Literature and Technology
Did you know that Ada Lovelace, regarded as the first computer programmer, was the daughter of the nineteenth-century poet Lord Byron? Technology and literature have long gone hand-in-hand: products of our creativity, our inspiration, and our cultural desire to organize and improve our lives. Studying technology and literature together provides a rounded kind of insight: the human and cultural implications of our tools and our machines.
The English department offers opportunities for students to combine their study in tech fields with investigations of the written word and the stories that we tell with it. One of the benefits of studying technology at UW is that the U provides more than simply learning code or design, it provides a wealth of opportunity to see the intellectual intersections of these with other academic fields. Moreover, the current tech market depends upon people skilled in reading and writing, so taking courses in English can be both intellectually and professionally important.
Most of these courses satisfy university requirements for VLPA credit; some provide “W” credit automatically and some have the option of pursuing “W” credit (if not specified, it is often possible to earn “W” credit; please contact the instructor).
Engl 200G: Alien Minds: Poetics and Mathematics from Print Media to Artificial Intelligence (VLPA, W)
Module I: Alien Narratives: Reorganizing Knowledge
Sterne, Laurence. Tristram Shandy.
Sousanis, Nick. Unflattening
Module II: Alien Landscapes: The Power of Numbers, Shape, and the Ecology of Reading
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor and William Wordsworth. Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1800.
Horowitz, Eli, Kevin Moffett, and Matthew Derby, The Silent History
Module III: Becoming Alien
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
Kearny, Douglas. The Black Automaton
ENGL 204A: The Zombie Apocalypse (VLPA)
Contemporary culture teems with the animated dead. While vampires have proliferated in fiction, film, comics and television for well over a century now, zombies are more recent arrivals; the emergence of zombie narrative as a new, cross-media genre of popular culture is usually dated to George Romero’s iconic 1978 film, Dawn of the Dead. If vampires are a late-19th-century phenomenon (Bram Stoker published Dracula in 1897), zombies are late-20th-century and early-21st-century creatures. If vampires are ancient revenants (figures from earlier ages, called forth from the crypt), zombies are us – or, as Rick Grimes puts in Robert Kirkman’s comic, “We are the walking dead.”
This course will consider what it is that drives the attraction to the figure of the zombie, and what ideas about government, society, belonging, ecology, and futurity zombie narratives explore. Dracula’s arrival in Victorian London spoke to the effects of urbanization, industrialization, and colonialism: what might zombies have to tell us about de-industrialization, globalization, austerity, and the information age? While our focus will be on print fiction, we will also consider a number of films, as well as a television series
ENGL 242F: Dystopian Fiction (VLPA, W)
From the success of The Hunger Games franchise to the recent popularity of George Orwell’s 1984, dystopian fiction has received renewed attention in the 21st century. In this course, we will consider the genre of dystopian fiction through novels and short stories. How does dystopian fiction imagine uninhabitable worlds? How does it refract “real world” concerns about the time in which it was produced? How might it speak to our own contemporary moment? To think about these questions, we’ll read several works of prose fiction across the 20th and 21st centuries. This fiction might include works by W.E.B. Du Bois, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Suzanne Collins, and selections from the recent Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Movements anthology. Assignments will consist of a mix of reflective writing and short papers. No experience taking English courses at the college level is necessary to enroll for this class. You will receive a “W” credit if you complete course assignments.
ENGL 265A: Cultures of Extinction (VLPA, DIV, I&S)
With the future of the Endangered Species Act at stake, this course takes a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding one of the more wicked problems of the 21st century: The Sixth Extinction. Rather than approaching this event as a discrete biological phenomenon, this course looks at how current threats to bio-diversity are implicated in, and connected to, threats to cultural diversity, in particular language loss. We will seek to understand how discourses of extinction, beginning from its “discovery” in the 18th century, are related to fraught histories of colonialism and imperialism, whose ecological and cultural effects extend into the present and threaten to shape the future.
While the course seeks to grasp the scale of the Sixth Extinction, it will also critically reflect upon, and propose alternatives to, the dominant apocalyptic narratives in which extinction is framed in the popular imagination. Course readings and critical texts drawn from across the humanities and social sciences will explore and critique various framings of “the end” in literature, art, music, and film.
ENGL 282: Intermediate Multimodal Composition (VLPA, C or W)
Strategies for composing effective multimodal texts for print, digital physical delivery, with focus on affordances of various modes–words, images, sound, design, and gesture–and genres to address specific rhetorical situations both within and beyond the academy. Although the course has no prerequisites, instructors assume knowledge of academic writing.
ENGL 382: Special Topics in Multimodal Composition (VLPA, C or W)
Focuses on emerging questions, debates, genres, and methods of multimodal analysis and production. Topics vary but might include transmedia storytelling, digital humanities, audiovisual essays, new media journalism, and performance. Although course has no prerequisites, instructors, assume knowledge of academic argumentation strategies.
ENGL 379A: Narrative as Time Machine
This is a course about different ways to tell time. And the only way we can tell time is by telling a story about time. Note that the word “tell” figures heavily in both aspects. Stories engage us in issues of time in two ways. First, narrative happens in time, and we are always experiencing the different ways that stories shape this experience (“How long will it take me to read this novel before class?” Or “I had to read the same sentence three times before I understood it”). Second, narrative is always about time, or at least about different ways to represent time (historically, experientially, deep time, etc.) We will read a series of novels and study several films that engage these different ways of experiencing time. These works will help us think about and discuss issues like the representation of history, the deep time of evolution, the expansion and contraction of time (and space) in our contemporary global society and narrative techniques like stream of consciousness and the distinction between fabula and sjuzhet.