English 190

Research Seminar: Cybernetics; or Control and Communication in the Postwar Novel


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Spring 2014 Bernes, Jasper
TTh 12:30-2 221 Wheeler

Book List

Acker, Kathy: Empire of the Senseless; Burroughs, William S.: Nova Express; Delany, Samuel: Nova; Dick, Philip K.: Ubik; Pynchon, Thomas: The Crying of Lot 49; Wiener, Norbert: The Human Use of Human Beings

Description

The title of this course plays on Norbert Wiener’s highly influential 1948 book, Cybernetics; or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Though hardly remembered today, the field that it inaugurated, cybernetics, enjoyed a non-specialist following that was nearly unprecedented in the history of science, influencing philosophy, social science and literature and the arts in particular. This course will track the influence of key cybernetic concepts – entropy, information, feedback, control – upon postwar fiction, as we try to understand how this cybernetic vocabulary helped writers address the problems of a newly technological society that seemed convulsed by stagnation and homogeneity on the one hand and volatility and breakdown on the other. Our main course readings will comprise five American novels, from paperback science fiction to postmodern experiment. We will also read from the field of cybernetics, and engage with the visual arts and other literary genres where appropriate. 

Please read the paragraph on page 2 of the instructions area of this Announcement of Classes for more details about enrolling in or wait-listing for this course.

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