. Because you have an audience beyond the classroom, we don't use the "baby swimming pool" called BlackBoard for class but will dive into the deep end with a real Web site and public tools that can be seen by those beyond the illusory shelter of our campus gates.

Some goals: cynthia barley

Some who may expect "the teacher" to give you his favorite interpretation of a work to memorize are going to be disappointed. I do not have "the answer" in my head for each work we read or see. My own interpretations change over time, too! You will have to get accustomed to coming up with your own interpretations and finding evidence to support them. Some answers are better than others, because the works support those answers. Still, there's no single best way to read a text or film--only well supported interpretations (and poorly supported ones). That is the nature of literary and film study.

Some big questions:

Writing Fellows: Amir Effat (amir.effat@richmond.edu -- help with Second Life) & Matt Lonnquest (matthew.lonnquest@richmond.edu -- help with Wikispace and photography).

Second Life In-World Mentors: See the schedule page for the names and mug-shots of our mentors.

Note: Second Life® and Linden Lab® are trademarks or registered trademarks of Linden Research, Inc. All rights reserved. No infringement is intended.

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