Literature of Technology: I/Robot

Course Number: ENGL 146IR
Prerequisites: Writing 2 or 50 or 109AA-ZZ or English 10 or upper-division standing
Advisory Enrollment Information: May be repeated for credit provided the letter designations are different.
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 146AA-ZZ
Quarter: Fall 2011
Day(s): MW
Time: 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: GIRV 1115

May be repeated for credit to a maximum of 28 units provided letter designations are different.

In this advanced course within the LCI specialization, we'll think about the relationships between literature and technology through the figure of the robot. While we'll certainly think about what twentieth-century advances in computing and robotics have meant for science fiction, literary fiction, and film, the course will also take on a broader range of contexts, issues, and strategies of reading. We'll think about the variety of ways, for instance, that human subjects came to be thought of as "programmable" in the eyes of behaviorist psychologists, industrial managers, and propagandists, such that metaphors of the robotic frequently applied to humans themselves in the twentieth century. Drawing on the term's etymology—"robot" is derived from the Czech for "worker"—we'll see how representations of robots interrogate both physical labor and the forms of immaterial labor that define the postindustrial economy, from information processing to gendered labors of care. In literature and film, the robot also frequently stands in for the figure of the enemy—the communist, the terrorist, the cult member—and we'll trace how our texts explore and critique dialectics of self and other, geopolitical mappings of freedom and unfreedom, contemporary conceptions of ethics, and the limits of democratic community. Requirements include reading quizzes, several email reading responses, two papers, and an in-class final exam.