William T. FitzGerald                                                                                                                                              Spring 2007
English 394 - From Song to Cyberspace: Exploring Technologies of Communication

Class: Armitage 101, TTh 9:30 - 10:50
Office: Armitage 420, Hours T 12:30 - 1:30, Th 1 - 2 and by appointment
Telephone: 856- 225 -2925 (O); 610-642-3823 (H) before 8 pm

Email: wfitz@camden.rutgers.edu
Class Website: http://crab.rutgers.edu/~wfitz/songtocyberspace.html

    How did the invention of writing serve, as some have claimed, to restructure the mind? How did the printing press revolutionize Western culture? How have the electric media of radio, film and television spawned the global village? How is the internet and other digital media reconfiguring this 'global village'? Exploring answers to such questions, this course considers the connections between technology and communication. Before the internet, before television, radio, and film, before print or writing itself, there was human speech, the original medium of communication. Beginning in the immediacy of oral culture, where the human body, employing voice and hands, is itself the instrument, we will chart a history of communication as a mediated activity, moving from orality to literacy to today's multimodal, hypermediated environments. We will consider the profound transformations brought about by technological innovation, e.g., the alphabet, the book, the map, the computer, email, blogs, and social networks such as myspace. Taking a multimedia approach, we will explore dimensions of verbal (oral and aural) as well as visual modes of representation. Provocative theoretical readings will provide insights into historical and contemporary practices.

Required Texts

With one exception the following texts are available for purchase at the Rutgers campus bookstore.

    Bolter, Jay and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. MIT Press, 2000.
    Eisenstein, Elizabeth. The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.*
    McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. New York: Perennial Currents, 1994.
    Ong, Walter. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London, Routledge, 2002.

* Not available at the Rutgers Campus bookstore; purchase through Amazon.com

In addition to these assigned texts, we will read a wide range of materials available as handouts, on e-reserve, and through online sites.


     Your grade will be determined by a combination of course participation, in the form of active discussion, online postings, short class presentations  group work (20%), occasional reading reflections and quizzes (10%), an in-class midterm (20%), a take-home final essay (10%), and a major project in which you investigate and represent a particular mode or technology of communication (40%).


Attendance: As this class is primarily discussion based, not lecture based, your regular attendance is vital, both for your personal success and for the success of the class as a whole. Consequently, excessive absence will weigh heavily upon the class participation component of the course grade, even up to losing a full 10% of the course grade for particularly frequent absences or late arrivals. Missing more than six classes may result in a full loss of course credit

    nota bene:     For every absence, excused or unexcused, legitimate or otherwise, submit a typed business letter accounting for the date(s) and                                              circumstances of each absence, delivered in person prior to the absence (when foreknown) or immediately upon returning to class.
                          This written record of your gap in attendance should be placed into a business envelope with both my name and your name legibly    
                          handwritten or typed.

Late Papers: Papers and paper drafts are due in class and at the start of class on their due dates. Late papers will lose a half letter grade for every class date they are late. Papers turned in late will not be eligible for revision

Communication: You will be expected to maintain and access an email account in the event that we need to reach one another outside of class. Thus, any email address you give me should be one you check with some regularity. There is a course listserve I will use to send occasional messages (including details of daily assignments) to you.  We also have a course website that will be updated frequently throughout the semester.

Class Discussion and DraftWorkshops: Engaging conversation is critical to the success of the course. You are thus encouraged to contribute to class discussion through thoughtful comments and active listening as much as possible, including in small group discussions. Of course, the ability to participate in class discussion is dependent upon having read the assigned texts. Equally crucial to our work together are writing workshops in which we will read through drafts of papers. You are expected to come to writing workshops with the

Quizzes:  Expect occasional short quizzes, some announced, others not, primarily on readings assigned for that day and critical terms recently discussed or assigned or discussed

Academic Integrity

I place a high value on professional ethics and expect students to conduct themselves with integrity in their classroom performance and in their research and writing. Suspicion of cheating, plagiarism, the false representation of the work of others as one's own, and helping others to commit these acts will result in a formal procedure of accusation which, should that accusation be substantiated,  will result in a failure of the course and the possibility of additional sanctions. You are thus encouraged to clarify any misunderstandings you may have about responsible methods of research and proper documentation.


