Writing and Research: Literature and Science Since Darwin

Course Theme:

Our course theme will be “Literature and Science Since Darwin.” In 1859, Darwin published his influential book Origin of Species, which posited that all living species change over time via the process of natural selection. Since then, writers as well as scientists have been fascinated by the philosophical consequences of his evolutionary theory. Through science fiction and experimental narratives, writers have imagined what evolutionary biology might mean for the definition of “human,” our place in the natural world, and our future.

The course is divided into three thematic units. In the first unit, “Evolutionary Theory and Literature,” we’ll read Darwin’s own writing as literature, and then read H.G. Wells’s 1895 scientific romance The Time Machine, one of the first pieces of literature to envision the evolutionary future of humans. In the second unit, “Rethinking the Human/Animal Divide,” we’ll examine how two modernist writers, Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf, adapted Darwin’s claim that ostensibly “human” traits, like reason and language, actually began to evolve in our animal ancestors and are shared by other species. In the third unit, “Posthuman Visions in Science Fiction,” we’ll look at four contemporary science fictional interpretations of the human species’ evolutionary future: Karen Russell’s “Reeling for the Empire,” Nancy Kress’s “Beggars in Spain,” Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and the 2000 film X-Men.

As we explore the reverberations of Darwin’s evolutionary theory within literature, we’ll also be joining a scholarly conversation by reading and writing literary criticism about the relationships between literature and science.

 

Texts:

Prentice Hall Reference Guide, 8th or 9th ed.

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, Third Edition

H.G. Wells, The Time Machine (Penguin Classics edition or online)

Virginia Woolf, Flush (Harcourt edition)

Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake

Other texts, available online or as handouts

 

Course Requirements:

_____ Research in the Disciplines Essay – 40

_____ Preliminary Research Proposal – 30

_____ Annotated Bibliography – 100

_____ Scholarly Article Analysis – 40

_____ Contextual Report – 150

_____ Close Reading Essay – 40

_____ Research Paper – 200

_____ Pop Quizzes – 100

_____ Participation – 100

_____ Presentation – 100

_____ Final Exam – 100

Total: 1000 points

[…]

Course Schedule:

All readings should be completed prior to the class in which they are listed, and students should bring the readings to class with them.

  W 1/21DIAGNOSTIC ESSAY (IN CLASS) F 1/23Syllabus (make sure to read before class)

Introductions; email etiquette

M 1/26Prentice Hall Reference Guide, “Using Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism”

Avoiding plagiarism activity

W 1/28H.G. Wells, The Time Machine, ch. 1-3

Discussion of Darwin and Origin of Species

F 1/30The Time Machine, ch. 4-6
M 2/2RESEARCH IN THE DISCIPLINES ESSAY DUE

The Time Machine, ch. 7-9

W 2/4The Time Machine, ch. 10-end F 2/6They Say, I Say, ch. 1-2

Using reference works

M 2/9PRELIMINARY RESEARCH PROPOSAL DUE

Paul A. Cantor and Peter Hufnagel, “The Empire of the Future” (Blackboard)

W 2/11Mal Ahern and Moira Weigel, “Survival of the Sexiest” (online) F 2/13They Say, I Say, ch. 3

Quotation activity

Using newspapers and magazines

M 2/16FIRST 3 ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ENTRIES DUE

Discussion of Darwin and Descent of Man

W 2/18Franz Kafka, “A Report to an Academy” (online; first translation by Edwin and Willa Muir) F 2/20Kyle D. Stedman, “Annoying Ways People Use Sources” (online)

Using scholarly sources

M 2/233 MORE ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ENTRIES DUE

Virginia Woolf, Flush, ch. 1-2

W 2/25Flush, ch. 3-4

 

F 2/27Flush, ch. 5-6

 

M 3/2FULL ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY DUE

Cosmos (in-class screening)

W 3/4Craig Smith, “Across the Widest Gulf: Nonhuman Subjectivity in Virginia Woolf’s Flush” (Blackboard) F 3/6SCHOLARLY ARTICLE ANALYSIS DUE

They Say, I Say, ch. 4-5

 

M 3/9SPRING BREAK W 3/11SPRING BREAK F 3/13SPRING BREAK
M 3/16Nancy Kress, “Beggars in Spain,” ch. 1-4 (Blackboard) W 3/18Kress, “Beggars in Spain,” ch. 5-end F 3/20CONTEXTUAL REPORT FIRST DRAFT DUE IN CLASS

Peer review workshop

M 3/23Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake, ch. 1-3 W 3/25Oryx and Crake, ch. 4-5 F 3/27Oryx and Crake, ch. 6-7
M 3/30CONTEXTUAL REPORT DUE

Oryx and Crake, ch. 8-10

W 4/1Oryx and Crake, ch. 11-12 F 4/3Oryx and Crake, ch. 13-end
M 4/6CLOSE READING ESSAY DUE

Hannes Bergthaller, “Housebreaking the Human Animal,” pp. 728-737 (Blackboard)

W 4/8X-Men screening in class F 4/10Finish X-Men

RESEARCH PAPER INTRODUCTION AND THESIS STATEMENT DUE

Peer review workshop

M 4/13William Earnest, “Making Gay Sense of the X-Men,” pp. 215-225 (Blackboard) W 4/15Lawrence Baron, “X-Men as J Men” (Blackboard) F 4/17Practice final exam
M 4/20RESEARCH PAPER ROUGH DRAFT DUE

Peer review workshop

W 4/22PRESENTATIONS F 4/24PRESENTATIONS
M 4/27PRESENTATIONS W 4/29PRESENTATIONS F 5/1PRESENTATIONS
M 5/4RESEARCH PAPER DUE

Course review

   

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