Designer Genes Intensive Winter 2021

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Class Details

In his book High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them, J.F. Rischard notes that the biotechnology issues raised by the Human Genome Project are some of the most pressing global issues we face today. The sequencing of the human genome has opened up a “remarkable landscape of opportunity,” Francis Collins and colleagues wrote in 2001: “Like Shakespeare, we are inclined to say, ‘what’s past is prologue.’ ” Collins and his associates couldn’t have picked a more resonant text from which to quote than Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, a play that reverberates with the making of new worlds. With the mapping of the human genome, Collins suggests, we are at the beginning of some “brave new world.” But with opportunity also comes a host of ethical concerns. Will this information be used to enhance the individual (or society)? If so, how will it improve the individual (or society)? Who should make those decisions? Will we be able to design our own genes, creating designer babies and societies? Questions about how we define race, gender, disease, and disability become even more pressing when it becomes possible for us to select what traits society deems more “desirable.” Because literary and film analysis focuses primarily on language and representation, it is a discipline well-suited to getting at the social, ethical, and scientific complexities of this issue. In this writing skills course we will explore cultural texts that attempt to come to terms with–or exploit–the revolution in contemporary genetics. These texts–many of which also provide a model of exceptional writing–will come from a number of different genres, including the memoir, film, artwork, and non-fiction writing on contemporary science and medicine.
The Class: Format: seminar; This all on-line class will feature guest speakers, regular time for writing with plenty of feedback during the drafting process, and assignments that take advantage of our digital environment.
Limit: 12
Expected: NA
Class#: 1013
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Several short, analytical papers; discussion posts
Prerequisites: permission of a dean
Enrollment Preferences: students who need to make up a deficiency
Unit Notes: This course is designed to count for both full semester, Winter Study, and WS credit. Once a dean approves enrollment, the Registrar's Office will register students in both ENGL 103 and ENGL 42.

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