Digital Literary Studies: Novel Maps of New York (Novel Maps of NY)

Moacir P. de Sá Pereira (

Autumn 2017, 194M, 303, MW 12:30–13:45

Office Hours: 244 Greene, 506, T 13:30–16:30

Course description

How does the geography of New York City shape the literature of New York City? Does the literature shape the geography in return? In this course, we aim to understand the spatiotemporality of the Big Apple through novels of the 20th and 21st centuries that recreate and react to it. Not only will we read spatially, however, but we will also create spatially. Students will make maps that launch projects of geographical storytelling as a mode of literary analysis. More concretely, we will build online data repositories and exhibits (using JavaScript and HTML) that synthesize our reading and mapping practices. No previous programming knowledge is needed, but a curiosity and interest in puzzle solving is.

Goals of the course


Course requirements & policies



10% The success of any course is directly related to the levels of engagement brought both by the instructor and the students. As such, class participation is vitally important. Similarly, though attendance is logically required for class participation, it is not sufficient. This class requires active participation both inside the classroom and outside.

You can miss up to three meetings without penalty, and you can use these opportunities tactically, to provide space and time to either fulfill other obligations or recuperate from the previous night. I don’t care why you didn’t come. I start to care with the fourth absence, and I start to require documentation. Repeated unexcused absence quickly gobbles up the class participation component of the grade and begins to threaten your ability to even pass the course.

In a discussion-oriented class, “active participation” involves the following components. All of these are necessary to receive maximum points for participation:

JavaScript Homework

20% Every week, for the Wednesday class, the respective problem set for that week in The JavaScripting English Major will be due. The answers should be emailed to me before class on Wednesday, and you should bring your homework to class on Wednesday as well, where we will correct it as a group.

The JavaScripting English Major is a course I am preparing, so your feedback is very useful. Most of the chapters dovetail with the chapters in Eloquent JavaScript, and if my description of a feature is insufficient, please look to the Haverbeke text for more information. Crockford’s JavaScript: The Good Parts is more for reading on the side, if you find the programming aspects of the course especially interesting.


20% You will undertake two dérives during the semester. In both, you will get lost in Manhattan (and beyond?), while also documenting and tracking yourself. In order to direct your dérive, you will use either the Derive App for your smartphone or a set of cards printed out ahead of time. In order to track the dérive, you are required to trace your path and take notes on a Field Papers atlas and, if possible, track yourself using GPS (the Derive App, if you let it, will save your route).

During the course of the dérive, which can last hours, you should reflect on the readings we have already done for the class, both in what you observe while getting lost, but also in the process of getting lost itself. This is a time for psychogeography, not wandering listlessly about while checking the ’Gram. Stroll without headphones; look around and feel the environment around you.

At the end, you will write up a short (1,100–1,250 words) report for each dérive, including textual references from our readings. The report will be joined by the original Field Papers atlas with notes. You can and are encouraged to use other forms of media to supplement the report.

Finally, you will create a Leaflet map tracing your two dérives, to be hosted on GitHub.


15% You will give a short presentation on one of the novels we are reading. This presentation should be about five minutes long and introduce another writer’s views on the novel. Usually, this means looking up a book review. Most of the books will have been reviewed by at least one of the New York Times or New York Review of Books, but you can look for other reviews from newspapers and magazines. The presentation should summarize the review and include your thoughts on the review having read (at least some of) the novel in question. For guidelines on giving a good presentation, see my webpage on presentation tips.

Final project

35% Throughout the semester, you will be building a project based on one of the novels in the class and its relationship to New York City. This project will be a website, hosted on GitHub. Because it must contain at least one Leaflet map, thematically the project will benefit from tracing certain geographies in the novel of your choice and reproducing them online. The result of the project should not be a fixed conclusion, but, rather, a new series of questions prompted by your thinking about the novel geographically. That is, what does the map you create tell you about the novel that you did not previously know? What kinds of future avenues of inquiry open up because of it?

You should be thinking about the project as early as possible, even considering from the discussion on the first day which novel you may want to choose for your focus and jumping ahead on it. Right before Thanksgiving, you will send me a short outline of the project, a précis, that describes the structure of the site (a “wireframe”), the content, and what kinds of questions you will be investigating. During the last week of the course, we will have time in class to troubleshoot technical problems, and on the last class, you will give a quick, five-minute presentation about your project. Over the following week, you will complete the project.

