Narrative and Technology

Eng-Lit 512, Narrative & Technology, University of Pittsburgh (Summer 2017)

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Course Description

This course explores the ways in which technologies impact how we tell stories and engage with narrative, thinking broadly about what we mean by “technology” and “narrative.” When we talk about “technology” today we’re often referring to new and emergent computer-based and digital technologies, but remember that pen and paper, too, are technologies. The term itself is derived from the Greek technē, meaning craft. The etymology of the Latin technologia first referred to the systematic treatment of grammar. Technology, thus, has always been related to processes of making, and even making with language. Narrative encompasses both the stories we tell each other in conversation as well as literary genres like the short story or narrative poems, or technical genres like long-form narrative journalism or creative nonfiction. We use narrative to describe and try to make sense of the world and the beings in it. Together, narrative and technology have co-evolved to produce “new” media such as board games, video games, hyptertext, snap-chat stories, and other narrative modes. The readings for this course come from some of those media. Some of the media of the course you’ll provide, based on your own investments and interests. As a writing-intensive course, “Narrative and Technology” will ask you to engage thoughtfully through writing (also broadly conceived) textual and multi-media experiments. You will have opportunities not only to write critically about the relationships among narratives and technologies, but also to write creatively, experimenting with interactive old and new media forms.

The writing you produce is as much the content of this course as the texts we engage with. You can expect that this course will help you develop your sense of what “writing” is and what it does, through regular in-class workshops and discussions. You will share your work with your peers, and have your work brought to the table (anonymously and not) for discussion by the whole class. Expect to return to just about every piece of the writing you do in this course in some way, to revise, rethink, remediate it into new and more complex iterations for evaluation as well as play and experiment.

As you might have noticed by now, experimentation is the name of the game, but keep in mind that experimentation is a serious process. It is the act of trying out that might begin with a playful (even silly) act, but that (ideally) leads you to robust, thoughtful, complicated, and probing questions, ideas, and implications. Be brave. Take risks. Try new things. Deliberately take yourself outside of your comfort zone.