A Few Caveats

This course will be a bit different from most of your other English classes. I hope you will find these differences exciting and stimulating, but you should be aware of some caveats as we begin.

This class will require hands-on work with digital tools and methods. This means you will be required to acquire some technical skills. While I do not require or assume any particular technical experience as we begin this course, I will expect you to be willing to experiment with new tools and learn new technical skills throughout the semester. “I’m not very technical” will not excuse you from the hands-on portions of the course any more than “I’m not poetic” would excuse you from reading Dickinson in a survey of American literature. Some of the tools we test you may find useful or interesting; some you will not. Some you might find easy to use; some you will not. But I expect you to try all of them with an open mind and persistence.

Just as the hands-on portions of the course will require you to experiment with new tools and techniques, the course itself is new and will be an experiment. This means that the syllabus may shift, a given tool may not work as expected, or a lab may fail altogether. While I have at least some experience with all of the tools and methods we will be using, I may not be able to answer all of your questions, and I will be learning along with you in many cases. I hope you will see this course as an opportunity to learn and experiment together. I ask only that you approach the course with a willingness to experiment, with the persistence to work through frustration, and with the flexibility required to try new things.

Required Reading

Note: We will be reading Only Revolutions _early on in the semester, so you should purchase it at the beginning of the semester. You can purchase _Only Revolutions by clicking on the link above, or by searching for the ISBN-13 numbers in Amazon or other online bookstores. I have also ordered it from the campus bookstore. We will refer to and use all course texts extensively in class, and you are required to bring whatever texts we are reading to class every class meeting.

Required Work

The graded work for ENGL 4590/6590 will take several forms: (1) reading; (2) lab reports; (3) a close reading paper; (4) a key project analysis; (5) a final class project. You must complete the close reading paper, the key project analysis, and the final class project to pass the class.

(1) Reading: Much of the work of this class consists of simply doing the assigned reading and homework. I will assess the reading and homework you have done through the level and quality of your participation in class and in office hours, through the level and quality of your incorporation of the readings into your lab reports, and through your level of preparation for class (i.e., if you’ve done the assigned homework, if there is any).

(2) Lab Reports: One of the central features of this course is our hands-on work with digital methods and tools. This work will take place in labs throughout the semester: 3 “mini” labs (Labs 1a, 4a, and 5a), and 7 6 “main” labs (Labs 2, 3, 4, 5b, 6b, 7 — Lab 1b is now extra credit). Everyone will complete the mini labs, and you will complete 6 5 of 7 6 main labs as lab reports. We will devote class time, as marked on the course calendar, to beginning these labs during class. The lab reports will always involve a written component, and they will often ask you to engage with the course readings. Your lab reports will be due no more than 1 week following the in-class lab activity, and they will be graded on completion.

(3) Close Reading Paper: Your close reading paper will center on, well, close reading as a method of textual analysis. You will be asked to write a close reading of Only Revolutions, as well as to reflect on close reading as a methodology.

(4) Key Project Analysis: For your key project analysis, you will research a “key project” in the digital humanities as a way to prepare for producing our own class project together. You will investigate your key project’s methodologies, innovations, interpretive power, and design. Your aim will be to help your class colleagues understand the project’s overall contributions.

(5) Final Class Project: This course is an experiment in collaborative project making. As such, the last 1/3 of the course will center on devising, planning, and implementing a collaborative class project employing the new digital methods we will learn in the first 2/3 of the class to the study of literature. Planning the project may involve writing additional blog posts as a way to generate ideas and get discussion going. This project will also have an individual component: you will write a final paper reflecting on the role of digital methods in literary studies.


The grade breakdown is as follows:

  • Reading: 10%
  • Lab Reports: 15%
  • Close Reading Paper: 15%
  • Key Project Analysis: 15%
  • Final Class Project: 45%
    • Individual paper: 20%
    • Class project: 25%

Every assignment except for your lab reports will be given a letter grade and a percentage. The grading scale is as follows:

A = 90-100%

B = 80-89%

C = 70-79%

D = 60-69%

F = below 60%

Here’s what these letter grades generally mean:

A: Indicates outstanding work that is comprehensive and original. Analysis is nuanced and brings together class readings, discussions, and original insights. Writing is lucid, insightful, and well organized. A clear logical, conceptual, and/or thematic frame exists, and the writer engages consistently with complexity and demonstrates complexity of thought.

