Human Beings, Being Human

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ENGL278T: Literature of Science and Technology

Human Beings, Being Human”

Instructor: Ms. Michelle Boswell


Office: Tawes 2134

Fall 2010: Tuesday & Thursday 12:30-1:45

Classroom: Tawes 0207

Office hours: W 1:00-3:00 and by appointment

Course Description

What does it mean to be human? In particular, what does it mean to be human in an age of ever-increasing technologies, especially those that augment our bodies and minds? Do our ethics always develop in correspondence with our technological skill? How have writers asked or responded to such questions about the benefits and problems that accompany scientific and technological advancements?

In this course, we will examine science and technology through the lens of English and American literature, primarily between 1800 and the present. We will begin the semester by reading excerpts from texts by early natural and experimental philosophers of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment and discuss how they perceived and celebrated the promise of natural philosophy. We will explore some of their founding principles and examine their underlying assumptions as well as their cultural and political exigencies.
We will examine how literary works through subsequent centuries represent the ethics of science and technology and survey their representations of not only the beneficial developments science has offered Western society, but also the heavy toll industrialization and the machinery of war take on citizens, soldiers, and scientists alike. By the end of this course, students will have thoughtfully considered the literary, historical, and cultural contexts surrounding burgeoning scientific communities in Britain and the United States, and we will have contemplated what these texts suggest it means to be human, and humane, in a technological age.
Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

    1. demonstrate familiarity and facility with fundamental terminology and concepts associated with the analysis of English and American texts containing scientific themes;

    2. demonstrate understanding of the methods of textual analysis and close reading used by literary scholars;

    3. demonstrate critical thinking in the evaluation of approaches and techniques in the literary arts;

    4. describe how language use is related to ways of thinking within both scientific communities and literary circles who engage the same scientific debates;

    5. demonstrate the ability to formulate a thesis related to literature and science and to support the thesis with evidence and argumentation.

Required Texts

Bowler & Morus, Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey (Chicago UP), ISBN: 978-0226068619

Butler, Dawn (Aspect), ISBN: 978-0446603775

Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Del Rey), ISBN: 978-0345404473

Frayn, Copenhagen (Anchor), ISBN: 978-0385720793

Huxley, Brave New World (Harper), ISBN: 978-0060850524

Shelley, Frankenstein (Penguin), ISBN: 978-0141439471

Wells, The Time Machine (Norton), ISBN: 978-0393927948

Other readings will be made available through Research Port (RP), on Blackboard (ELMS), or on photocopied handouts (H). We will also likely view selected scenes from films or television that discuss our themes (e.g., Blade Runner and Battlestar Galactica). These films or episodes may also be used as content to be considered and examined in your written work.
Student Responsibilities and Assignments

The course will require a high level of engagement from students through careful reading of all required texts and frequent participation in class discussion. Readings must be completed by the date that they are listed. Students are expected to adhere to deadlines for written work. Two short papers (approximately 5 pages each) and a final exam will practice literary analysis of the required texts. Students will also be required to complete numerous quizzes and written responses.

This syllabus is subject to change as I deem necessary, and such changes will be announced in class and posted on ELMS. If you miss a class, you still remain responsible for any such changes or assignments. No deadlines will be moved to an earlier date, though I reserve the right to postpone them.

Students are expected to attend all classes. Excessive absences (more than 3) will negatively affect the participation portion of your grade and may potentially also damage your quiz average. You are accountable for all material covered during an absence. If you miss a quiz and wish to make it up, you must document that absence according to the student honor pledge and type no more than a one-page, double-spaced response to the material covered on the date of your absence. More details about documenting absences will follow. For absences due to religious observance or team athletic events, you must notify me of those anticipated absences in writing before the end of the second week of the class.

Grade Percentages

Your grade will be calculated according to the following percentages:

Paper 1 15%

Paper 2 25%

Final Exam 30%

Quizzes & Homework 15%

Participation 15%

Papers demonstrate students’ abilities to form critical analyses of how literary texts ask questions about or respond to scientific developments. Papers must argue for the student’s original interpretation, identifying the paper’s argument in a clear thesis and supporting it with carefully chosen, specific textual evidence. Essays are due at the beginning of the class periods on which they are due. They will be considered late 10 minutes after class begins. A letter grade deduction will be applied for each calendar day it is not turned into me personally.

Papers are due in two stages: the first version should be a finished draft, on which you will receive comments but no grade. The second version, due a week after you receive comments on the first, will receive only a grade.

