This section of HUMN 3999 will examine narratives of utopia and dystopia after World War 2 and 9/11 in the American media landscape: primarily in literature and film, but also in other visual art and popular culture. It will look at our relationship with technology and power and their influence on our consciousness, evolution, politics, religion, and morality. What is the likely outcome of humanity in a increasingly technocal world? Join us for a semester of Big Brother, the walking dead, and other visions of perfect horror.
Students who satisfactorily complete this course will be able to perform these goals. Students will
- Be familiar with various forms and styles of the disciplines within the humanities and have a basic knowledge of terms, techniques, and media within the arts;
- Have a general knowledge of the influential and/or instigating effect of the visual arts, music, literature, sculpture, architecture, religion, and philosophy within the context of latter 20th-century Western civilization;
- Understand and illustrate the diversity in the various forms and styles of humanities in the latter part of the 20th century;
- Apply critical thinking to the study of humanities, such that the student can see similarities and differences, make critical connections to the present, and understand the varying historical conditions which determine human values.
The following texts are required for this course, and should be available in the bookstore. I have provided links to my preferred versions of the texts below, and I suggest you order them all during the first week of class. You must have a copy of the text with you during our classroom discussion of it; failure to have your copy of the text will mean your absence. See the reading schedule below for specific dates and reading assignments.
At several points throughout the semester, your reading assignments will entail short stories, essays, and poems not included in the required texts above. These additional readings will be made available to you as PDFs. You will need to download them, print them or put them on your iPad, and bring them to class with you on the day we are covering them. Failure to do so will earn you an absence. I’m very serious about this. Ask anyone.
Pen and Paper
You should also bring an ink interface of some sort, as well as dead trees on which to take notes. Notes should not only reflect good listening skills, but individual interest in topics discussed in class. You should not sit in class like you’re watching TV: learning requires active participation. Notes should be taken on lecture, discussion, and film viewings.
Materials, like cell phones, food, magazines, iPods, etc., should be left in your car. They are not needed for our class and should, therefore, not accompany you. Anything that has the potential to distract you or the class, should not be in class. If I ask you to put away a device, I expect you not to use it and to not bring it to subsequent class meetings. See the Electronic Devices course policy for more.
Students are held accountable for knowing and practicing each of the course policies. Consider them like the law: the excuse “I didn’t know” will carry no weight. Since these policies are applicable to every course I teach, they are available on a separate page.
Students must act like students. That is, you must come to class prepared and take an active interest in classroom activities. You should engage the class: take notes, pay attention, ask questions, and listen. If you don’t agree with or understand something discussed, it is your duty to use the classroom environment as a place for clarification and discussion. However, one must always remain courteous and respectful to one’s peers and professor. Questions and comments that demonstrate critical thinking about the material and improve the quality of learning that takes place in the classroom as a whole are valued most of all.
Behaviors which imply inattention are inappropriate and will subtract from your grade. Examples include conversation not directed to the class discussion, resting of the head on the desk, sleeping in any position, conspicuous yawning, tardiness, leaving class early (specifically without clearing it with me), reading other texts and/or working on projects for other courses during class, and sitting in any position more parallel to the floor than vertical. Expect me to call you out if you are not practicing correct behavior.
Finally, since class lecture and discussion will often touch on the controversial, this college classroom is not an appropriate place for children. Please leave them at home. Please note that this class will cover mature subject matter: if you are easily offended by discussions of religion, politics, sex, and other adult concerns, you might not enjoy the study of the humanities at the college level.
There are three major requirements for this section of HUMN 3999, each of which must be successfully completed to pass the course. Assignments are weighed on a point system, depending on their importance. For example, a reading quiz might have 10 points while an exam might have 200.
A final exam will be given that will test your knowledge of the subject matter (texts, lecture material, and vocabulary), your ability to synthesize this material, and your creativity in going beyond the discussion and lecture materials. This exam will include vocabulary, identification, and interpretation. The exam grade will be based upon objective knowledge of the material, thoroughness, depth of insight, precision, and originality.
Students will be asked to write at least three (one per section) 750-word essays on assigned readings or topics. Up to three of the most polished will be published on Big Jelly and receive the maximum credit, see the contest rules for an explanation and essay directions.
Daily Work (40%)
Regular class attendance, question posing, and active participation in classroom discussions are required. Participation, effort, and attitude will count significantly in this course. Quizzes, other class activities, and homework assignments not explicitly outlined above will be considered daily work.
This schedule represents the ideal outline for our semester, but it is tentative and subject to change. It reflects only an overview of readings and assignments, but does not always indicate other specific class-session assignments or activities.
08/15/11 – Course Introduction; Lecture and Discussion: our approach to “Utopia and Apocalypse”; Fagen “I.G.Y.” (in-class)
08/22/11 – Dostoyevsky “The Grand Inquisitor” (PDF); Rabkin “Atavism and Utopia” (PDF); Begin Orwell 1984
08/29/11 – Screening: from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will; Orwell 1984 (cont.)
09/05 – Monday: Labor Day, No class; Orwell (cont.); Gibson “The Gernsback Continuum” (PDF); Optional Reading: Steinhoff: “Utopia Reconsidered: Comments on 1984” (PDF)
09/12 – Ellison “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” (PDF); Doctorow “The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away” (Web); Sterling “We See Things Differently” (PDF); Resnick “Kirinyaga” (PDF)
09/19 – Sterling “Maneki Neko” (PDF); Knight “The Country of the Kind” (PDF); Bacigalupi “Pop Squad” (PDF); Hopkinson “Something to Hitch Meat To” (PDF)
09/26 – Screening: The Handmaid’s Tale; Paper 1 Due on 9/28 before midnight
10/03 – Viewing: excerpts from The Walking Dead and Shaun of the Dead; Ballard “The Terminal Beach” (PDF); Bacigalupi “The People of Sand and Slag” (PDF);
Effinger “And Us, Too, I Guess” (PDF);
10/10 – Godwin “The Cold Equations” (PDF);
Komatsu “Take Your Choice” (PDF); Campbell “Who Goes There?” (PDF)
10/17 – McCarthy The Road; Screening: Night and Fog
10/24 – Forster “The Machine Stops” (PDF); Dick “Minority Report” (PDF); King “The End of the Whole Mess” (PDF)
10/31 – Screening: 28 Days Later; Paper 2 Due on Friday, 11/4 before midnight
11/07 – LeGuin “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (PDF); Russ “When It Changed” (PDF); Tiptree “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”; Di Filippo “Any Major Dude” (PDF)
11/14 – Vinge “True Names” (PDF); Bradbury “There Will Come Soft Rains” (PDF); Liu “Staying Behind” (Web); begin Tepper The Gate to Women’s Country
11/21 – Thanksgiving Holiday all week
11/28 – Tepper The Gate to Women’s Country; begin screening The Rapture
12/05 – Screening: The Rapture; Paper 3 Due before midnight on Wed, 12/7
12/12 – Take-home final exam; due 12/12 @ noon via Turn It In