B: The work is clear and accurate, and involves engagement with class readings and discussions. There is significant analysis and explanation of concepts. While the writer demonstrates clarity of thought, their arguments and/or analysis are less original or complex. The logical, conceptual, and/or thematic framing of a piece is less clear.

C: The work relies more on description or observation and lacks sufficient analysis. It does not provide specific examples, choosing instead to summarize or to speak very generally about texts. The writing is not clearly organized. Arguments and analysis remain under-developed. The writer does not demonstrate a clear understanding of the assignment, although the writing may be polished and/or accurate.

D: The work is incomplete and unorganized. It lacks adequate analysis and relies on sketchy or very general summaries.

Late Work

All assignments should be submitted through Blackboard or to our course site by the date and time indicated in the course calendar. Unless you make prior arrangements with me at least 24 hours in advance of an assignment’s due date, late assignments will be penalized a full letter grade for each day that they are late, and I will not accept assignments that are more than 4 days late. Late final projects will not be accepted at all. If you find that you will need an extension on a particular assignment, please contact me as soon as possible to arrange an alternative due date (again, you must contact me at least 24 hours before the assignment is due, but the sooner the better). Assignment extensions will not be granted retroactively.

Late lab reports will not be accepted, and you cannot make up missed lab reports.

Because assignments for this course are submitted via Blackboard or to our course site, assignments are due on the date listed in the syllabus even if class is cancelled due to inclement weather, a power outage, etc.

Technological Failures are Not Emergencies

Technological failures and mishaps – file corruption, computer crashes, wifi connection problems, uploading the wrong file to Blackboard – are predictable facts of twenty-first century life. They happen all of the time and are thus NOT emergencies. For this course, for all of your courses, for your career, for the rest of your life on this earth, you need to develop strategies that take such failures into account. Start your work early, save it often, and save backup copies of important documents off-site using services like Dropbox and Google Drive. Technological failure or mishap – including uploading the wrong file to Blackboard – is not an excuse for late work.

Attendance Policy

Attending class is particularly important because we will be devoting class time to explaining and starting labs. Therefore, it may be difficult to successfully complete labs if you miss the class where they are introduced. During the last 1/3 of the semester, we will also be working together on our class project, and so it will be important that you attend every class you can.

I generally do not distinguish between “excused” and “unexcused” absences. Doing so puts me in a position I don’t want to be in. You may miss four class meetings without penalty. You don’t have to tell me about why you miss these classes, even if you have “official” reasons for doing so; they are yours to miss as needed, for whatever reason. More than four absences will lower your total grade for the course by at least a letter grade. More than six absences may result in course failure. There is no way to make up absences from class. Use your absences wisely (or not at all). If you are involved in official university activities like sports, music, etc. and you already know that you will be absent for more than 4 class periods, this is ok, but you need to talk to me as soon as possible.

This class asks you to try many things with which you may not be familiar. As a result, the work for this class will be difficult, and it will challenge you. You may feel confused or frustrated as you are completing it. This is normal. I nevertheless expect that you will complete each day’s reading assignment and/or homework and come to class ready to discuss it. I reserve the right to dismiss you from class if you clearly have not done the reading or if you don’t bring the day’s reading with you.

If I am unexpectedly delayed arriving to class, please wait 15 minutes before leaving the classroom.

Course Digital Infrastructure

This course makes use of three different digital environments:

  • Our course site: You will find an online version of our syllabus here (including the most up-to-date version of our reading calendar and course policies), as well as digital copies of all course assignments (in PDF as well as website form). If you are gone on a day when I introduce an assignment, you should get a copy of the assignment from our course site. You will also post your lab reports and other blog posts to our course site.
  • Our Blackboard site: This is where you will find any course readings that are not print or that are not linked to from our course site. You will also submit your three papers (close reading paper, key project analysis, and your digital methods paper) to Blackboard and receive feedback from me on these assignments via Blackboard. I will also record the lab reports you complete and the grades you receive on course assignments in Blackboard’s Grade Center.
  • Clemson Box folder: You can log into this shared folder by going to http://clemson.box.com and signing in with your Clemson ID account information. We will use this folder for storing extra resources you will need for certain labs and for project planning purposes once we start to work on our final class project. You are all “Editors” of this shared folder, which means you can upload files and folders (as well as delete them).