If you have a documented disability that requires accommodation, please speak with me as soon as possible so that together we can make appropriate arrangements.

Schedule of Classes

This schedule is subject to change; links will become activated as needed

Week One
1/16 -- Introductions and Course Overview
1/18 -- Plato on writing (summary of Phaedrus); Orality and Literacy, Ch. 1, Ong; Exercise #1

1/23 -- Orality and Literacy, Chs. 2 and 3 (to p. 57), Ong; National Handwriting Day
            Resources: Millman Parry Collection; Key Terms: griot, bard, shaman, storytelling, flyting, the dozens, slam poetry, urban legend,
                spoken word movement, nursery rhymes,

1/25 -- Orality and Literacy, Ch. 3; In-class Writing Exercise
                   Supplementary perspectives on orality vs. literacy: Willis, Mizrach,
                   Summaries/excerpts of Ong's Orality and Literacy : Bingham, 'Monkeymagic', Garcia

Week Three
1/30 -- Origins of Writing and Writing Systems:
                Read widely in these sites:
                      How Writing Came About by Denise Schmandt-Besserat (excerpt); see also "Signs of Life" in Archaeology Odyssey (2002)
                               Stone Age Writing? : here and here
                      AncientScripts.com: Systems - Origins (cuneiform) - Types (linear B and here, alphabet) - Timeline - Links - Articles
                      Omniglot.com: What is Writing? - Abjads - Alphabets - Syllabaries - Logographs (Egyptian & Chinese)
                      A History of Writing; History of Writing - Wikipedia; Writing: Evolution of Scripts; The Write Stuff (whyfiles.org); Mesoamerican Writing
               Individual reports on cuneiform, abjads, syllabaries, alphabets, logographs, writing in mesoamerica, runes

2/1   -- Orality and Literacy, Ch. 4; See also the following sites: Textism: The Evolution of Writing; The Beauty of Arabic Script (and here);
                      Language in Japan; Libraries in the Ancient World (and here

2/6 -- Orality and Literacy, Ch. 5; Medieval Writing (explore widely this rich resource); The Book of Kells (and making it)
                Highlights and interesting examples: paleography samples; online exhibition: Bibles Before 1000;
                Additional resources: Images of writing in antiquity and middle ages: Pompeii 1 and 2; 12th century France
                                                 "History of Visual Communication: The Alphabet" (a fantastic site!)

2/8 -- Orality and Literacy, Chs. 6 (read) and 7 (skim)
          Continue exploring Medieval Writing (see especially the history of scripts and script index)
              Additional resources: Library of Congress (LOC) exhibit on "The Saint John's Bible"
                                               "History of Visual Communication: The Art of the Book" (fantastic site!)
          Exercise: handwrite at least one passage from Interpreting Ancient Scripts (click on the exercise), due Tuesday 2/13

2/13 -- Printing Revolution in Early Modern  Europe (background), Chapters 1 and 2, Eisenstein
                Also: Printing in Renaissance Italy (here, here, and here); Oral to Early Print Culture
                Additional resources: Gutenberg Bible; LOC exhibit on the Vatican Library
2/15 -- Printing Revolution in Early Modern  Europe Chapter 3, Eisenstein; see also History of Printing; an introduction to type; Quiz #3                            
                Additional resources: Cornell Library Exhibit "Paper, Leather, Clay, Stone: The Written Word Materialized"
                                                "History of Visual Communication: The Printing Press" (a fantastic site!)

