ENGL 162
Robots, Puppets, and Dolls Spring 2024
Division I Writing Skills
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Class Details

Is Pinocchio alive? How about the Terminator, or Chat GPT-3 ? This course explores our persistent interest in human simulacra (robots, puppets, dolls; but also automata and cyborgs) and what they suggest about human identity, independence, and free will. We’ll look at a wide range of simulacra as they appear in literature, film, and, increasingly, in the actual world (“reborn” dolls, therapy robots, AI). 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 real people?
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 3770
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: students write five essays over the course of the term, in addition to a number of ungraded but required exercises
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: first-year students who have not taken or placed out of a 100-level English course
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
WS Notes: The course requires frequent and serious written work: six exercises, and five essays of between 750 and 1500 words, over the course of the semester. All the essays receive letter grades, and comments addressed to their design and execution.

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