English | Literature & Science
L769 | 27026 | Kilgore

2:30p -5:30p M


Under the aegis of postmodernism we have abandoned the idea of
progress and its supporting myth of the transcendent individual.  So
we claim. However, our theories of human nature and history might
leave us vulnerable to its unquiet ghost. This is particularly true
in the scientific disciplines that play at the border of the known
and unknown, seeking to extend the reach of our knowledge.  In this
seminar we will follow the literary and cultural trace of
evolutionary narratives emerging from the fields of artificial
intelligence, robotics, and the search for extraterrestrial
intelligence (SETI).  Through writing that presents speculation,
argument and evidence (thought experiment and adventure) we will
trace the tension between our desire to fulfill the human potential
of the scientific enlightenment and our desire to escape its
oppressions.  At issue is the tension between our critique of
modernity and its persistent re-articulation in new configurations
of the human subject.  We will examine the work of artists (in and
outside of science fiction) who care about the impact of
contemporary science on everyday life; we will consider the prose of
scientists who desire cultural visibility for their work, their
beliefs and themselves; and we will explore popular responses to the
utopian ambitions of pure science.
Although we will range widely over literature from the nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries, this seminar will focus on American
science, technology, and literature following World War II.
Readings likely will include the work of Greg Bear, Don De Lillo,
Raymond Kurzweil, H. G. Wells, Katherine Hayles, Hans Moravec, Carl
Sagan, Jill Tarter, James Gunn, Seth Shostak, Donna Haraway, Mary W.
Shelley, Frank Drake, Isaac Asimov, Richard Powers and Marge
Piercy.  Assignments will include class presentations and a major
research essay.