Many writers have offered imaginary visions of what the future will look like, and a central theme of such visions is the relationship between humans and technology. In this short Core Pathways course, we’ll look at three examples from across the last century: Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backward, Kurt Vonnegut’s 1952 Player Piano, and a more recent work, British-Indian author Hari Kunzru’s 2005 Transmission. We’ll consider how these novels reflect political and social concerns of their eras, as well as what they show us about how people thought about technology and the interests and needs of humans. What conditions would enable technology to improve human life? What unintended consequences might those changes bring? In addition, we will explore both literary and interdisciplinary approaches to critical analysis of the primary texts, drawing on ideas from other courses in the Pathway as well as on secondary sources that focus on how technology changes economic, social, political, and cultural patterns.
This course is part of the Core Pathways project, and it runs only 7 weeks, for 1.5 credits. Because of this format, most of the assignments will be formative, asking students to respond to the readings. A final project will ask students to identify patterns and themes within and across the three novels.