L373 24770 INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACHES TO ENGLISH AND AMERICAN LITERATURE
Tom Foster

1:00p-2:15p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC: “The Literature of Cyberspace”

This course will focus on one of the more notorious examples of interdisciplinarity in contemporary American literature: the literary origins of “cyberspace” as a metaphor for the forms of social connection and communication created by networked computers. This term originated in 1984, with William Gibson’s cyberpunk science fiction novel Neuromancer. This course will trace the history of the cyberspace metaphor, with attention to both science fiction and mainstream literary responses to Gibson’s neologism. We will focus on cyberpunk science fiction initially, including Gibson’s Neuromancer, and possibly including novels or stories by such writers as Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker, Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson, Maureen McHugh, Melissa Scott, Greg Egan, Cory Doctorow, and Charles Stross, but we will also consider how cyberpunk science fiction and the cyberspace metaphor have been received more generally within postmodern literary studies as offering a new approach to postmodernism’s interest in the mediated nature of contemporary experience and identities. We may also, then, read fiction by such authors as Richard Powers, John Barth, Bharati Mukherjee, and Guillermo Gomez-Pena, as well as some example (s) of electronic epistolary writing, fiction that takes the form of exchanges of e-mail (by Nancy McCarthy, Astro Teller, or Caitlin Sullivan and Kate Bornstein). We will also consider the transformation of cyberpunk into a multimedia phenomenon, and we will certainly watch and discuss The Matrix; time depending, other examples of visual media may also be included in the course. Finally, we will do some readings in the field of technoculture studies, and on responses to the cyberspace metaphor by people working in the computer industry and other, non-literary fields.

Assignments for the course will include two or three essays, a final exam, and possibly a midterm.