As a newly minted Ph.D. and Acting Instructor (AI) for the Department of English at the University of Washington, I am teaching a full load next quarter. Two classes. The first class is a survey of cyberpunk literature from Huxley to Cline:
ENGL 242 E: Reading Prose: “Cyberpunk: Past, Present, & Future”
Monday-Thursday 1:30-2:20 PM
BRUCE STERLING argues in the introduction of the 1986 anthology Mirrorshades that “cyberpunks are perhaps the first SF generation to grow up not only within the literary tradition of science fiction but in a truly science-fictional world” (xi). Even as cyberpunk looked to the future, according to the introduction, “a final oddity of our generation in SF” is that, for writers like Sterling, William Gibson, and others, “the literature of the future has a long and honored past” (xv). It is this past, present, and future of cyberpunk fiction and culture that will be the occasions for close reading, thoughtful exploration, and critical analysis. What might cyberpunk reveal to us, reveal about us, and reveal about the world we live in? We will consider a “long history” of cyberpunk that stretches the whole of the twentieth century, looking back at cyberpunk’s predecessors, up through cyberpunk’s heyday, and into the twenty-first century, what might be called post-cyberpunk. Readings will include in whole or in part: Aldous Huxley, Vannevar Bush, George Orwell, William S. Burroughs, Philip K. Dick, James Tiptree, Jr., Vernor Vinge, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Maureen McHugh, Larissa Lai, and Ernest Cline.
A REQUIREMENT for this class is a well-developed curiosity about the world, about the culture we live in, and about the cultural productions we imagine, produce, and consume. In other words, this class is about reading, critiquing, and analyzing our culture through literature. Our understandings of identities, meanings, and power, as well as the intersections of cultural and social locations like race, gender, class, nation, and sexuality, can be excavated through the analysis of the texts we create and consume. This class will spend the quarter reading, thinking, writing about various fictions and how and what these texts argue, reveal, narrate, hide, perpetuate, and complicate the world we live in.
FINALLY, as a class, we will engage the techniques and practices of reading and enjoying literature. We will identify and develop different ways to read different kinds of texts–from fiction to scholarship to visual and digital–and understand and develop strategies, habits, and perspectives of reading, thinking, and writing. Foremost, we will read with pleasure and for pleasure. We will also rhetorically read, close read, read for analysis. And lastly, we will read and deploy literature as theory, as dramatizing the concerns, wonders, struggles, and politics of lived life and experience. The class counts for W credit, requiring you to complete 10-15 pages of revised writing including a set of short response papers culminating in a longer major paper project.