STS.464 | Spring 2008 | Graduate

Technology and the Literary Imagination


Weekly Writing Assignment

Each week, students are to write a brief (750-1500 word) paper examining the significance of an aspect of each week’s assigned reading in illuminating the ultimate emergence of the concept of “technology” — and its environmental impact. This paper is due (via email to the instructors and fellow students) each Monday at noon preceding a class day. Because each class meeting will be organized around issues raised in the student papers (they in effect set the agenda of class meetings), the timely submission of the papers is important.

Students are urged to consider, week by week, the usefulness of each session in clarifying the emergence and cumulative significance of technology and its impact on the environment. The weekly papers will constitute each student’s running journal or diary of thoughts on the subject.

Example Student Papers

Example student papers are presented courtesy of the authors and used with permission.

2 Technology in America today: Don DeLillo’s White Noise

Cardoso, Daniel. “Modern superstitions.” (PDF)

Crystal, Lisa. “Technology and Faith in Don DeLillo’s White Noise.” (PDF)

3 The enlightenment: Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia Cardoso, Daniel. “The politics of naturalism.” (PDF)
4 Industrialization: a Trans-Atlantic debate Cardoso, Daniel. “Perfect slaves.” (PDF)
5 Technological dynamism Cardoso, Daniel. “A new variety of mind.” (PDF)
6 An epic of technological fatality (I): Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, chapters 1-40 Cardoso, Daniel. “A new kind of science (of whales).” (PDF)
7 An epic of technological fatality (II): Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, chapters 41-96 Cardoso, Daniel. “Science as fiction.” (PDF)
8 An epic of technological fatality (III): Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, overview Cardoso, Daniel. “Ishmael’s empty ship.” (PDF)
9 The lost America: Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs Cardoso, Daniel. “Fog-shaped men.” (PDF)
10 Ecological Crisis I: John Hersey’s Hiroshima

Cardoso, Daniel. “An unknown force.” (PDF)

Crystal, Lisa. “John Hersey’s Hiroshima: Reactions to a Technological Novelty.” (PDF)

11 Ecological Crisis II: Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature

Cardoso, Daniel. “Rembrandts and streetlamps.” (PDF)

Crystal, Lisa. “Locating the Boundaries: Humans, Nature, and God in Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature.” (PDF)

Final Paper and Oral Report

For their final paper, students will critically assess the validity of McKibben’s argument in The End of Nature, in the light of the historical record as revealed by our readings and discussions. What are its strengths and weaknesses as a response to technological progress and the devastation of the environment? To what extent does it clarify the chief issues raised by our course?

Example Student Papers

Cardoso, Daniel. “Design and the Automated Utopia.” (PDF)

Crystal, Lisa. “Technology, Nature, and the Loss of Meaning.” (PDF)

McCammack, Brian. “Reconciling Continuity and Rupture: Rhetorical Strategy in Seeing Escalators as Tipping Points in the Writings of Thomas Carlyle, Henry Adams, and Bill McKibben.” (PDF)

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2008
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples