• Course Number: ENGL 25
  • Prerequisites:

    Check on GOLD.

  • Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 25
  • Quarter: Spring 2020

How have language, reading, and literature responded to revolutions in media, communication, and information technology? This course introduces the history and theory of the major changes in human discourse that have led up to our current information age. Readings in literary and artistic works exemplify the creative artist’s response to these changes.

Syllabus for Spring 2020

Go to course site. Adjustments have been made in the course for the COVID-19 virus and COLA TA strike situations. Lectures will be live on Monday, March 30 at 1:00-1:50 pm (Pacific time) at the following Zoom meeting address: https://ucsb.zoom.us/j/377544976 (A password is also required to join the live Zoom meetings beginning April 3. The password is provided on the Gauchospace course site).) Recordings of lectures are later uploaded for viewing on Gauchospace.
Note to students wishing to crash the course: you can join the course’s Gauchospace site before and for a limited time after the beginning of the quarter to access announcements, course news, and course resources. (See also the Honors Section of this course, which currently has room for enrollment.)

A message from Professor Alan Liu:

Dear students,

I’m sorry we won’t be able to meet each other in person this Spring quarter. Please see the notices below on this page and throughout this course site (and also my course’s supplementary Gauchospace site) about how the course will work during the current situation. (See also my course FAQ.)

I’ll give my lectures live through Zoom at the regular course times, but also provide recordings of them as soon as they are ready. My first lecture will be live on Monday, March 30 at 1:00-1:50 pm (Pacific time) at the following Zoom meeting address: https://ucsb.zoom.us/j/377544976 (I will use the same Zoom address for all lectures in the course, though after the first week I will also set a required password and give it to you on the Gauchospace course site.) If there are any technical problems that interrupt or prevent a live lecture, wait for an announcement from me (and there will always be a recording later).

Through all this, we will need to keep our expectations realistic. There are bound to be problems, and you will not be getting 100% of the course and experience I had hoped to deliver. I’m sorry about that. But I hope that the problems we discover together during remote, mediated instruction can be something we can learn from–especially in a course on “Literature and the Information, Media, and Communication Revolutions”!


Highlights of the course:

Course units:

  • Literature Across Media Ages
  • The Communication/Information Age — Information’s impact on what we mean by “meaning”
  • The Postindustrial & Neoliberal Age — Information’s impact on work and power
  • Processing Literature — Information’s impact on the way we study literature

Key readings:

  • Novelists: Thomas Pynchon (The Crying of Lot 49), William Gibson (Neuromancer)
  • Media theorists: Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong, N. Katherine, Lev Manovitch, etc.
  • Historians and theorists of communication/computing: Claude Shannon, Warren Weaver, Vannevar Bush, etc.
  • Business historians & theorists on the information age: Joseph Schumpeter, Shoshana Zuboff, Peter Senge, Manuel Castells, etc.
  • Critics, cyberlibertarians, and hackers of the information age: John Perry Barlow, Critical Art Ensemble, Donna Haraway, Jodi, etc.
  • Theorists and practitioners of the new “digital humanities”: Franco Moretti, The Stanford Literary lab, Ted Underwood, etc.
  • Theorists of digital “deformance” and “glitch”: Lisa Samuels, Jerome McGann, Mark Sample, Rosa Menkman, etc.

Key assignments: (some minor assignments below will be optional during the COVID-19 virus and COLA TA labor action situations)

  • Short essay in which you imagine what computing will be like in the year 2050.
  • Short essay on Thomas Pynchon’s novel.
  • Spreadsheet & Short Essay: spreadsheet comparing work life of a student and your imagined life in your desired future career, accompanied by short essay on “Being Human in the Age of Information Knowledge Work”
  • Text-analysis & exercise on a work of literature accompanied by short commentary.

Exams: (mostly “factual” in nature)

  • Mid-term exam
  • Final exam


  • Schedule & Location
  • Day: Course is Asynchronous