English 90: Machine Dreams: Science, Literature and the Body

Meets MWF 1:00 - 1:52 in Larison 130

John Rickard
Office: Vaughan Lit. 111

Office Hours:
Monday and Wednesday, 2:00 - 3:30 pm, and by appointment
E-mail address: rickard@bucknell.edu

WWW Homepage: http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/rickard

BOOKS

These books should be available in the Bucknell Bookstore, amazon.com; if you have any problems obtaining them, please let me know. YOU SHOULD ALSO PURCHASE A GOOD, HARDBACK DICTIONARY, IF YOU DON'T OWN ONE ALREADY.

SYLLABUS

This is a provisional syllabus; changes will be discussed and announced in class. The readings specified below will often be supplemented by handouts I will give you to read for the next class. You are responsible for learning of and responding to syllabus changes during the semester. I will expect you to have the works read by the first day they are listed on the syllabus.

Other materials for this course are available on the internet at: http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/rickard/FOUN90.html.
 
 
DATE SUBJECT

Wednesday
August 29

Business matters, introduction to course-- J. G. Ballard, Introduction to Crash; Donna Haraway; Marshall McLuhan

Friday
August 31

J. G. Ballard, Introduction to Crash; Donna Haraway; Marshall McLuhan

WEEKLY
FILM

NONE

Monday
September 3

Begin Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Wednesday
September 5

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Friday
September 7

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

WEEKLY
FILM

REQUIRED--Frankenstein--1931 (James Whale) version--PN1997 FRANKEN -- VIDEOTAPE

SUGGESTED--Frankenstein--1995 (Kenneth Brannagh) version--PN1997 FRANK -- VIDEOTAPE

Monday
September 10

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Wednesday
September 12

Selections from Charles Darwin

Friday
September 14

Selections from Charles Darwin

WEEKLY
FILM

REQUIRED--Metropolis--1926 (Fritz Lang)--PN1997 METROPO -- VIDEOTAPE

Monday
September 17

Selections from Friedrich Nietzsche

Wednesday
September 19

Selections from Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

Friday
September 21

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

DUE: Draft of Paper 1

WEEKLY
FILM

REQUIRED--Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde--1941 (Victor Fleming)--PN1997 DR.JEKYL -- VIDEOTAPE

Monday
September 24
Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Wednesday
September 26

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Friday
September 28

Paper 1 workshop--bring revised draft to class

WEEKLY
FILM

SUGGESTED--Either Island of Lost Souls (1932--PN 1997 ISLAND OR The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996--PN 1997 ISLA4)

Monday
October 1

H. G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau

Wednesday
October 3

H. G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau

Friday
October 5

H. G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau

Paper 1 Due

WEEKLY
FILM

Stanislaw Lem, Solaris

Monday
October 8

Stanislaw Lem, Solaris

Wednesday
October 10

Stanislaw Lem, Solaris

Friday
October 12

Stanislaw Lem, Solaris

WEEKLY
FILM

REQUIRED--Solaris--PN1997 SOLARIS -- parts 1 and 2 -- VIDEOTAPE

Monday
October 15

FALL BREAK--NO CLASS TODAY

Wednesday
October 17

Library Presentation--details to be announced

Friday
October 19

Internet / HTML Workshop--details to be announced

WEEKLY
FILM

REQUIRED--Blade Runner--PN1997 BLADE -- VIDEOTAPE

Monday
October 22
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Wednesday
October 24
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Friday
October 26
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
WEEKLY
FILM
SUGGESTED--Aliens--NUMBER: PN1997 ALIENS
Monday
October 29
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Wednesday
October 31
Octavia Butler, Dawn
Friday
November 2
Octavia Butler, Dawn
WEEKLY
FILM
SUGGESTED--Brother from Another Planet--PN1997 BROTHER -- VIDEOTAPE
Monday
November 5
Octavia Butler, Dawn
Paper 2 Due
Wednesday
November 7
Octavia Butler, Dawn
Friday
November 9
Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash
WEEKLY
FILM
SUGGESTED--2001: A Space Odyssey--PN1997 2001 -- VIDEOTAPE
Monday
November 12
Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash
Wednesday
November 14
Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash
Friday
November 16
Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash
WEEKLY
FILM
SUGGESTED--Robocop--PN1997 ROBOCOP -- VIDEOTAPE
Monday
November 19
Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash
Wednesday
November 21
THANKSGIVING RECESS--NO CLASS
Friday
November 23
THANKSGIVING RECESS--NO CLASS
WEEKLY
FILM
SUGGESTED--Johnny Mnemonic--PN1997 JOHNNY -- VIDEOTAPE
Monday
November 26
William Gibson, "Johnny Mnemonic" and "Burning Chrome"
Wednesday
November 28
Anne McCaffrey, "The Ship Who Sang"
Friday
November 30
J. G. Ballard, "Memories of the Space Age"
WEEKLY
FILM
NONE
Monday
December 3
James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), "The Girl Who Was Plugged In"
Wednesday
December 5
Greg Bear, "Blood Music"
Friday
December 7
Vernor Vinge, "True Names"
Monday
December 10
Evaluations and discussion of course
Final Paper and Reading Notebook Due