Week Six: PRINT CULTURE (cont.)
2/20 -- Printing Revolution in Early Modern  Europe, Chapters 4 and 5, Eisenstein
                 LOC exhibit on woodcut printing, "Heavenly Craft"; wikipedia articles on history of printing press and typography,
                 Additional resources: LOC exhibit on Japanese woodblock printing, "The Floating World"
                                                  "History of Visual Communication: Masters of Type" (a fantastic site!)

2/22 -- Printing Revolution in Early Modern  Europe, Chapter 6, Eisenstein; Quiz #4
                LOC exhibit "An American Timecapsule" on broadsides and printing ephemera;
                Additional Resources: LOC exhibit "America Singing" on Nineteenth Century Songsheets; Historic American Sheet Music
                                                   "History of Visual Communication: Breaking the Grid" (a fantastic site!)

Week Seven: PRINT CULTURE (cont.)
2/27 -- Printing Revolution in Early Modern  Europe, Chapter 7, Eisenstein; Review typography at "The Evolution of Type"
                LOC exhibit "Maps in Our Lives"; see also Guttierez 1562 map of America;
                Additional Resources: "History of Visual Communication: The Modernists" (a fantastic site!)

3/1   -- Printing Revolution in Early Modern  Europe, Chapter 8, Eisenstein; Technological Determinism; ; FINAL PROJECT (assigned)
                "The Emergence of Advertising in America, 1850-1920," including on scrapbooks, cookbooks, ephemera, and broadsides;
                  Additional resources: MOMA exhibit: "What is a Print?"

Week Eight
3/6 -- Understanding Comics, McCloud; see also "Visual Culture"; Quiz #5

3/8 -- Understanding Comics, McCloud; LOC online exhibit on "Cartoon America"; FINAL PROJECT (proposal due)
                See also links on comics and graphic arts

Week of March 12 - 16: SPRING BREAK

3/20 -- Introduction to New Media; NOTE: MIDTERM EXAM (TAKE-HOME) DISTRIBUTED, DUE 3/27

3/22 -- CLASS CANCELLED--Read Bolter and Grusin, work on midterm

Week Ten
3/27 -- Remediation, Bolter and Grusin, Preface & Chapters 1, 2 and 3 (through p. 84); MIDTERM EXAM DUE

3/29 -- Remediation, Bolter and Grusin; Quiz #6
                Jean Baudrillard, "Simulacra and Simulations"

Week Eleven
4/3 -- Remediation, Bolter and Grusin; Progress Report (assigned)
                Language and the Internet

4/5 -- Remediation (finish); More on hypermedia and cyberculture; Quiz #7
                Benjamin, "Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"

Week Twelve
4/10--Hypermedia and Cyberculture; PROGRESS REPORT DUE
             Readings: explore widely within George Landow's website, "Hypertext and Hypermedia: An Overview"; see also hypertext timeline;
                              Eco, "The Future of the Book," Tufte, "Powerpoint is Evil"; see also "The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation"

4/12--Hypermedia and Cyberculture
             Readings: Chandler, "Personal Homepages," Blanchard,  "Blogs as Virtual Communities," Ritter, "Blogs are NOT Virtual Communities"
                              Carvin, "Are Online Social Networks a Fad?"; Jackson "The Body"; see also hypertext fiction page

Week Thirteen
4/17 -- Final project presentations I
4/19 -- Final project presentations II

Week Fourteen
4/24 --  Final project presentations III; conferences in Armitage 420; final essay drafts due
4/26 --  Final project presentations IV; last day of classes; conferences in Armitage 420

Week Fifteen
5/1 -- Reading day (conferences in Armitage 420)
5/3 -- Final projects due in Armitage 420 no later than noon


Media History Project
On the Inca khipu, a 'writing' technology (2) (3)
Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP)
Wikipedia on the book, cartographycodex, cursive, moveable typepaper, papyrus, print culture,
                      printing, script, scroll, typography (2), typesetting, writing,
History of Visual Communication - Index