Hitting every deadline is crucial, so being late on any of these three points (précis, presentation, final submission) will hurt your final grade.



The assignment instructions, though detailed in the syllabus, may be enhanced or supplemented during the course. If you have any questions about an assignment, you should ask for clarification early. The assignments are due on the dates noted in the syllabus.The writing can be submitted electronically.

Late assignments jeopardize both your and my rhythms in the class, so they will be penalized. I will give you feedback and will happily discuss any work with you, but grades should be considered final.


As indicated above, attendance is required. Three absences will be excused without supplemental documentation, and I encourage you to use these tactically. Catching up is your responsibility.

Subsequent absence requires formal documentation. Otherwise it begins to harm your final grade. Though class participation is only part of the final grade, extreme absenteeism (more than six meetings missed) will put your ability to pass the course at risk.

Please show up on time to class, as well.


Our time in class is meant as a sanctuary from the distractions of the rest of the world. Additionally, our class relies on discussion and engagement, and the front of a laptop screen is a brilliant shield behind which a student can hide, even unintentionally. During our meetings, then, there can be no use of electronic devices. Please also set whatever devices you have but aren’t using to silent mode.


Communication is vitally important to the pedagogical process, and this course depends on clear communication in both directions. If you have questions, comments, or concerns, the best course of action is to come visit me during my office hours as noted at the top of this document. If your questions, etc., cannot wait until then, then clearly you can also email me. I should respond within 48 hours, but please write again if I do not.

This is a new course, meaning that there will be even more unfinished edges ready to scratch someone than in a typical course. We have a collective goal of learning, however, so if the unfinished edges get to be overwhelming, I’ll adjust the parameters of the course appropriately. I’m not out to catch you, nor is this course a process of grotesque punishment. Please don’t treat it as such.

Once more, with feeling: communication is vitally important to the pedagogical process. If you have concerns or worries, please let me know about them sooner rather than later.


If you have a disability, you should register with the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities (; 726 Broadway, 2nd Floor, 212.998.4980), which can arrange for things like extra time for assignments. Please inform me at the beginning of the semester if you need any special accommodations regarding the assignments.

Academic integrity

Please look at NYU’s full statement on academic integrity. Any instance of academic dishonesty will result in an F and will be reported to the relevant dean for disciplinary action. Remember that plagiarism is a matter of fact, not intention. Know what it is, and don’t do it.


This syllabus is available at the course webpage. A pdf version is also available. The source code and documentation for this document is available at its Github repository. The syllabus is ©2017, Moacir P. de Sá Pereira. It is licensed as Creative Commons 4.0 by-nc-sa, giving you permission to share and alter it in any way, as long as it is for non-commercial purposes, maintains the license, and gives proper attribution. Further information regarding the license, the history of the document, and influences can be viewed at the Github repository.


Required readings indicated with quotation marks (“”) will be available as pdfs. They should be printed out for use in class. The texts for the presentations are also available as pdfs.

The list of references at the end of the pdf version of the syllabus provides bibliographic details for all the texts for the course.

HW n refers to the homework in the nth chapter of The JavaScripting English Major.


Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday
4 Sep No Class (Office Hours) Introductions / Whitehead
11 Sep Cole (Office Hours) Cole HW 1 & 2
18 Sep Cole (Claire, Soleil) (Office Hours) Debord HW 3
25 Sep McKay (Office Hours) McKay dérive 1 due HW 4
2 Oct McKay (Ben, Julia, Anaya) (Office Hours) De Certeau HW 5
9 Oct No Class (Office Hours) Slesinger HW 6
16 Oct Slesinger (Office Hours) Slesinger HW 7
23 Oct Slesinger (Amelia) (Office Hours) Slesinger (Ashlyn) dérive 2 due HW 8
30 Oct Messud (Office Hours) Messud (Nikita) HW 9
6 Nov Messud (Tamar) (Office Hours) Messud HW 10
13 Nov Messud (Office Hours) Messud dérive leaflet due HW 11
20 Nov Messud final project précis HW 12 (Office Hours) No Class 🦃
27 Nov Messud (Vanessa) (Office Hours) Woodson HW 13
4 Dec Woodson (Office Hours) Woodson (Justin) HW 14
11 Dec Hardwick Hardwick (Jade), Project studio Project presentations HW 15
18 Dec (Office Hours) Final Project Due 🎉