Course Description

Almost Human: Robots and Cyborgs in German Fiction and Film
GER 115F Freshman Seminar: Spring 13
Course Description
M W F: 2:10-3:00, Furman Hall 311

Professor Peggy Setje-Eilers

Office: Furman 126
Office hours: M 12:10-1:00, W 4:00-5:00 and by appointment
German Dept.: Furman 121 (322-2611)

Texts (available at Vanderbilt Bookstore)

E.T.A. Hoffmann: The Golden Pot and Other Tales (Oxford World’s Classics)
Sigmund Freud: The Uncanny (Penguin Classics)
Heinrich von Kleist: Three Plays (Absolute Classics)
Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (Bantam Classic)
Johann Wolfgang Goethe: Goethe: Faust, Part Two, (Oxford World’s Classics)
Georg Büchner: Georg Büchner: Complete Plays, Lenz and Other Writings (Penguin Classics)
Friedrich Dürrenmatt: The Visit: A Tragi-Comedy (Grove Press)
The Bedford Handbook
(Diana Hacker) is highly recommended!

Scheduled screenings outside class (Buttrick 101):

Robert Wiene: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) (7 pm: Mon. March 18)
Fritz Lang: Metropolis (1927) (7 pm: Mon. March 25)
Ridley Scott: Blade Runner (1982, 1992, 2007) (7 pm: Mon. April 8)
Christopher Nolan: Inception (2010) (7 pm: Mon. April 15)

The fascination and horror generated by the forms of “almost human” beings, from automatons to robots, androids, cyborgs, and bodiless existence, inspire us to wonder who we are, what we are, and where we are going. Today, as fiction seeps into reality, technology continues to erode the dividing line between human and machine. What is the body?  How do we define its limits? How artificial are we already?

The topic of the artificial body is a literary tradition, particularly in the imagination of writers of German texts and film. Recent technological and scientific developments promise to bridge the gap between fiction and reality. These changes can and should inspire you to raise your own questions. In this course, you will gain insight into several literary periods in Germany and learn how to find articles for your future academic work in diverse fields. In what way do these texts and films suggest a yearning for and fear of technology? How does the theme of the artificial body function both as the dream of male birth and as feminist territory? What is next, do we want it, and do we have a choice? The goal of this course is to encourage you to formulate similar questions and provide a historical-cultural background. In addition, you will develop your writing skills by articulating questions and hypotheses.

In this course, you will write three five-page papers on a selected aspect of a text, film, and current issue. To help you plan your paper and formulate your thesis statement, you need to hand in a paper organizer before you start writing. Written assignments will be returned within several days after due date. You will peer-edit drafts of two papers on the course blog and revise one of the first two papers.

Grade Breakdown:

Homework writing (incl. paper organizers)                             10%
Blog postings, comments, peer-reviews                                      5%
Writing assignment #1-3 (5-page paper, one revision)           45%
Class participation                                                                           5%
Attendance                                                                                        5%
Midterm (in-class essay with texts)                                            15%
Final (in-class essay, no texts)                                                     15%

More than three unexcused absences will affect your grade.

Signing your name to written work constitutes acceptance of the Vanderbilt University Honor Pledge.  Please consult your Student Handbook for information about the Honor Pledge.

If you need course accommodations due to a disability, if you have medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.

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