ENGL738T - Seminar In Nineteenth-Century Literature: Technoromanticsm

In a bad book with a bold thesis, Richard Coyne argues that contemporary understandings of the computer, “with its promises of interconnectivity, subversion of hierarchy, restoration of the tribe, revitalism of democracy, and new holism”--all have their historical roots in Enlightenment and Romantic thought. This course will explore the extent to which the ideological formations of Romanticism both underlie and resist the way technology is imagined in contemporary culture through poetry, fiction, film, virtual worlds, and computer gaming.

Throughout the semester, we will be concerned with Romanticism as a discourse about cultural change; about monstrosity and the body; about art as technology; about the necessity for and the impossibility of making art or technology that isn't always already co-opted; about abjected, alienated, resistant subjects at the mercy of phallic power structures; about the gendering of technology; about textual and sexual reproduction; about Luddite and eco- resistance to technology; about utopian imaginings and dystopian worlds; and about the world itself as a consensual illusion. The syllables will be divided into such sections as “Blake and Hacking the Book,” “Automata and Cyborgs,” “Virtual Realities,” “Prosthetics of the Imagination,” and “Prosthetics of Memory.”

At the core of the course will be the masterpiece of Technoromanticism, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and its re-mediations in film (Edison, Whale, Branagh), hyperfiction (Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl), virtual worlds (FrankenMOO and The Trail of Terror), and, perhaps, gaming. The syllabus will include such other Romantic era writers as E. T. A. Hoffman, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas DeQuincey; such contemporary writers as William Gibson, Jean Baudrillard, Donna Harraway, Philip K. Dick, and Richard Powers; and such films as Blade Runner, The Matrix, and Memento.

Over the course of the semester, students will have the opportunity to engage in substantive digital projects related to Romantic Circles and MITH’s ongoing work with the Shelley-Godwin Archive. There will also be collaborative digital work with students in a graduate seminar at the University of Virginia, taught by Andrew Stauffer, on the British Digital 19th Century.