This site serves as the syllabus, schedule of work, and blog for ENG 4300, Literature of the Network Society. The menu in the upper left corner provides access to all pages.
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This course will explore fiction that engages the multiple kinds of networks that bind the globe together, which have intensified in recent years with the advent of information technology. Commentators such as Manual Castells and Tiziana Terranova describe these networks as shaping human cultures in sustained, consisted ways; they term these changes the Network Society. The Internet serves as a metaphor for such connections, but is by no means the only such network. For at least the past 500 years, the globe has been crisscrossed by transportational, political, cultural, and technological networks: shipping lanes, emigration routes, fiber optic lines, the Internet. As is frequently stated, these networks make the world a “smaller” place, as more and more people are linked to the lives of other people in distant places. Chinese workers make parts, the parts are shipped in a container to Mexico, where they are assembled into video game consoles in the border factors in Juarez, Mexico from which they are shipped to Targets in San Bernadino, Minneapolis, Dayton. At the same time, though, these networks create exclusions as well as inclusions. If those same Chinese workers want to get to Dayton, they face political, cultural, and economic obstacles—network interference. Throughout this course, we will pose the question: what role does literature play in helping people imagine, navigate, understand, or conceptualize these networks and their relation to individuals?
Some of the questions we will explore include: