Jacob S Oliver
Study and practice of good writing: topics derived from a variety of personal, academic, and public subjects. Cannot be taken if student has already received a grade of 2.0 or higher in either ENGL 111, ENGL 121, or ENGL 131.
Cyborgs, Politics, and Posthumanism: A Weird and Wild Look at the Potential Future of Human Civilization
This course aims to introduce you to the concepts surrounding scholarly debates, the research processes necessary for contributing to these debates, and the writing techniques you can use to craft powerful, persuasive arguments that matter in real life. In the first half of the course, I will introduce the class as a whole to a contemporary debate which I will guide you through; in the second half, you will select a topic of your own interest and produce a final research paper using the examples explored in the first half as a guide.
As is referenced in the title, the scholarly debate on which we will focus in the first half of this class will be "Cyborg Literature." While generally understood as a science fiction concept, the Cyborg was introduced into serious political/humanist thought by Donna Haraway as a metaphorical understanding of the future of human identification. At its most basic level—and we will explore this topic much more deeply in the course—the Cyborg functions both as a literal concept concerning the integration of humans and machines, as well as a metaphorical concept that challenges contemporary "categories" of humanity such as race, gender, sexuality, sex, ethnicity, class, etc. During this sequence we will look at this debate in its academic as well as popular contexts: not only will we be reading prominent theorists such as Haraway, Ray Kurzweil, N. Katherine Hayles, and John Searle, but we will also engage with pop culture sources that express anxiety and optimism surrounding the Cyborg as an emergent mode of being, such as Star Trek, Archer, Battlestar Galactica, etc. We will also explore other theoretical and empirical concepts that inform these debates, such as quantum mechanics, classical computing, and artificial intelligence.
You should be warned now: Many of the readings in this section will be very difficult, but I do not want that to deter you. We will examine each of these sources in class in-depth, and I will provide you with all the tools you need to have a firm grasp of these subjects. That said, I do expect you do engage with the assigned texts to the best of your ability.
The first half the class will provide you with a detailed understanding of how scholarly debates function, and thus in the second half of the course you will choose your own area of interest and produce a research paper using the models explored in the first half of the course as a guide. This is obviously not a literature course, nor is it really an English course per se. Rather, this course is geared toward developing academic skills that span all disciplines: careful research practices, formulating effective arguments, and engaging meaningfully in whatever field you consider your home. I am far more interested in preparing you to enter the scholarly debate that matters to you than I am in diagramming sentences or strictly enforcing arbitrary grammar rules. 131 is designed to help you succeed in your own pursuits, not to force you to unnecessarily engage in topics which are of no interest to your own intellectual goals.
Student learning goals
Engage with professional-level, ongoing scholarly debates and formulate your own thoughts, opinions, and research in response to those established in the field.
Construct persuasive, analytic arguments that contribute to intellectual discourse in a meaningful, original way.
Research complex topics, which will include the scholarly discourses presented in class and those discourses which inform your own research interests.
Develop your own process for research and writing—there is no one "correct" way to write a substantial academic paper, but there are ways to develop your own personal, productive methods for making meaningful contributions to your field.
Learn not to be afraid of jumping headfirst into those discourses that are important to you, even if you don't understand them at first. We learn by doing.
Have fun! Hopefully, you will learn that your best work will come through when you enjoy what you're writing and researching.
General method of instruction
Class will be divided between lecture and group activity, with emphasis on the latter. Your participation in group activities will be critical for your success.
Class assignments and grading
This course will consist of six mandatory assignments which must be included in your final portfolio: four short assignments of lengths between 2 and 5 pages, as well as two major papers of 5-7 pages each. These will be revised over the quarter and included in your final portfolio, for which you will select the four which you feel most strongly represent your work.
Your final grade will consist of the four assignments you select for evaluation in your portfolio (70%) and participation (30%).