2010-2011: Winter Quarter

English 146DR: Literature of Technology: Distracted Reading (Instructor: Rita Raley)

It is a cliché universally acknowledged that we (where “we” means, variously, the Twitter generation, the Millennial generation, participants in the Network Society) no longer read, or if we do read, we read poorly, with insufficient attention and affect. Reading, by which is meant literary reading, is said to be a “lost art” and certainly “at risk.” We multitask and thus cannot sustain the kind of focus and attention required for a long, complex narrative. Our primary source of information, education, and entertainment is the screen. The evidence for these claims is often anecdotal but at times calculated: our daily information consumption in print is .6 hours (UC San Diego); there has been a 10% decline in literary reading and a 28% decline in the 18-24 age group (NEA), etc. The task for our seminar will be to consider a set of large but pressing questions that both emerge from and engage this general account of technological transformation: What are the different modes of reading and what is their relationship to different media environments? How do contemporary works of print and electronic literature both reflect and anticipate different modes of reading? What is the place of “close reading” – still the most important basic skill taught to English majors – in a complex media ecology that encourages skimming, browsing and watching? How can we meaningfully situate our own reading practices within that same media ecology? Is all reading now distracted reading and, if so, can we still speak of rigor? With Henry James at one pole and Talan Memmott’s Lexia to Perplexia at another, we will be reading a range of texts that help us to think through these questions. Written assignments are likely to include a close reading, an exercise in distant reading, a personal log of information consumption, and a short position paper.

English 147MM: Media History and Theory: Mediated Mind (Instructor: Vera Tobin)

This course is an introduction to the relationship between language, thought and interaction, and the media/technologies across which these experiences take place. Course readings will address these topics from a variety of perspectives, including work in cognitive science, developmental psychology, linguistics, anthropology, philosophy, and behavioral economics.

We will learn about the following:

– Writing and new media as “external memory stores”
– Interactivity as a crucial element of human cognition and behavior
– The origins of symbol use in evolution and development
– Media and misunderstanding
– How particular social groups construct objects and ways of knowing that define their professional worlds through systematic interactive practices and specialized artifacts
– The collaborative construction of meaning in different discourse environments

English 165LB: Topics in Literature: Literature & Biotechnology (Instructor: Rita Raley)
This course will engage some of the philosophical, cultural, and social implications of biotechnology, with particular attention to biocapital (especially the market for genetic materials), cloning, genetic engineering, transgenic species, body modification, technologies of reproduction, and the production of the ‘human’. We will take a fairly expansive approach to biotechnology as a conceptual frame for the course in that we will also discuss issues such as life management and the care of the self (from Michel Foucault to Extreme Makeover).

Texts:
William Gibson, Neuromancer
Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Caryl Churchill, A Number
Manjula Padmanabhan, Harvest
Steve Tomasula, VAS: An Opera in Flatland
Robert Venditti, Surrogates Volume 1

Films discussed in class include Blade RunnerGattacaThe IslandSurrogates and others.

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