What is it that makes us human? Or, to paraphrase the philosopher Donna Haraway, what if we have never been human at all? One of the central arguments of posthumanist theory is that the human being is not, as traditionally assumed, an individual, fixed subject in full control over its actions. Rather, we emerge only through our connections and interdependencies with others. The networks that shape us are both organic and inorganic; they include “nature,” the microbial ecologies of own bodies, affective landscapes, and social and cultural constructs. Over the course of the semester, we will analyze how such networks fashion our humanity with the help of literature, film, and theory. Among other things, we will consider the queer ecologies of android bodies, probe the subversive potential of the cyborg in relation to questions of disability, and think about what it means to be human in the Anthropocene. Texts will include Sasa Stanisic, Yoko Tawada, Olga Tokarczuk, Franz Kafka, Octavia Butler, Donna Haraway, Jacques Derrida, and Theodor W. Adorno; films will include Mad Max: Fury Road, Metropolis, Ex-Machina, and episodes of West World and Black Mirror.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
four 1-page critical response papers over the course of the semester, oral presentation, creative final project with 4-page self-analysis
Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
The 1-page papers will help students refine their argumentative skills; they will essentially contain all elements of a longer paper in miniature and provide a focused space on which to practice crafting convincing arguments. I will give students detailed feedback on these short papers. The final self-analysis will apply these skills to the student's own work. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
The questions of ecology discussed in this course are inherently questions of power: power over the natural environment, power over our own bodies and those of others, both human and nonhuman, power over resources. We will consider how the very concept of "the human" facilitates such power structures, and acquire theoretical tools to help us rethink human being beyond such coercive relations.