Course Description: As technology has grown to play a more prominent role in everyday life, the tension between nature and technology has appeared in a wide variety of literature, film, and other cultural artifacts. Since the Industrial Revolution, fictional mechanical men, robots, and other automata have enraptured audiences in the Western world. Using works such as Metropolis, R.U.R., Battlestar Galactica, and stories by Isaac Asimov, we will look at how the automata represent the feelings towards the increased mechanization of society and individuals at critical points in the twentieth century. In particular, we will explore how automata simultaneously reflect both the love of technology and the fear of losing what it means to be human in an increasingly mechanical world.
Students will develop their ideas through discussion, writing, and a process of peer review, self-assessment, and revision. As a capstone to the seminar, students will write an 8-10 page research paper exploring how representations of automata embody the prevailing hopes and fears of technology.
Readings and Films Include:
- Karel Capek, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots)
- Isaac Asimov, I, Robot
- Fritz Lang, Metropolis – 2010 Re-release
- Gattaca (1998)
- Blade Runner: The Final Cut
- Perkowitz, Digital People
- Mazlish, The Fourth Discontinuity
- Fukuyama, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution.
- Michael Bess, “Blurring the Boundary Between ‘Person’ and ‘Product’: Human Genetic Technologies Through the Year 2060,” The Hedgehog Review 13: 2 (Summer 2011), 55-67; “Enhanced Humans versus ‘Normal People’: Elusive Definitions,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 0 (November 2010), 1-15; “Icarus 2.0: A Historian’s Perspective on Human Biological Enhancement.” Technology and Culture 49: 1 (Jan. 2008).
- Svilpis “The Science-Fiction Prehistory of the Turing Test”
- LaGrandeur, “The Persistent Peril of the Artificial Slave”
Readings about Writing:
- Linda Flower (1979)
- Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say / I Say
- Other selections as necessary
Offered: Spring 2012, University of Rochester