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Online course

Literature in the Digital Age: from Close Reading to Distant Reading

Learn new ways of interpreting literary texts, from time-tested methods to computer-assisted practices such as distant reading.

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Literature in the Digital Age: from Close Reading to Distant Reading

Why join the course?

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 analysing 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 contextualisation.

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.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsReading. We do it all the time. Standing, sitting, sprawling.

Skip to 0 minutes and 28 secondsBut what strategies do we use to make sense of what we read? And how have our reading strategies changed since we've entered the digital age? Do our electronic devices influence the way we read? In this course, you'll discuss these questions. And you'll also gain insights into how literary scholars address them. You'll learn that pecking is not only for birds.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 secondsYou'll reflect on the organic nature of literary texts.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 secondsAnd you'll turn into a social reader.

Skip to 1 minute and 10 secondsI'm looking forward to welcoming you in this free online course. It's called "Reading Literature in the Digital Age," and it's starting soon. Join today.

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 relies on big data and computer analysis
  • Approaches to literary texts that do not seek to interpret them but focus on their surface and materiality

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Reflect on the different lay 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 relies 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.

Who will you learn with?

Philipp Schweighauser

Associate Professor and Head of American and General Literatures at the Department of English of the University of Basel, Switzerland. (Photo credit: Peter Schnetz, University of Basel).

Who developed the course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Get extra benefits, upgrade this course. For $54 you’ll get:

Unlimited access

Upgrading will mean you get unlimited access to the course.

  • Take the course at your own pace
  • Refer to the material at any point in future

If you’re taking a course for free you have access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join. If you upgrade the course you have access for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn.

Access to tests

When you upgrade you’ll have access to any tests during the course.

  • Validate your learning
  • Ensure you have mastered the material
  • Qualify for a certificate

To receive a Certificate of Achievement you need to take any tests and score over 70%. You don’t get access to tests if you choose to take a course for free.

A Certificate of Achievement

Upgrading means you’ll receive a Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course.

  • Prove your success when applying for jobs or courses
  • Celebrate your hard work
  • Display on your Linkedin or CV

To receive a Certificate of Achievement you need to mark 90% of the steps on the course as complete, and score over 70% on any course tests.