Logo and Title

Course Logistics

Meetings: MW(F) 9:00-9:50, HLG 122
Instructor: Pr. John Laudun. HLG 356. Tuesdays 9:00 – 2:30. 482-5493. laudun@louisiana.edu.

Course Description

My goals for this course are simple: first, to de-mystify reading as a process – into a series of discreet activities – so that students can understand how texts work: through content, through structure, and through intertextuality; second to have students practice various forms of writing, focusing especially on those forms that help you practice analysis and argumentation. Such writing assignments include, but are not limited to, summaries, outlines, analytical responses, and, of course, the synthetic essay.

Course Materials

Depending upon the semester, there will be books listed below, but the first thing you need to do is to log onto the course’s Moodle site. (Please come to class before purchasing any books for this class. Sometimes plan change between the time the syllabus is constructed and the time at which a final plan is developed.) Over the years I have developed a number of custom versions of common texts in order to make it easier for you not only to engage in various kinds of reading practices and analyses but also to make sure there are common page numbers to enable better discussions. You will be responsible for printing these materials and having them in class, marked up, and ready to discuss. Reading from devices is prohibited and only reveals you have not read the syllabus clearly.

The two books you need to buy are:

Dick, Philip K. 1970. A Maze of Death. Vintage. (We are going to use the 2013 reprint.)

Suarez, Daniel. 2006. Daemon. Signet Books.

Both books are available from Amazon. (Please note that the link is to a special aStore that make it easy to put the books in your shopping cart.)

There are also a number of texts which are not scribal in nature. That is, this course also takes advantage of various video and audio presentations. Many of these are available in forms that require only a computer and internet connection of modest means: that is, you must have access to a computer that can accept video and audio streams. Some of the materials are copyrighted and require that you own them or you have access to them through a subscription service. You will need to arrange access to physical copies of these texts or to subscribe to services that provide you access to them. (The services you need are noted with the texts below, and you should add those costs to the total costs for this course. No exceptions, no whining.) If I provide a viewing copy of some material for this course, you should assume it is copyrighted and that it is only made available under Fair Use provisions of the law. Failure to respect the copyrights of others or the fair use provisions of the law will be reported to the proper authorities.

The computer you use needs to have a licensed copy of either Microsoft Word or Apple Pages on it and you need to familiarize yourself with their review functions. (Do this now and not later.) I will interact with drafts either in this format or in plain text using either Markdown or LaTeX. No other formats are accepted. None.

Finally, put away the spiral-bound notebooks, especially the multi-subject ones. Get yourself a notepad and a collection of file folders. All will be explained in class.

Course Requirements

The goal of the course is to help students learn how to read more closely and with an eye to possible outcomes. Much of the grading of the course then focuses on written products as either documentation of reading practice or as various kinds of outcomes. Everything is in words: sometimes presented orally, and even dramatically, and sometimes scribed.

As you can see, the drafting process is an essential part of this course. In order for there to be effective communication about the drafting process, this course requires that students have access to word processing platforms that support the review processes of commenting and tracking changes. The most recent versions of Microsoft Word and Apple Pages do this. (I will also provide you with a standard file-naming scheme for each document I ask you to submit.)

Additional requirements are here.

Course Paper

The final paper in this class asks you to reflect on the methodological work we have done in terms of understanding texts and the topical considerations for the term – in this case how we imagine “artificial intelligence.” Your objective is to complete by the end of the semester an essay which takes up a text, or several texts, that we did not discuss in class and examine it for its representation of how intelligences, human and artificial, relate, reflect, refract a particular concern, anxiety, question or some other topic of your choosing. The paper must be grounded in textual evidence and that evidence must be presented in a contextualized fashion and a considered sequence such that your audience is “naturally” led from your initial proposition to agreement with your thinking on the matter.

Just to be clear, the essay must be 3500 words, which does not include extensive quotations nor your works cited; it must be turned in on paper with one-inch margins, double-spaced, and in a reasonable 12-point serif type face. (If you aren’t sure on any of these parameters, especially type face, check with me. Don’t surprise me.) Your paper must be well-sourced, though I do not require any given minimum nor maximum number of sources.

Your Secret Identity

In some semesters, each student is assigned a “secret identity.” The assignment is purely random: it consists of pairing your name with a some kind of token. Do not share your secret identity with anyone and do not ask anyone to share his/her secret identity with you. It is permissible, however, to design a game within which secret identities are used and thus disclosed. Be prepared for players to balk at anything that requires direct disclosure: your game must be compelling enough that revelation of their secret identity is something they are willing to “pay” in order to play. There is some reward for maintaining your secret identity throughout the semester. (Just some, not a lot.)

Course Schedule

This course, like all university courses, operates within the larger framework of the university’s schedule, including various breaks and exam periods. Because each class is different, the schedule of assignments is not tied to any particular date but tied to a given sequence of events:

Dangerous Games

The first few weeks of the semester focus on the short story “The Most Dangerous Game” (1924) and various ways to break up the text and the work associated with analysis.

Text Link
“The Most Dangerous Game” pdf
“The Most Dangerous Game” text
Wikipedia entry for story url
“The Most Dangerous Game” (film) youtube
Wikipedia entry for film url

Assignment: group development and production of an adaptation of “The Most Dangerous Game” suitable for presentation to the rest of class. Maximum run time of 10 minutes. Please be sure to follow the criteria we develop in class.


Text Link
“Arena” pdf / text
Star Trek: The Origianl Series: “Arena” Netflix / Amazon / pdf / text
Star Trek: The Next Generation: “Darmok” Netflix / Amazon / pdf / text

XKCD "Darmok and Jalad"

A brief interlude in discourse worlds and inheritance:

Stockwell, Peter. 2002. Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction. Routledge. Link.

The Meat in the Machine

The rest of the semester will be occupied with a consideration of what it means for so much of ourselves to be caught up in a collection of files that pass from one machine to another most often in ways invisible to us. Currently, the following texts, presented in chronological order, are being considered for inclusion in class.

Texts to Consider

Date Text
1909 E. M. Forster, “The Machine Stops” PDF / txt / Wikisource
1946 Murray Leinster, “A Logic Named Joe” PDF / txt
1945 Isaac Asimov, “Escape!”
1970 Philip K. Dick, A Maze of Death
1970 Colossus: The Forbin Project (film) (Wikipedia)
2016 HBO’s Westworld (based on the 1973 film by Michael Crichton)

Considerations and Coverage

Analytical Essays

Franklin, H. Bruce. 1983. Don’t Look Where We’re Going: Visions of the Future in Science-Fiction Films, 1970-82 (“Ne cherche pas à savoir où on va”: les Visions de l’avenir dans le cinéma de SF de 1970 à 1982). Science Fiction Studies 10/1: 70-80. JSTOR.

Goldman, Steven L. 1989. Images of Technology in Popular Films: Discussion and Filmography. Science, Technology, & Human Values 14/3: 275-301. JSTOR.

Reports, Histories

AI/Machines in Other Texts

Date Text
1966 Billion-Dollar Brain (book, film)
1983 WarGames (film) (Wikipedia)
1999 Smart House (Disney film)
2001 A.I. Artificial Intelligence (film) (Wikipedia)
2006 Daniel Suarez, Daemon
2013 Her (film) (Wikipedia)
- The Machine (British film)
2014 Automata (film)

The Wikipedia entry on Artificial Intelligence in Fiction is well worth your time.