All students are required to check their official Clemson email accounts regularly. I will send course information and announcements through email. I endeavor to respond to all emails within 24 hours – usually less – but please do not send me urgent emails regarding your assignments on the night before they are due and expect an immediate reply.

If you have questions on course material, assignments, or policies, the best thing to do is to come to my office hours and talk to me. In fact, the best thing to do in almost any situation that affects your class work is simply to come and talk to me about it. I am happy to answer simple questions about the course via email, but more involved questions and conversations should be done in person. I am also happy to read and discuss advance drafts of your assignments with you in person, but I will not read and comment on drafts of assignments via email before they are due.

Inclusive Learning

I am committed to the principle of inclusive learning. This means that our classroom, our online spaces, our practices, and our interactions be as inclusive as possible. Mutual respect and the ability to listen, observe, and disagree with others carefully and respectfully – including me – are crucial to inclusive learning.

Clemson works to provide accommodations for you if you need additional resources in the classroom. These may include extra time on exams, note-taking services, and so on. If you need these resources or wish to consult a counselor about the available services, please make an appointment with Dr. Margaret Camp (656-6848), Director of Disability Services, to discuss specific needs within the first month of classes. SDS, in consultation with you, determines what services you may need under an accommodation plan and provides you with a letter that outlines them, which you will then discuss with me. You are responsible for visiting SDS to arrange for a letter before talking to me about these accommodations. Accommodations are not retroactive and new Faculty Accommodation Letters must be presented each semesterYou can find complete information about SDS here: http://www.clemson.edu/campus-life/campus-services/sds/.

Classroom Courtesy

This course embraces the digital world, but it also recognizes that digital tools and environments complicate personal interactions. Studies have shown that students who use laptops in class often receive lower grades than those who don’t. Even more worrisome are studies that show laptop users distract students around them. I permit laptops and tablets in class, and for this class they will be especially important and we will use them almost every day. However, please only use your laptop or tablet for class activities like note-taking, class readings, or labs. Any other use is unacceptable, and any student who misuses their laptop, tablet, or phone will be responsible for starting the next day’s class discussion.

Text messaging or other cell phone use during class is unacceptable. Any student who texts or uses their phone during class will be responsible for starting the next day’s class discussion.

Academic Integrity

The principle of academic integrity is taken very seriously and violations are treated gravely. In terms of this course, academic integrity means that when you are responsible for a task, you will perform that task. When you rely on someone else’s work in performing an aspect of that work, you will give full credit in the proper, accepted form. Clemson’s academic integrity policy is available here: http://www.clemson.edu/administration/student-affairs/student-handbook/universitypolicies/academic_integrity.html. Ignorance of what constitutes academic dishonesty is not an acceptable excuse for academic dishonesty. Turning in work for this class that you have previously completed for other courses constitutes a violation of academic integrity. Violations of academic integrity will be reported to the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies.

Another aspect of academic integrity is the free play of ideas. We all enter this classroom with preexisting political, ethical, philosophical, and intellectual commitments. Vigorous discussion and debate are encouraged in this course, with the firm expectation that all aspects of the class will be conducted with civility and respect for differing ideas, perspectives, and traditions.

Clemson University is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, veteran’s status, genetic information or protected activity (e.g., opposition to prohibited discrimination or participation in any complaint process, etc.) in employment, educational programs and activities, admissions and financial aid. This includes a prohibition against sexual harassment and sexual violence as mandated by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This policy is located at http://www.clemson.edu/campuslife/campus-services/access/title-ix/. Mr. Jerry Knighton is the Clemson University Title IX Coordinator. He also is the Director of Access and Equity. His office is located at 111 Holtzendorff Hall, 864.656.3181 (voice) or 864.565.0899 (TDD).

Thanks to Alan Liu, Ryan Cordell, and Miriam Posner, whose courses inspired this one.