ENGL255 - Literature of Science and Technology

Credit only granted for: ENGL255 or ENGL278T. Formerly: ENGL278T.

Examines science and technology through the lens of British and America literature, primarily between 1800 and the present. Readings from early natural and experimental philosophers of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment. How literary works represent the ethics of science and technology; beneficial developments of science, and also heavy toll of industrialization. Writers studied may include Francis Bacon, Mary Shelley, Charles Darwin, H.G. Wells, Albert Einstein, Aldous Huxley, Richard Feynman, Philip K. Dick, Octavia Butler, Michael Frayn, and Tom Stoppard.

In the SP ‘17 edition of ENGL255 we will explore the socio-historic, material, and cultural issues relevant to the Human and Nonhuman Humanities. One of our primary questions will be: where and how can we now locate the human in the humanities? This class will take on that question by combining two major thematic strands: (1) “Figuring the Human,” which will engage issues at the intersection of the human and the nonhuman with particular emphasis on the category of the human, figured in terms of monsters, automata, cyborgs, and zombies, and (2) “Figuring the Non-human,” which will engage issues of human and non-human prosthetics, hybridization, and symbiosis, figured in terms of nonhuman animals, cyberspace, aliens, and artificial intelligence (A.I.). More often than not these two strands will combine in surprising ways as we explore literature (and films) focused around the human and nonhuman, the inanimate, and the technologically animated. Throughout, a primary question will be how does one read, write, and live an idea of human that is unequivocally a discursive and an increasingly digital construct mediated by technology, and to what extent these entities which we imagine as not-us – the nonhuman – are radically not-us, and not just versions of ourselves in a funhouse mirror. Texts will most likely include Shelly’s Frankenstein, Hoffman’s “The Sandman,” Čapek’s, R.U.R., Whitehead’s Zone One, Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, Gibson’s Neuromancer, Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rain Forrest, Butler’s Dawn, and Chiang’s The Lifecycle of Software Objects. Possible films include Blade RunnerDistrict 9, and Her.