inadequate futures

engl 288 - spring 2017

“…what counts as nature, for whom, and at what cost”? -Donna Haraway (104, @OnCoMouse)

At the intersection of discussions about intensified global warming, diminishing populations of endangered species, and increasingly perceptive artificial intelligence stands the human, or, at least, the question of the human. In mapping these territories, we necessarily come up against the human and its connection to animals, nature, culture, and technology. While this course focuses on the relationship of human beings and the environment in which they function, as represented in a variety of literary works (the university course description), we will also attend to questions about how we understand and constitute both “human beings” and “environment”: How “natural” is nature and how is it similar or different from “culture”? What is our relationship to animals, plants, machines, and nature, and what kind of responsibility does it entail? In addition to the assigned novels, poetry, film and television, we will utilize feminist and posthuman methodologies and theoretical texts to explore these questions. Ultimately, the goal of the class will be to deconstruct—that is, understand, critique, and re(con)figure—the human[’s] boundaries, limits, and thresholds.

Required Texts:

  • Coetzee, The Lives of Animals [978-0691070896 or 978-0691173900]
  • Danielewski, The Familiar Vol 1: One Rainy Day in May [978-0375714948]
  • Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go [978-1400078776]
  • Yamashita, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest [978-0918273826]
Date: Reading:
week 1: introduction
1/17 Tuesday Course Intro, Gallop, 'The Ethics of Close Reading,’ Spahr, 'Some of We and the Land That Was Never Ours'
1/19 Thursday Stokes, 'No, You're Not Entitled to Your Opinion,' Braidotti, The Posthuman, Intro & Ch 1
week 2: into the rain forest
1/24 Tuesday Yamashita, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest pt. 1-2
1/26 Thursday Yamashita, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest pt. 3-4
week 3: rain forest/cities
1/31 Tuesday Yamashita, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest pt. 5-6
2/2 Thursday Levins Morales, 'Nadie la tiene: Land, Ecology and Nationalism,' Grosz, 'Bodies-Cities'
week 4: you, me, and everyone we know
2/7 Tuesday Horning, 'Me Meme,' Serpell, 'The Book of Faces'
2/9 Thursday Jurgenson, 'The Disconnectionists,' *Black Mirror, 'Nosedive'
week 5: hopeless animals and nature's end
2/14 Tuesday Danielewski, The Familiar p. 1-81, Danielewski, 'Parable #9: The Hopeless Animal and the End of Nature'
2/16 Thursday Danielewski, The Familiar p. 82-235
week 6: the (un)familiar
2/21 Tuesday Danielewski, The Familiar 236-418, Lennard Interviews Wolfe, 'Is Humanism Really Humane?'
2/23 Thursday Danielewski, The Familiar p. 419-562
week 7: more uncanniness
2/28 Tuesday Danielewski, The Familiar 563-772
3/2 Thursday Danielewski, The Familiar p. 773-880 [optional: Douglass, Lazzara, Shoemaker, & Raley, 'The Unfamiliar']
week 8: spring break
3/7 Tuesday spring break
3/9 Thursday spring break
week 9: the animal that therefore [we are]
3/14 Tuesday Coetzee, The Lives of Animals, 'The Philosophers and the Animals' [optional: Derrida, 'The Animal That Therefore I am' (we'll look at excerpts in class)]
3/16 Thursday Coetzee, The Lives of Animals, 'The Poets and the Animals,' Smuts's Response
week 10: w(h)ither humans
3/21 Tuesday Arrival
3/23 Thursday Butler, 'Bloodchild'
*week 11:
3/28 Tuesday Haraway, 'A Manifesto for Cyborgs'
3/30 Thursday Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go, ch. 1-4
*week 12:
4/4 Tuesday Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go, ch. 5-13, Butler, 'Violence, Mourning, Politics'
4/6 Thursday Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go, ch. 14-18
*week 13:
4/11 Tuesday Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go, ch. 19-23, [optional: Getman, 'Daft Punks']
4/13 Thursday Excerpts from The Animatrix
*week 14:
4/18 Tuesday ExMachina
4/20 Thursday Westworld, 'The Original,' 'Chestnut' [optional: 'The Stray']
*week 15:
4/25 Tuesday Westworld, 'Dissonance Theory,' 'The Adversary,' 'Trompe L'Oeil' [optional: 'Contrapasso']
4/27 Thursday Westworld, 'The Well-Tempered Clavier,' 'The Bicameral Mind,' Sparh, 'Some of We and the Land That Was Never Ours' [optional: Westworld, 'Trace Decay']