English 166

Special Topics: Literature and Science from the Romantics to the Present


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2013 Savarese, John L.
Savarese, John
MWF 1-2 56 Barrows

Book List

Blake, W.: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; Dick, P.: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Gibson, W.: Neuromancer; Otis, L.: Literature and Science in the Nineteenth Century; Shelley, M.: Frankenstein; Wells, H.: The Time Machine

Description

This course offers an introduction to questions and problems in the study of literature and science, with special attention to Romantic science and its afterlife. Romanticism has come to name both a historical moment (sometimes called an “age of wonder”) and, paradoxically, an ideological movement that hatched the ongoing antagonism between “humanistic” and “scientific” cultures. For instance, in his 1998 book Unweaving the Rainbow (a title, we will see, that alludes to the poet John Keats), Richard Dawkins seeks to defend “the” scientific world-view against what he takes to be a continuing, Romantic resistance to science. As this course will demonstrate, in contrast, the Romantic era was a vibrant period of collaboration between literary and scientific aims, in which the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge volunteered himself as a laboratory subject, and Mary Shelley, with Frankenstein, offered what has been called the first work of science fiction. After setting Romantic poetry and prose alongside more recent scientific writing, philosophy of science, and science fiction, our reading of Frankenstein will set up three areas of concern regarding the human and the “posthuman” that we will track during the second half of the course: theories of life and evolution; computation, robotics, and artificial intelligence; and the literature of existential risk.

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