Ariel E Wetzel
Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.
Future Humans: Posthumans, Cyborgs, and Skinjobs in Science Fiction
In this section of English 242, we will look at historic and contemporary representations of future humans through science fiction. We will examine the spectrum of future humans, ranging from evolved posthumans to devolved degenerates. We will study the difference between posthumans, transhumans, cyborgs, and other visions of “improved” future humans. Through the figure of the “cyborg” in particular, these texts enable us to examine our changing relationship with science and technology. Overall, we will examine how representations and visions of future humans have evolved in science fiction between the late nineteenth century and the twenty-first century.
This course will meet daily, Monday through Thursday, and will consist of seminar-style discussion and lecture. In-class participation is mandatory, so please do not enroll if our meeting schedule interferes with your summer travel plans. Because this course fulfills the University of Washington’s W-requirement, you should expect to write 10-15 pages of graded, out-of-class writing. Assignments should help you improve your writing and critical thinking skills. In your essays, you will also practice the skills of “close reading,” claim-driven interpretation, and intertextual analysis. Additional assignments may include: peer facilitation, discussion board posts, and quizzes.
Because the summer quarter is truncated, we will read course texts at a brisk pace. Be prepared to read 30-60 pages of fiction per night. Course texts may include: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, H.G. Well’s The Time Machine, E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops,” Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, Anne McCaffrey’s “The Ship Who Sang,” Marge Piercy’s He, She, and It, and Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Fiction will be supplemented with nonfiction readings. You may also be asked to watch films outside of class, such as Wall-E, Bladerunner, and Ghost in the Shell.
No prior knowledge of science fiction is required.
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