General Information

Spring, 1998
Monday, 7:15 p.m. - 10:05 p.m.
SS 145

Instructor: Robert Yagelski
Office: Humanities 140 (Writing Center)
Telephone: 518-442-4064
Office Hours: TTh 1:00 - 2:00, W 12:30 - 1:30,
and by appointment

Course Description

In Writing Space, Jay David Bolter asserts that we are currently in the "late age of print," characterized by electronic writing that represents a "textual medium of a new order" (6). This new medium, Bolter continues, "is the fourth great technique of writing that will take its place beside the ancient papyrus roll, the medieval codex, and the printed book." If Bolter is right, then we are in the midst of a momentous shift in the ways in which we understand literacy and engage in literate acts, a shift whose social, political, and economic implications rival those of the emergence of the printing press in the 15th Century. Part of the agenda for this course is to examine Bolter's assertion and explore the changes in prevailing conceptions of literacy and literate practices brought on by this new medium of the computer and its rapid growth as a literacy technology. But the broader purpose of the course will be to explore the relationship of literacy and technology more generally. We will look at writing itself as a technology and consider the effects of the various technologies that Bolter mentions, especially the printing press, on our understanding and uses of literacy. We will also examine various theoretical approaches to understanding literacy in an effort to determine how these approaches might illuminate the relationship between literacy and technology. Finally, we will consider the relevance of such inquiries to English Studies and examine some effects of the evolving uses of computer technologies on the literate practices associated with English as a discipline and on the teaching of writing and reading.

Along the way, we'll play with various forms of technology, ask lots of questions, and tease out implications of our inquiries for our individual and collective work as teachers and scholars and writers. As you work through the course assignments, I encourage you to consider this course an exploration in a variety of ways. In essence, we will be engaged in a collective inquiry into the relationship between literacy and technology, and the success of that inquiry will depend in large part on the extent and nature of your particular participation in and commitment to that inquiry. In short, you will determine in large measure what the course will become.

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