English R1B

Reading & Composition: Human Variability and the Idea of Progress

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Fall 2015 Dimitriou, Aristides
TTh 3:30-5 225 Wheeler

Book List

Ishiguro, Kazuo: Never Let Me Go; Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein; Whitehead, Colson: Zone One

Other Readings and Media

BBC America: Orphan Black; Darwin, Charles: On the Origin of Species (excerpts); Encinosa Fú, Michel: "Como tuvieron que morir las rosas" ["Like the Roses Had to Die"]; Jonze, Spike: Her; Rivera, Alex: Sleep Dealer; Wells, H.G.: The Island of Doctor Moreau (excerpts)


Many of us tacitly surrender to the belief that “social progress is driven by technological innovation, which in turn follows an inevitable course.” Quite often, we encounter this idea of progress through variously coded forms of narrative emplotment about the so-called "human condition." The question of what it means to be human, then, becomes all the more important when considering the ideological dominance of technological utopianism and social progressivism. Especially in consideration of human variability, abjection, and alterity, we must ask whether "progress," when taken to its "inevitable" extreme, enacts a redefinition of the human. If so, how do literature and film negotiate anxieties concerning the course of history and the sociohistorical relations that govern the categorical treatment of human differentiation? How is the representation of (non)normality affected by the systemic stratifications of raced, classed, gendered, and disabled bodies that mediate cultural production? Does technology, as Rosalind Williams suggests, produce historical contradictions by eliding the very power structures it reproduces?

In this class, we will explore these challenging questions, while developing our critical thinking skills for the purpose of effective rhetorical practice and composition. Most importantly, we will focus on how to find, evaluate, and make use of research tools and resources for analytic writing across the curriculum. The primary writing assignments for the course will be three progressively longer papers combining analysis of primary texts with research from secondary sources. Strategies for revision will form another major focus of the course, and the second and third papers will include substantial work and feedback at the prewriting and draft stages of composition.

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