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Reading Literature in the Digital Age

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

12,571 enrolled on this course

Reading in the Digital Age: an illustration of two hands, holding and operating a Kindle e-book reader
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours

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 to 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 and historical contextualisation. 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. As you reflect and discuss your own reading processes, you will also discover unexpected approaches, getting 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.

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

Skip to 0 minutes and 28 seconds But 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 seconds You’ll reflect on the organic nature of literary texts.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds And you’ll turn into a social reader.

Skip to 1 minute and 10 seconds I’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.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

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, Reading 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.

What do people say about this course?

"I can honestly say that this course has been the most stimulating, intriguing and fun FutureLearn course that I have participated in. "

Who will you learn with?

Professor of North American and General Literature at the Department of English of the University of Basel, Switzerland. Tweets under @pschweighaus. (Photo credit: Peter Schnetz, University of Basel).

Who developed the course?

University of Basel

The University of Basel has an international reputation of outstanding achievements in research and teaching.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control

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