Starting with the premise that traditionally cherished notions about subjectivity and selfhood have shifted since Classical and Enlightenment thought, this course examines how network technologies of the current age can be seen as co-extensive with representations of identity in contemporary aesthetic works. Through an analysis of various examples drawn from cinema, literature, philosophy, and digital art, we will consider the possibility of a “networked self” and interrogate what might be constitutive of such an entity.
This course will consider robots, robotics, and artificial intelligence in literature and art, in order to explore the following questions: What distinguishes artificial intelligence from human intelligence? What distinguishes the artificially-constructed robot body from the human form? How has the increased computational power of the current age impinged (or not) upon notions of subjectivity and identity? What cultural anxieties and optimisms about mechanization play out in expressions of robotics and AI in literature and film? What, in the final analysis, distinguishes the human animal from its mechanized metallic progeny—or are we, as Andy Clark suggests in his latest book, “natural-born cyborgs”?
In addition to providing a general introduction to literary study, this course will seek and explore connections between literature and technology, with special emphasis paid to issues of identity in the Age of Information. Through a close reading of a broad range of literary forms, including comic books, novels, short fiction, poetry, and hyper-linked meta-texts, we will consider the role technology plays in our conception of human being, as well as how our conception of human being shapes and influences our technology. In light of this guiding consideration, we will discuss and question techno-textual representations and manifestations of things such as memory, gender, information, science, consciousness, and embodiment.