Is Pinocchio alive? How about Furby, or the Terminator? This course explores the persistent interest in human simulacra (robots, puppets, and dolls; but also automata, replicants, cyborgs) and what this suggests about our ideas of identity, independence, and free will. We’ll look at a wide range of such simulacra as they appear in literature, film, and, increasingly, in the actual world (“reborn” dolls, therapy robots). We will frame our explorations with readings in artificial intelligence, neurology, and psychoanalysis (Freud on the uncanny; Winnicott on transitional objects). Throughout, we will wonder: why this fascination with the almost living? How is it that we often care more for Wall-E or the Velveteen Rabbit than we do for many real people?
The Class: Type: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: ungraded exercises, five essays of increasing length and complexity (20 pages in total), a willingness to experiment with formats and arguments, active participation
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Enrollment Preference: first-year students who have not taken or placed out of a 100-level English course
Distributions: Division I; Writing-Intensive;
Distribution Notes: WI: Students write five essays over the course of the term.