COURSE OBJECTIVES: In Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud stated that modern humans have become "prosthetic gods," meaning that we have learned to use technology to extend ourselves across time and space in ways that previous generations would only have imagined gods capable of (Freud goes on to question, however, whether this has made us any happier). This course will explore some of the ways that writers from Mary Shelley onwards have responded to the new powers, possibilities, and anxieties that modern science and technology have brought about. Looking at philosophical, scientific, literary, and hypertext writings as well as film, we will probe in particular the ways in which scientific developments such as evolutionary theory have changed the ways we view and understand our own bodies. We will explore the growing sense that technological protheses are stimulating "(r)evolutionary" changes in the bodies and minds of human beings, the notion that we are in fact becoming a new and different species, perhaps even something partly mechanical. Just as Freud did, we will ask what the ramifications of such changes might be, grappling with relevant texts in an attempt to better understand what being "modern" has come to mean in terms of the destabilization and/or fragmentation of origins, traditions or "metanarratives," and even our own bodies and personal identities. We will end with very recent books and films in the so-called "cyberpunk" genre.

In the process, we will also develop reading, writing, and critical thinking skills through in-depth analysis of written texts and films and practice in the writing process. We will work together on a series of essays aimed at developing various types of writing skills. You will also keep a reading notebook that responds to each day's reading and class discussions in order to deepen and develop your reactions to the course materials.

An important part of my job is making sure that you know how to use sources carefully and correctly in academic writing and that you understand the University's policies concerning plagiarism, which I define as the unacknowledged use, either intentional or unintentional, of material first expressed by another person. We will discuss plagiarism and proper methods of documentation during the semester, but if, at any time, you have questions about plagiarism problems in this or any other class, please come and ask me about them.

CLASS FORMAT: Although at times I may lecture in order to present background material, most of our class time will consist of discussion among the members of the seminar. Class participation in discussion and other activities is essential, is taken for granted, and will be an important part of your grade. Failure to participate will lower your grade, as will excessive absences or chronic tardiness. After three absences your participation grade will begin to drop. More than six absences will guarantee an "F" for the class. If you do not feel that you are willing or able to keep up with the reading, attend class daily, and participate in discussion, you should consider withdrawing from the course before the end of the drop/add period. In case of an absence, it is your responsibility to obtain copies of any class handouts, to find out what we covered in class, and to learn whether any extra work was assigned.

ASSIGNMENTS: We will practice a variety of forms of written and oral presentation in this class, some involving formal analysis and some inviting more direct reaction. The first two essays will be formal "analysis" papers that explicate the ways in which a piece of literature "works." Your reading journal will preserve your responses to readings and class discussions and will provide you with a place to consider and follow through on some of the issues and questions we raise in class. Each student will present at least one oral presentation to the class--a "reaction/background presentation" that outlines your own reaction to a reading or film and also presents relevant background information. Your final project for the course will involve a researched investigation of a theme, writer, text, and/or film that you found particularly interesting; this research and your analytical argument about the work(s) in question will then be presented as a webpage. I may assign other (mostly ungraded) writing both in and out of class.

FILMS: Since film is such an important part of the history of science fiction and since so many of the books we read have been "interpreted" by films based upon them, the syllabus lists a number of films related to the concerns of the course. When a film is listed as "required," you must watch it during the week it is listed and respond to it in your reading journal. The films listed above in the syllabus will be held for you on reserve; I encourage you to watch them in groups.

EVALUATION:
Paper 1 Analysis Due October 5 15%
Paper 2 Analysis Due November 5 15%
Final Project Researched Analysis Due December 10 30%
Reading Journal Due December 10 20%
Oral presentation(s) Schedule to be determined 10%
Class participation 10%

(Part of your grade for each paper will be based on your preparation of drafts and your participation in rough draft workshops)

LATE PAPERS: I will at times allow students an extra day to work on finishing a late paper, but only if you have an acceptable reason for turning the essay in late and only if you ask me for an extension before the paper is due. Many students who get their essays in on time consider it unfair for a professor to allow other students extra time to finish assignments; therefore, unexcused late papers will go down one letter grade for every day they are late. I will not allow extensions on the oral presentation or on the final paper.

FINALLY . . . As noted above, my office is Vaughan Literature Building 111. I am available during my normally-scheduled office hours to meet with you. If you need to speak with me outside of my scheduled office hours, you can e-mail me (rickard@bucknell.edu) or call me at 577-1424. If you have an important message or really need to speak with me urgently, please call me at home at 523-7784 (please always try my office number first).