English 90: Machine Dreams: Culture, Technology, and the Human Form

Fall 2005

Meets TR 9:30 - 10:52 am in Carnegie 109
Common Hour on Mondays, 3:00 - 4:22 pm, Olin 268

PLEASE NOTE:  This course is part of the Society and Technology Residential College

Click here to make a Paper One appointment with me.

John Rickard
Office: Carnegie 202

Office Hours:

Monday, 1:30 - 2:30 pm
Tuesday , 11:00 am - Noon
Thursday, 1:00 - 2:00 pm
And by appointment



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.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

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

Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (aka Blade Runner)

Pat Cadigan, Ed.  The Ultimate Cyberpunk


Last Day to Drop/Add: Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Last Day for Four-Week Withdrawal From a Course with Dean's Permission: Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Last Day for Nine-Week Withdrawal with Dean's Permission: Thursday, October 27, 2005

Advising for Spring 2005 Semester Begins: Monday, October 31, 2005

Preregistration for Spring 2005 Semester Begins: Monday, November 7, 2005


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.

You can find additional materials for this course online at the Bucknell Blackboard site.

Color Codes -- Common hours are noted in blue; films are noted in green; architecture project in red

WEEK ONE: Introductions

Thursday, August 25:

Introduction to course, syllabus, assignments

WEEK TWO: Design Project
Monday, August 29:
Common Hour: Introductions, Brainstorming and Team Building

DUE: Field Notes Assignment
Tuesday, August 30:
Special meeting on Form & Function, Art & Aesthetics, Breakiron Building, Room 166

READ: "The Growth of Conscience in the Decorative Arts" and "Aesthetics and Architecture" (

Thursday, September 1:

Special meeting on interview skills, McDonnell Lounge (Second Floor)

READ: "The Qualitative Interview" (

WEEK THREE: Machine Dreams
Monday, September 5:
Common Hour: Architecture Panel -- Carol Rickard and Beth Buffington, Little and Associates Architects

DUE: Mock Interview Reports
Tuesday, September 6:
READ: J. G. Ballard, Introduction to Crash; Donna Haraway, "A Manifesto for Cyborgs" (Excerpt); Unabomber manifesto excerpts (ERES -- Rickard Folder); and Max More, "The Proactionary Principle" (Online essay)
Thursday, September 8:

 Library session with Professor Wolaver's class -- Meet in Lower Level 1 Library Computer Lab

DUE: Corrections to mock interview reports

Saturday - Sunday, September 10-11:
SoTech College Retreat at Cowan (details TBA)
WEEK FOUR: The Evolving Human
Monday, September 12:
No Common Hour: Use Time to Conduct Interviews
Tuesday, September 13:

READ: Darwin, Excerpt from "Descent of Man" and Nietzsche and Freud selections (ERES -- Rickard Folder)
Thursday, September 15:

READ: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pages vii-xii and 1-58

DUE: Library Assignment

WEEK FIVE: Frankenstein
Monday, September 19:

Common Hour: Architects -- Environment and Buildings -- Jennifer Shields, Tobin Design PLLC

Tuesday, September 20:

 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein -- pages 59-101 and M. K. Joseph, "The Composition of Frankenstein" (pages 157-160)

Thursday, September 22:

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pages 103-156

DUE: Survey interviews must be finished by Friday, September 23.  Otherwise, permission to delay interviews must be requested and granted in writing.

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

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

WEEK SIX: Floor Plan 3D and Paper One

Each of you will meet with me in my office or the 7th Street Cafe during this week to discuss drafts of Paper One.

Monday, September 26:

Common Hour: Frankenstein

DUE: Interview Notes must be posted on SOCTECH Design Blackboard Page
Tuesday, September 27:
Special Meeting: Designing Healthy Spaces -- McDonnell 241
READ: Frumkin, "Healthy Places: Exploring the Evidence," American Journal of Public Health 93 (9): 1451-56.  (On Blackboard SOCTECH Design Page)

Thursday, September 29:

Special Meeting: Learning Floor Plan 3D -- O'Leary 202
FILM (view by Tuesday, October 4):
REQUIRED--Metropolis--1927 (Fritz Lang)-- PN1997 METROP2 (Restored Authorized Edition) -- DVD (ON RESERVE AT CIRCULATION DESK)

WEEK SEVEN: Metropolis and The Island of Dr. Moreau

Monday, October 3:

Common Hour: Deans' Panel on Budgets and Spending Priorities 

Tuesday, October 4:

