ENGL 661 (Schedule #27949)
Virginia Commonwealth University
Fall 2012
M 7-9:40pm :: 308 Hibbs
Prof. David Golumbia
Office: 324D Hibbs Hall
Fall 2012 Office Hours: W 11:30am-1pm, 2-3pm

Topics in Interdisciplinary Studies
Orality, Literacy, and the Digital

This course will try to open the questions of what we mean by core terms like "language," "speaking," "writing," and "digital communication," by carefully setting the terms in a variety of historical and philosophical contexts. We will take our inspiration from some of the issues raised in Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. Ong, to some degree like his teacher Marshall McLuhan and McLuhan's teacher Harold Innis, argues that the "transition" to writing was also a backgrounding/stigmatizing of "orality," so that much that we think of as "oral" or "non-literate" is very valuable but has been errantly dismissed in whatever we call "modernity," what does that say about our attempt to define a new form of "digital reception" or "digitality" and, if so, what would it mean to see that as a stigmatization of both orality and literacy, as well as a new form of communication? Students will offer discussion questions on on each part of one day's reading; write one short paper on a topic raised by the reading, and another providing a critical review of reading related to the course topic but not on the syllabus; and write a final paper on a subject of their choice chosen in consultation with the instructor.

Books to Purchase (available at bookstore, but you are welcome to acquire used copies. It is important that you obtain the same editions of Plato, Ong, and Eisenstein)

  1. Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (Norton, 2011)
  2. Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, second edition, 2012. Students must purchase this edition.)
  3. Stephen Robert Fischer, A History of Language (Reaktion, 2003)
  4. R. Zamora Linmark, Rolling the R's (Kaya/Muae,1995)
  5. Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (2nd Routledge edition, 2002. Students must purchase this edition.)
  6. Plato, Phaedrus (Penguin Books, revised edition, 2005. Students must purchase this edition.)
  7. Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators (Penguin Books, 2011)

Articles and Book Chapters (mostly in Blackboard)

  1. Naomi Baron, "The Future of Written Culture: Envisioning Language in the New Millennium." Ibérica (in press, 2005)
  2. Roger Chartier, "Languages, Books, and Reading from the Printed Word to the Digital Text." Critical Inquiry 31 (Autumn 2004)
  3. Jacques Derrida, "Plato's Pharmacy," from Dissemination (1972)
  4. James A. Dewar, "The Information Age and the Printing Press" (RAND Corporation, 1998)
  5. Martin Heidegger, "Traditional and Technological Language" (lecture delivered in 1962), with translator's introduction
  6. Jeff Jarvis, "Gutenberg the Geek" (Amazon Kindle single, 2012)
  7. Paul Saenger, "Introduction" to Spaces Between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading and reviews of book by LanguageHat, Relevant Practice, Mark Aronoff, and Leah Price.
  8. Henry Staten, "Writing: Empirical, Transcendental, Ultratranscendental." CR: The New Centennial Review 9:1 (2009)
  9. Bernard Stiegler, "Seminar on Phaedrus and The Shallows" (2011-12; see excerpt)

Assignments and Evaluation

Evaluation will be based on written exercises and course participation as follows:

Course-Specific Policies


Email Policy
Electronic mail or "email" is considered an official method for communication at VCU because it delivers information in a convenient, timely, cost effective and environmentally aware manner. This policy ensures that all students have access to this important form of communication. It ensures students can be reached through a standardized channel by faculty and other staff of the university as needed. Mail sent to the VCU email address may include notification of university-related actions, including disciplinary action. Please read the policy in its entirety: http://www.ts.vcu.edu/kb/3407.html

VCU Honor System: Plagiarism and Academic Integrity
The VCU honor system policy describes the responsibilities of students, faculty, and administration in upholding academic integrity, while at the same time respecting the rights of individuals to the due process offered by administrative hearings and appeals. According to his policy, "members of the academic community are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity." In addition, "All members of the VCU community are presumed to have an understanding of the VCU Honor System and are required to:

· Agree to be bound by the Honor System policy and its procedures;
· Report suspicion or knowledge of possible violations of the Honor System;
· Support an environment that reflects a commitment to academic integrity;
· Answer truthfully when called upon to do so regarding Honor System cases, and,
· Maintain confidentiality regarding specific information in Honor System cases.
· Most importantly, "All VCU students are presumed upon enrollment to have acquainted themselves with and have an understanding of the Honor System." (The VCU Insider).

The Honor System in its entirety can be reviewed on the Web at http://www.provost.vcu.edu/pdfs/Honor_system_policy.pdf or it can be found in the current issue of the VCU Insider at http://www.students.vcu.edu/insider.html

In this class, because coursework will be collaborative at times, particular issues of integrity arise. You should not copy or print another student's work without permission. Any material (this includes IDEAS and LANGUAGE) from another source must be credited, whether that material is quoted directly, summarized or paraphrased. In other words, you should respect the work of others and in no way present it as their own.

