media studies
This course introduces students to the new field called "Infrastructure Studies" - a field that has recently emerged from both Digital Humanities and media archaeology - as well as literary experiments with both infrastructure and media. The class will also come together at various points throughout the semester with Professor Brylowe's class. We will begin by reading new work by John Durham Peters on how fire and water are nonhuman infrastructural media that fundamentally shape human existence and we will then move on to look at other studies of human-built infrastructure such as railroads, telegraph and telephone wires, satellites, and undersea cables along with (sometimes feminist readings of) specifcally literary infrastructures such as libraries and labs. We will also look at typically literary media that work in conjunection with these infrastructures such as typewriters, telephones, the postal system, fax machines, and various networks. As a way to better understand the very real and material affordances of these infrastructures and media, at the same time we will look at writing experiments from the late 19th century through the 20th century which engage with the limits and possibilties of the foregoing and we will ask ourselves, why and how did Henry David Thoreau and later Emily Dickinson write in response to the telegraph? How were Friedric Nietszche, Mark Twain and later the Futurists writing through the typewriter? How did the material underpinnings of radio inform Samuel Beckett's radio plays? Or satellite technology and slow scan TV inform pioneering telecommunications artists Liza Béar and Roy Ascott? How were feminist zines of the 1980s and 1990s using and misusing the postal system? In this way we will not restrict ourselves to reading what literature says; rather, we will delve down as deeply as possible to analyze how literature says.