ENGL 546 A: Topics in Twentieth-Century Literature

Posthuman Narratives: Ethnicity and Technicity

Meeting Time: 
MW 11:30am - 1:20pm
MUS 212
Tom Foster
Tom Foster

Syllabus Description:

Schedule of readings:

All stories and essays not included in the books ordered for the class are available on the Canvas site for the course, in the form of pdf files, unless otherwise noted below.  Links to readings available online can be found below.  Suggested readings are not required; I will not assume you have read the suggested materials, but will refer to them in class. They are included primarily for students who are especially interested in the topic of the day’s class.


Week 1.

March 26: Introduction to the class

                   Darko Suvin, chapters 1 and 4 from Metamorphoses of Science Fiction

                   Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto”

                   Excerpt from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Axiom #4, nature versus nurture, from the “Introduction”; distributed in class)

                   Arthur C. Clarke, “Reunion” (distributed in class)


March 28: Stuart Hall, “New Ethnicities”

                   N. Katherine Hayles, “Toward Embodied Virtuality” and “Conclusion: What Does It Mean to Be Posthuman?” (chapters 1 and 11 from How We Became Posthuman)

                   Allucquere Rosanne Stone, chapters 1 and 4 from The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age

                   David Tomas, “The Technophilic Body: On Technicity in William Gibson’s Cyborg Culture”

Suggested only: Eugie Foster, “Whatever Skin You Wear”

Suggested only: Nisi Shawl, “Maggies”


Week 2.

April 2: Paul Gilroy, “The Crisis of Race and Raciology”

              Michael Omi and Howard Winant, “Racial Formation Rules: Continuity, Instability, and Change”

              Rachel Lee, “Allotropic Conclusions: Propositions on Race and the Exquisite Corpse”

              Isiah Lavender III, “Technologically Derived Ethnicities”

              Nalo Hopkinson, “Report from Planet Midnight”

Suggested only: Drew Hayden Taylor, “I Am . . . Am I”

Suggested only: Howard Winant, “What Can Racial Theory Tell Us About Social Theory?”


April 4: Clifford Simak, “Desertion”

              James M. Tiptree (Alice Sheldon), “The Women Men Don’t See”

              Octavia Butler, “Amnesty”

              Ted Chiang, “Story of Your Life,” from Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others

              Rachel Swirsky, “Eros, Philia, Agape”

              Steven Shaviro, “Thinking Like a Philosopher”

Suggested only: Jane Bennett, “The Force of Things”

Suggested only: John Rieder, chapter 1 from Colonialism and the Emergence of Science




Week 3.

April 9: Octavia Butler, Dawn

              Sarah Franklin, “Biologization Revisted: Kinship Theory in the Context of the New Biologies”

Suggested only: Donna Haraway, “When Species Meet: Introductions”


April 11: Butler, Dawn

                Jasbir Puar, “Queer Times, Terrorist Assemblages”

                Bernice Johnson Reagon, “Coalition Politics”

Suggested only: Hortense Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe”



Week 4.

April 16: Samuel R. Delany, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand

                Arthur Bradley, “Originary Technicity: Technology & Anthropology”

Suggested only: Phillip Brian Harper, “The Postmodern, the Marginal, and the Minor”

Suggested only: Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism”


April 18: Delany, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand

                David L. Eng, “Queer Liberalism and the Racialization of Intimacy”

Suggested only: Robyn Wiegman, “Critical Kinship”



Week 5.

April 23: Delany, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand

                Alexander Weheliye, Introduction and chapter 1 from Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human

Suggested only: Alexander Weheliye, chapter 2 from Habeas Viscus (“Bare Life: The Flesh”)


April 25: Ted Chiang, selections from Stories of Your Life and Others

                 Larissa Lai, “Rachel”

                 Colleen Lye, “Racial Form," available online at http://www.jstor.org.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/stable/10.1525/rep.2008.104.1.92?seq=3#page_scan_tab_contents

                 Christopher Fan, “Melancholy Transcendence: Ted Chiang and Asian American Postracial Form," available online at http://post45.research.yale.edu/2014/11/melancholy-transcendence-ted-chiang-and-asian-american-postracial-form/#identifier_6_5487

Suggested only: “Interview: Ted Chiang,” with Betsy Huang, available online at https://aalr.binghamton.edu/specfictioninterviewchiang/



Week 6.

April 30: Ted Chiang, The Life Cycle of Software Objects, available online at https://subterraneanpress.com/magazine/fall_2010/fiction_the_lifecycle_of_software_objects_by_ted_chiang

                Aliette de Bodard, “Immersion,” available online at clarkesworldmagazine.com/debodard_06_12/

Suggested only: Steven Shaviro, “Thinking Like an Avatar”


May 2: Ken Liu, selections from The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

             Ken Liu, “Staying Behind,” available online at clarkesworldmagazine.com/liu_10_11/

             Ken Liu, “The Algorithms for Love,” available online at https://kenliu.name/stories/algorithms/

             Lisa Nakamura, “Cyberrace”



Week 7.

May 7: Neal Stephenson, Seveneves

May 9: Stephenson, Seveneves

             Alexander Galloway, “Protocol vs. Institutionalization”

 Suggested only: Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Societies of Control”



Week 8.

May 14: Stephenson, Seveneves

Suggested only: Jonathan Marks, “’We’re going to Tell These People Who They Really Are’: Science and Relatedness”


May 16: N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season

                Mark Jerng, “Introduction: Racial Worldmaking”



Week 9.

May 21: Jemisin, The Fifth Season

Suggested only: Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses”


May 23: Malka Older, Infomocracy

                Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, “Inventing Network Struggles”



Week 10.

May 28: No class; Memorial Day holiday

May 30: Older, Infomocracy

               Manuel Castells, “The Reconstruction of Social Meaning in the Space of Flows”


Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 10:00pm