The Final Exam will be a cumulative assessment of students’ breadth of knowledge about the literary texts, their central themes, terminology, key historical figures in science, and scientific theories related to the literature covered over the course of the semester. The exam will includes an objective section on key terms, writers, and scientists, as well as a short-answer section of quote identification and explication.
Quizzes may be announced or unannounced. Quizzes test students’ reading completion and comprehension. Homework, including reading, studying, and written work is expected to take you 2 hours for every hour spent in class. In other words, you should expect to spend, on average, 6 hours per week out of class preparing for our meetings. When papers are due, that time is likely to increase.
Participation is important, especially in a class of this size. I expect you to participate week in, week out, and your participation grade will be evaluated according to the quantity and quality of your contributions during class discussions and on our ELMS discussion board. For each class meeting, at least one student will be responsible for posting a thoughtful question on the discussion board; another student will be responsible for posting a response. The rest of the class must read these questions and responses before the class meeting. Being prepared for class (book, notebook, readings and written homework assignments completed) is essential. Also, always remember it is common courtesy to turn off your cell phones or turn them to silent/vibrate.
Academic Integrity

The University of Maryland, College park has a nationally recognized Code of Academic Integrity, administered by the Student Honor Council. This Code sets standards for academic integrity at Maryland for all undergraduate and graduate students. As a student you are responsible for upholding these standards for this course. It is very important for you to be aware of the consequences for cheating, fabrication, facilitation, and plagiarism. For more information on the Code of Academic Integrity or the Student Honor Council, please visit

To further exhibit your commitment to academic integrity, remember to sign the Honor Pledge on all examinations and assignments: “I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized assistance on this examination/assignment.”
Course Schedule

  1. Monstrous Bodies

    • Week 1

    • 31 Aug: Course Introduction

    • 2 Sept: Bowler and Morus, Ch. 2 “The Scientific Revolution”; Ch. 18 “Biology and Ideology”

    • Week 2

    • 7 Sept: Frankenstein (Author’s Introduction (1831), Preface by P.B. Shelley, and Volume 1)

    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Christabel” (ELMS)

    • 9 Sept: Frankenstein

    • John Keats, “Lamia” (ELMS)

    • Denise Gigante, “The Monster in the Rainbow: Keats and the Science of Life” (ELMS)

    • Week 3

    • 14 Sept: Frankenstein (Volume 2)

    • Paper 1 Assigned

    • 16 Sept: Frankenstein (Volume 3)

    • Week 4

    • 21 Sept: Bowler and Morus, Ch. 6 “The Darwinian Revolution,”

    • Selections from Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man (ELMS)

    • 23 Sept: Bowler and Morus, Ch. 21 “Science and Gender

    • Women’s Responses to Darwin: George Eliot, Constance Naden, May Kendall, Mathilde Blind (ELMS)

  • Week 5

  • 28 Sept: The Time Machine (Entire; pp. 1-71)

    • “On Extinction”; “The Man of the Year Million”; “The Extinction of Man”; from “The ‘Cyclic‘ Delusion” (pp. 136-149 in The Time Machine)

  • 30 Sept: The Time Machine

  • Lankester, from Degeneration, “A Chapter in Darwinism” and T.H. Huxley, from The Struggle for Existence (pp. 157-168)

  • Recommended: Bowler and Morus, Ch. 17 “Science and Technology”

  • Week 6

  • 5 Oct: The Time Machine PAPER 1 DUE

  • Showalter, “The Apocalyptic Fables of H. G. Wells” and Colin Manlove, “H.G. Wells and the Machine in Victorian Fiction” (pp. 213-221 and 243-252)

  • 7 Oct: Bowler and Morus, Ch. 13 “The Emergence of the Human Sciences” and Ch. 19 “Science and Medicine”

  • II. Preserving Humanity

  • Week 7

  • 12 Oct: Brave New World (Ch’s 1-9; pp. 1-145)

  • 14 Oct: Brave New World (Ch’s 10-13-; pp. 146--197)

  • Week 8

  • 19 Oct: Brave New World (Ch’s 14-end; pp. 198-259) PAPER 1 DUE (revised draft)

  • Paper 2 Assigned

  • 21 Oct: Bowler and Morus, Ch. 20 “Science and War”; Einstein’s Letter to Roosevelt (ELMS), Feynman excerpt (ELMS)

  • Week 9

  • 26 Oct: Copenhagen (Entire)

  • 28 Oct: Copenhagen; watch film

  • Week 10

  • 2 Nov: Copenhagen; watch film

  • 4 Nov: Copenhagen

III. Cyborgs and Aliens

Week 11

9 Nov: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Chapters 1-11; pp. 1-128)

11 Nov: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? PAPER 2 DUE
Week 12

16 Nov: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Chapters 12-end; pp. 129-244)

18 Nov: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

N. Katherine Hayles, from How We Became Posthuman (ELMS)

Begin Blade Runner in class.
Week 13

23 Nov: Blade Runner PAPER 2 DUE (revised)

Week 14

30 Nov: Dawn (Parts I and II, “Womb” and “Family; pp. 1-111),

Tamara Leaver, “‘Humanity’s Children’: Constructing and Confronting the Cylons” (ELMS)

Watch Battlestar Galactica episode in class.

CourseEvalUM opens

2 Dec: Dawn

Week 15

7 Dec: Dawn (Parts III and IV, “Nursery” and “The Training Floor” ; pp. 113-248)

9 Dec: Dawn
Week 16

17 December (Friday): FINAL EXAM 1:30-3:30 p.m.


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