English 596K: Literature and Science and Technology Studies

This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of Science, Technology, and Society (STS), with a strong focus on the questions literature raises for the field. Chief among these will be reflecting on how we map the complex historical relationships between scientific discourses and artistic production. We’ll start in the nineteenth century but spend most of our time in a set of 20th century US and UK historical contexts that will include histories of race, epidemiology, sexology, climate science, the cultural roles of expertise, and possibly other topics. Students can expect to encounter foundational and recent texts in several interlocking academic areas (likely examples in parentheses): science, technology, and society (Foucault, Kuhn, Haraway, Barad, Hacking, Latour, Daston and Galison, Shapin, Canales, Tsing), literature and science (Wald, Seitler, Ferguson, Fleissner, Milburn), and science fiction studies (Jameson, Csicsery-Ronay, Suvin, Vint, Sheldon). In addition to these critical works, we’ll read about seven or eight novels and possibly see a film or two; we’ll draw from Literature MA list where possible. Likely authors include Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, Ralph Ellison, Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Leslie Marmon Silko, Amitav Ghosh, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jeff VanderMeer. Students interested in STS or literature and science should come away from this course with a view of the sweep of the field and a sense of current research directions; other students of literature will come away with a methodologically rich sense of the ways literary works relate to their scientific, technological, and historical contexts. Requirements include one or two focused presentations, a seminar paper proposal, and an 18-25-page seminar paper.