Dr. Dean Taciuch
George Mason University

Fall 2007

English 202:001
Cyber Lit

Course Description

This section of English 202 (Texts and Contexts) will explore Cyber-Literature — literature of and about cybernetics. The term "cybernetics," coined in the 1950s, refers to any type of automatic control mechanism involving feedback. The term has been incorporated into two more recent phenomena: the cyborg (cybernetic organism) and cyberspace (which is not merely the Internet, though the Internet is what most people think of as cyberspace). Our readings will explore both of these cyber-realms, but we will be more concerned with philosophical issues than technical ones.

These novels and texts explore what it means to be human by imagining post-human (cybernetic) futures. We will examine three specific futures: the androids (cyborgs) of Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (and the film adaptation, Blade Runner); the AI and cyberspace of William Gibson's Neuromancer and the recognizable (if somewhat comic) online world of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.

We will end the course with a look at literature in rather than about cyberspace: electronic texts and hypertext.


Dick, Phillip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Del Ray. Paperback.
ISBN-10: 0345404475 ISBN-13: 978-0345404473. $13.95

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. Ace. Paperback. ISBN-10: 0441007465
ISBN-13: 978-0441007462. $13.95

Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash. Spectra. Paperback. ISBN-10: 0553380958
ISBN-13: 978-0553380958. $15.00.

Prices as of August 2007. If you are charged more at the bookstore, let me know.


Vernor Vinge "Technological Singularity"
Notes for Neuromancer

Cory Doctorow short stories:
Anda's Game (download from http://www.craphound.com/overclocked/download/)

Interview with Cory Doctorow (online)

"Hypertext and Literary Form" (online)
Stuart Moulthrop "Hejirascope"


Quizzes (10 total): 20%
Essay 1 (Androids/Blade Runner): 20%
Essay 2 (Neuromancer): 20%
Essay 3 (Snow Crash): 20%
Final Exam: 20%


Most of your work will receive a letter grade. An "A" paper has a strong thesis, clear organization and focus, very good support, and very few if any grammatical errors. A "B" paper has a good thesis, good organization and focus, good support and examples, and a few grammatical errors. A "C" paper may have a weaker thesis, some organizational problems (though still an identifiable organization and focus), some support (though it could use more), and some (though not too many) grammatical errors. A "D" paper may have problems with its thesis or organization, may lack focus and support, or may have serious grammatical errors. An "F" paper has serious problems in more than two of these areas.

I will give all assignments letter grades. I calculate final grades by converting the letter grades to a 100 point scale using the following values:

A+ 100  
A 95 C+ 78
A- 90 C 75
B+ 88 C- 70
B 85 D 65
B- 80 F below 60

The University translates letter grades into 4-point GPA values:

A+ 4.00 B- 2.67 C- 1.67
A 4.00 B 3.00 D 1.00
A- 3.67 C+ 2.33 F 0.00
B+ 3.33 C 2.00  

(please note that A+ and A have equivalent point values.)

Course Policies

Late Assignments: Unless you make prior arrangements with me, late papers will lose one letter grade per day. The lost grades cannot be made up by revision.

Revisions: A revision is a thorough reworking of a paper; it is not merely correcting spelling and grammar errors (that"s proofreading, and it won't result in a higher grade, since I assume you proofread before you turn in a paper). Generally, "B" papers are more difficult to revise; they are already better than average, and revising means changing them substantively. There is always a risk that the changes may result in a weaker paper, but I will not penalize anyone for revising (you won't drop below the original grade on a revision). I recommend revising papers with a "C" or lower, since these papers usually have more serious problems which respond better to the thoroughness of the revision process.

All revisions must be submitted by Dec 10.

: "Plagiarism means using the exact words, opinions, or factual information from another person without giving the person credit. Writers give credit through accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes or endnotes; a simple listing of books and articles is not sufficient. Plagiarism is the equivalent of intellectual robbery and cannot be tolerated in an academic setting" (Department of English Guidebook). I will report any suspected cases of plagiarism to the Honors Committee.

Attendance: I will not take attendance, but it is not possible to do well in this course without regular attendance. In class assignments make up part of your grade. Class discussions of the texts are necessary for the papers, exercises, and the research project. Topics will develop from the class discussions. In addition, we will work on revising the drafts in class.


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