Student Conduct in the Classroom
According to the Faculty Guide to Student Conduct in Instructional Settings (http://www.assurance.vcu.edu/Policy%20Library/Faculty%20Guide%20to%20Student%20Conduct%20in%20Instructional%20Settings.pdf),"The instructional program at VCU is based upon the premise that students enrolled in a class are entitled to receive instruction free from interference by other students. Accordingly, in classrooms, laboratories, studies and other learning areas, students are expected to conduct themselves in an orderly and cooperative manner so that the faculty member can proceed with their [sic] customary instruction. Faculty members (including graduate teaching assistants) may set reasonable standards for classroom behavior in order to serve these objectives. If a student believes that the behavior of another student is disruptive, the instructor should be informed." Among other things, cell phones and beepers should be turned off while in the classroom. Also, the University Rules and Procedures prohibit anyone from having "in his possession any firearm, other weapon, or explosive, regardless of whether a license to possess the same has been issued, without the written authorization of the President of the university..." For more information, visit the VCU Insider online at http://www.students.vcu.edu/insider.html

Certainly the expectation in this course is that students will attend class with punctuality, proper decorum, required course material and studious involvement.

The VCU Insider contains additional important information about a number of other policies with which students should be familiar, including Guidelines on Prohibition of Sexual Harassment, Grade Review Procedure, and Ethics Policy on Computing. It also contains maps, phone numbers and information about resources available to VCU students.

Students with Disabilities
SECTION 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended, require that VCU provides "academic adjustments " or "reasonable accommodations" to any student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. To receive accommodations, students must request them by contacting the Disability Support Services Office (DSS) on the Monroe Park Campus (828-2253) or the Division for Academic Success on the MCV campus (828-9782). More information is available at the Disability Support Services webpage, http://www.students.vcu.edu/dss/, or the at Division for Academic Success webpage, http://www.specialservices.vcu.edu/.

If you have a disability that requires an academic accommodation, please schedule a meeting with me at your earliest convenience. Additionally, if your coursework requires you to work in a lab environment, you should advise me or department chairperson of any concerns you may have regarding safety issues related to your disability. This statement applies not only to this course but also to every other course in this University.

Statement on Military Short-Term Training or Deployment
Military students may receive orders for short-term training or deployment. These students are asked to inform and present their orders to Military Student Services and to their professor(s). For further information on policies and procedures, contact Military Services at 828-5993 or access the corresponding policies at http://www.pubapps.vcu.edu/bulletins/about/?Default.aspx?uid=10096&iid=30704 and http://www.pubapps.vcu.edu/BULLETINS/undergraduate/?uid=10096&iid=30773.

Excused Absences for Students Representing the University
Please be aware that students who represent the university (athletes and others) do not choose their schedules. Student athletes are required to attend games and/or meets. All student athletes will give you their schedule in the beginning of the semester. The Intercollegiate Athletic Council (IAC) strongly encourages you to treat missed classes or exams (because of a scheduling conflict) as excused absences and urges you to work with the students to make up the work or exam.

Campus Emergency information
What to Know and Do To Be Prepared for Emergencies at VCU:

· Sign up to receive VCU text messaging alerts (http://www.vcu.edu/alert/notify). Keep your information up-to-date. Within the classroom, the professor will keep his or her phone on to receive any emergency transmissions.
· Know the safe evacuation route from each of your classrooms. Emergency evacuation routes are posted in on-campus classrooms.
· Listen for and follow instructions from VCU or other designated authorities. Within the classroom, follow your professor's instructions.
· Know where to go for additional emergency information (http://www.vcu.edu/alert).
· Know the emergency phone number for the VCU Police (828-1234). Report suspicious activities and objects.

Important Dates
Important dates for the Fall 2012 semester are available at: http://academiccalendars.vcu.edu/ac_fullViewAll.asp?term=Fall+2012

VCU Mobile
The VCU Mobile application is a valuable tool to get the latest VCU information on the go. The application contains helpful information including the VCU directory, events, course schedules, campus maps, athletics and general VCU news, emergency information, library resources, Blackboard and more. To download the application on your smart phone or for more information, please visit http://m.vcu.edu.

Class registration required for attendance
Please remember that students may only attend those classes for which they have registered. Faculty may not add students to class rosters. Therefore, if students are attending a class for which they have not registered, they must stop attending

Week by Week Schedule

Week One. Introduction; Heidegger on language

Week Two. No class

Week Three. A History of Language

Week Four. Plato, Phaedrus

Week Five. "Plato's Pharmacy"

Week Six. Rolling the R's

Week Seven. Orality and Literacy

Week Eight. Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe

Week Nine. Spaces Between Words

Week Ten. Essays on writing and digital text

Week Eleven. The Shallows

Week Twelve. Stiegler

Week Thirteen. Cognitive Surplus

Week Fourteen. Final presentations

Week Fifteen. Final presentations

Final paper due in my English Dept mailbox (Hibbs Hall) or emailed to me by 9:50pm, Monday, Dec 10, 2012, per the registrar's exam schedule. There is no final exam for the course beyond the final paper.

Last updated  October 22, 2012 .