Discuss Metropolis and work on drafts for Paper One

Progress Reports

Thursday, October 6:

READ: H. G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Chapters 1 -7 (up to page 36)

DUE: Paper One

Monday, October 10:

Fall Break -- No Common Hour

Tuesday, October 12:

Fall Break -- No Class

Thursday, October 14:

H. G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau -- Finish book by today

SUGGESTED--One of the following: Island of Lost Souls (1932--PN 1997 ISLAND) OR The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977--PN1997 ISLA) OR The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996--PN 1997 ISLA4) (ON RESERVE AT CIRCULATION DESK)

WEEK NINE: Blood Music
Monday, October 17:
Common Hour: Stem Cell Panel -- READ: Stem Cell Basics (http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/) and look at Stem Cell FAQs (http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/faqs.asp)

Tuesday, October 18:

Discuss stem cell controversy and finish discussing The Island of Dr. Moreau
Thursday, October 20:
READ: Greg Bear, "Blood Music," in Ultimate Cyberpunk, pages 153-183

WEEK TEN: Do Androids Dream?

Monday, October 24:
Common Hour: First Craft Session, locations TBA
Tuesday, October 25:

 READ: Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner)

Thursday, October 27:

Crafts Project -- Location(s) to be announced

FILM (view by Thursday, November 3):


WEEK ELEVEN: Do Androids Dream?

Monday, October 31:
Common Hour: Presentation of Room Designs
Tuesday, November 1:

READ: Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner)

Progress Reports
Thursday, November 3:

 READ: Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner)


FILM (view by Tuesday, November 8):

REQUIRED--The Ghost in the Shell -- PN1997 GHOST5 -- VHS



Monday, November 7:
No Common Hour
Tuesday, November 8:
Discuss The Ghost in the Shell; Rough Draft Workshop
Thursday, November 10:

READ: James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," in Ultimate Cyberpunk, pages 74-120

DUE: Paper Two
FILM (view and review in journal by Tuesday, November 15):

REQUIRED--The Matrix -- PN1997 MATRIX2 -- DVD



Monday, November 14:

Common Hour: Bucknell Architecture, Professor Russell Dennis
Tuesday, November 15:

Discuss The Matrix

Thursday, November 17:

READ: William Gibson, "Burning Chrome," in Ultimate Cyberpunk, pages 127-152

WEEK FOURTEEN: Living in Cyberspace -- The Body as Information
Monday, November 21:
Common Hour: Dr. David Scadden, Co-Director, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Location TBA

Tuesday, November 22:

Thursday, November 24:



Monday, November 28:
Poster Session on Total Design Concepts

Tuesday, November 29:

READ: Vernor Vinge, "True Names" (ERES -- Rickard Folder)
Thursday, December 1:

Discuss The Thirteenth Floor -- Work on Design Project Presentations

FILM (view by Thurday, December 1):

REQUIRED--The Thirteenth Floor -- PN1997 THIRT3 -- DVD



FINAL WEEK: Conclusions

Monday, December 5:

Common Hour: Residential College Dinner

Tuesday, December 6:

Evaluations and discussion of course -- Rough Draft Workshop for Final Paper -- Bring Full Draft

Final Paper must be turned in byThursday, December 8, at 5:00 pm


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 internet 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.

Since this course is also part of the Society and Technology Residential College curriculum, we will also read and discuss common core materials shared by all four SocTech foundation seminars.  This semester, our common elements will include readings and lectures on the Amish and on food, society, and technology.

Thoughout the semester, we will work to 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 journal 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. I will occasionally assign a student to prepare a brief, informal oral presentation for the next class on a word, person, or topic we will cover; these brief presentations will be part of your participation grade.

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 shorter, formal "analysis" papers that explicate the ways in which a piece of literature "works." I will also require you to turn in a weekly two-page essay on a suggested topic related to our assignments and class discussions. Your final project for the course will involve a researched investigation of a theme, writer, text, and/or film that you found particularly interesting. I may assign other (mostly ungraded) writing both in and out of class. Please expect occasional reading quizzes and/or in-class writing on the assigned material.

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 be prepared to discuss it on the day listed on the syllabus. The films listed above in the syllabus will be held for you on reserve; I encourage you to watch them in groups.

Paper 1 Analysis Paper
Due October 6 10%
Paper 2 Analysis Paper
Due November 8
Paper 3
Analysis Paper
Due December 8
Weekly Writings Due every Thursday
Architecture Design Project
Class participation     10%

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. Students who get their essays in on time justifiably 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 Carnegie Building 202. 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).