ENLT 248 [Contemporary Literature]
Bodies Electric: The Cyborg and Other Recent Figures of Fiction

Matt Kirschenbaum, Instructor
MWF 1200 - 1250
Spring 1998

This course will take the figure of the cyborg -- a body constituted by both organic and artificial components -- as the interface at which a number of significant concerns in contemporary fiction collide, crystallize, fuse, and erupt. These bodily fissures appear along fault lines generated by sexuality and gender, racial others, paranoia and disease and addiction, collapsed political orders, and advanced information technologies. Above all, the cyborg must not be mistaken for a figure whose only orbit is science fiction -- such a mistake would be catastrophic for our understanding of contemporary fiction's complex relationships to the multivalent social systems which envelope it here and now, in the present day. Readings will emphasize the degree to which the cyborg body has functioned as the site for an unusually wide range of contemporary writing: J. G. Ballard's Crash, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, William Gibson's Idoru, Douglas Coupland's Microserfs, Kathy Acker's Empire of the Senseless, and Shelley Jackson's hypertext novel Patchwork Girl, plus one or two others. We will also look closely at a number of films, including Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, and Danny Boyle's Trainspotting. In addition, students will be expected to work with a modest selection of critical writing, including essays by Donna Haraway and an electronic text entitled Cyborg.

Requirements for the course will include three short response papers designed to build the close reading and critical thinking skills with which the class will then launch a collaborative final project to be published on the World-Wide Web. Each individual student will be responsible for a substantial contribution to this final project. Participation in a class email list and in MOO sessions (a MOO is a text-based virtual reality environment) are also both required. There will be a final exam.

This class will be taught in Bryan 203, the English Department's electronic classroom.

Document URL: http://www.iath.virginia.edu /mgk3k/enlt248.html
Last Modified: Thursday, 09-Oct-2008 14:04:00 EDT