As we make sense of what we read, we construe meaning using the ancient cultural technique of interpretation. Only rarely do we actually reflect this process: what are the means that help us understand literary texts? How does interpretation work? And how has our increasing use of e-books and tablets changed the way we read and interpret literature? This free online course addresses these key questions as it introduces you to a variety of ways of interpreting literary texts. We will look into time-tested methods such as close reading. We shall also address more recent, computer-assisted practices such as distant reading.
Do we read differently on e-books, tablets, and mobiles?
You will learn about the professional reading practices used by literary scholars. But we will also probe the benefits and limitations of the screen-based reading all of us perform every day as we move from hyperlink to hyperlink. Along the way, we will inquire into the materiality of texts, asking ourselves what difference it makes whether we encounter a poem, play or novel as an e-book, paperback, hardback or manuscript. While we will take a modern American poem as our tutor text, you will encounter a great variety of literary texts and forms. We will also visit the rich library holdings of the University of Basel, one of the world’s 50 oldest universities.
Join us in this treasure hunt for meaning
Through the course, you will become acquainted with established, professional reading practices as well as newer, computer-driven reading techniques. To help you understand the revolutionary nature of more recent, digital ways of reading and analyzing texts such as hyper reading, social reading, and distant reading, you will also be given a solid introduction to more established techniques such as close reading and historical contextualization. As you reflect and discuss your own reading processes, you will get a cutting-edge introduction to what it means to read literature in the digital age. You will learn how to uncover the hidden treasures in literary texts, including a well-known poem by Ezra Pound, and follow the educator as he chases the clues pointing to a mysterious connection between this American poet and Basel.
What topics will you cover?
- The various media in which we read literature in the digital age
- The strengths and weaknesses of different reading strategies
- The core method of literary studies: close reading
- The various strategies you use on a daily basis as you read online texts
- A cooperative form of online reading called social reading
- Forms of historical readings of literary texts: historical and literary-historical contextualization
- Uses and limitations of distant reading, a recent scholarly approach to literary texts that rely on big data and computer analysis
- Approaches to literary texts that do not seek to interpret them but focus on their surface and materiality
What will you achieve?
- Reflect on the different layers and professional reading strategies that are available for reading literature today.
- Describe the various media in which we read literature in the digital age.
- Identify the strengths and weaknesses of different reading strategies.
- Apply the core method of literary studies: close reading.
- Investigate the various strategies you use on a daily basis as you read online texts.
- Engage in a cooperative form of online reading called social reading.
- Compare two forms of historical readings of literary texts: historical and literary-historical contextualization.
- Discuss the uses and limitations of distant reading, a recent scholarly approach to literary texts that rely on big data and computer analysis.
- Report on your own distant reading experiment, using the Google Ngram Viewer.
- Explore approaches to literary texts that do not seek to interpret them but focus on their surface and materiality.
Who is the course for?
This course is for people from all walks of life who enjoy reading literature and would like to know how literary scholars interpret texts in the digital age. If you are a student looking for an introduction to literary analysis, Literature in the Digital Age will help you find it. The only requirement is that you like to read and love to reflect your experience and discuss it with others.
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