ENGL 1051: Progress & Madness: Literature, Science & Technology

3 CreditsLiterature

This introductory, Liberal Education course explores the conflicts and conversations that occur at the frontiers of scientific thinking and technological innovation by examining select literary and cinematic texts from a variety of historical moments and points of view. We will consider the ambivalence and anxiety that attend progress via topics such as electricity, telegraphy, photography, the railroad, the cinema, Fordism, the atomic bomb, genetic engineering, and the Internet. We will also track the archetype of the mad scientist, whose dangerous knowledge and often-fatal hubris typically turn a tale \"cautionary.\" Students engage in detailed analysis of and reflection on works of literature and film that address both historical and contemporary developments in science and technology. The course introduces students to a range of technologies that have had a measurable impact on contemporary society. Class discussion uses the representation of these innovations as case studies in how technologies develop through the application of individual and collective effort, as well as how society adopts or rejects these technologies. By considering a variety of points of view on these developments, students are exposed to multiple perspectives through which a technology can be understood, and they develop skills in evaluating conflicting views that provide a framework with which to evaluate new technology in the future.

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