English 3B04 Science and Technology in Literature (2013)

Ontario College of Art and Design University

Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences and School of Interdisciplinary Studies

Fall 2013 ENGL 3B04 Science and Technology in Literature Thursday 18:31-21:30 113 McCaul Street, Room 1516

Dr. Kiki Benzon kbenzon@faculty@ocadu.ca

Office Hours & Location: Tuesday 3:00-5:00 (or by appointment) Room 325

Credit Value: 0.50 credits

Prerequisite: 7.5 credits, including all first-year requirements (5.0 credits), and 1.0 credit of second-year liberal arts & sciences (including 0.5 credit in VISA/VISC/VISD/VISM). ENGL 2B03 is strongly recommended in advance of 300 or 400 level ENGL Literature courses. Antirequisite: N/A


We live in a culture in which science and technology influence how we imagine and inhabit the world. The relationship between humans and technology has long been a concern of both literary and science writers who have produced such engaging figures as the cyborg and the raging machine that turns on its creator. What are the limits of our responsibility for the technology we create and use? In this course, we will study literary and scientific representations of science and technology and the people who use them. We will consider how writers wrestle with such concepts as destiny, free will, and utopia. Genres studied will include speculative fiction, fantasy, science writing, and creative non-fiction. Course readings may include texts by Gibson, Hopkinson, LeGuin, Orwell, Shelley, and others.


Course books are available at the OCADU Bookstore.

-Gibson, William. Neuromancer. Ace. 2000. $8.99. -Hickman, Jonathan and Nick Pitarra. The Manhattan Projects. Volume 1. Image Comics. 2013. $18.99. -Lightman, Alan. Einstein’s Dreams. Vintage. 1993. $13.99. -Pynchon, Thomas. The Crying of Lot 49. Harper Perennial. 2006. $17.99. -Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. Ed. Marilyn Butler. Oxford Paperback. 2008. $8.95.-Tomasula, Steve. Vas: An Opera in Flatland. University of Chicago Press. 2004. $26.00. Additional readings (essays and textual excerpts) will be made available to students as PDFs.


Upon completion of this course, students will have § developed a richer understanding of the complex ways in which literature is shaped by science and technology § engaged with and analyzed narrative works that represent scientific principles or identify the cutlural effects of technological innovation § intensified their appreciation of literature through analyzing and discussing texts from various theoretical perspectives § improved their skills as critical writers, readers and thinkers


The course consists of weekly classes, which involve lectures and discussion. Students are expected to read the required readings, attend all classes, complete assignments, and contribute to discussion. Absences from class must be supported with medical documentation; three unsupported absences may jeopardize your standing in the course.


-Paper (20%) Students will write a paper (1200-1500 words) analyzing the scientific or technological significance of a literary text. The paper may be handed in any time before the final class. -2 Midterms (20% each) -Final Exam (30%) The final exam will be cumulative. -Pop Quizzes (10%) Pop quizzes will pertain to the weekly readings.


There will be a final exam for this course, worth 30% of the final grade.


Midterms and pop quizzes cannot be written at alternate times. If you miss a midterm or a pop quiz for medical reasons, please supply a doctor’s note so that your final grade can weighted accordingly. Papers not submitted before or on the due date will be subject to a half-letter-grade penalty per day late for up to four days. Papers received thereafter will receive a zero grade.



Week 1: Sept. 5 C.P. Snow, “The Two Cultures” T.H. Huxley, “Science and Culture” Matthew Arnold, “Literature and Science”

Week 2: Sept 12. Isaac Newton, from Principia Mathematica Albert Einstein, from Relativity: The Special and General Theory Thomas Kuhn, from The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Week 3: Sept. 19 Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dreams

Week 4: Sept. 26 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. Leonard Isaacs, “Creation and Responsibility in Science: Some Lessons from the Modern Prometheus”

Week 5: Oct. 3 Jonathan Swift, from Gulliver’s Travels. Book 3. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, The Manhattan Projects. Volume 1.

Week 6: Oct. 10 Midterm 1 (20%) Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

Week 7: Oct. 17 Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 Peter Freese, “The Entropic End of the American Dream: Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49”

Week 8: Oct. 24 Steve Tomasula, Vas: An Opera in Flatland Charles Darwin, from The Origin of Species Francis Galton, from Hereditary Talent and Character

Week 9: Oct. 31 Steve Tomasula, Vas: An Opera in Flatland

Week 10: Nov. 7 Midterm 2 (20%) William Gibson, Neuromancer

Week 11: Nov. 14 William Gibson, Neuromancer N. Katherine Hayles, “Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers”

Week 12: Nov. 21

William Gibson, Neuromancer Last day to submit Paper (20%) Review for Final Exam

Final Exam (30%) during exam period.