ENGL488B - Topics in Advanced Writing: Writing for the Blogosphere: Prehistory, Theory, Practice

This course will offer students an immersion in blogging as a writing practice and as a social/literary genre with deep, multiple roots in cultural history. Our broad goal will be to explore what blogs are, what they do – culturally, politically, literarily – and what they can teach us about reading, writing, and social networking in the twenty-first century. Our work will pivot back and forth between formal study of the genre and its history and the daily discipline of designing, building, and maintaining a publicly accessible multimedia text. Thus, the course requires both a willingness to experiment with the production of new media forms and an ability to think critically about them. It will call upon your creativity and your analytical skill, your sense of intellectual play and your curiosity about how media shift – the increasing prevalence of post-print literary and cultural forms – has and has not changed communication and everyday life.


You will spend a lot of time on the Internet for this course, studying blogs, commenting on them, producing your own. We will also examine a number of print genres that might be considered precursors to blogs, including newspaper columns, diaries, journals, essays, pamphlets, miscellanies, and war reporting. We will read around in new media studies (e.g., Jaron Lanier, Clay Shirky, Cass Sunstein) to help get a handle on where blogs fit into the mediascape of Web 2.0. We will consider blogs – such as Riverbend’s Baghdad Burning and Julie Powell’s The Julie/Julia Project – that have been turned into books and/or films. We will reflect on issues of style and persona, on the norms and practices that define the blogosphere, and on the freedom and responsibility that accompany the possibility of publishing without the print culture filters of editors and other gatekeepers.


NB: No technical skill, including HTML encoding, is assumed or necessary. Students will be urged to make use of Blogger or WordPress for web-hosting and design software. Both services offer templates that make designing and publishing a breeze. Also, if you are curious about what the instructor knows about blogging and where she learned it, feel free to visit Roxie’s World (http://roxies-world.blogspot.com/). Rest assured you will not be required to impersonate a dead dog in order to succeed in this course.