Dr Dean Taciuch
George Mason University

Spring 2016

English 202: 002
Science & Literature

Course Description

This course will explore some effects that 20th Century science had on literature, in particular the realization at mid-century that science and technology could either save or destroy the world, while also redefining what it could mean to be human. We will begin with a short popular science book, The Human Use of Human Beings, written in 1950, which was among the first texts to identify the dual nature of modern technology. This book also popularized the idea of "Cybernetics," a concept from which emerged the cyborg and cyberspace.

The readings will include one non-fiction book, 2 novels, a collection of short stories, and several essays.

The assignments include two essays, weekly responses or quizzes, a midterm, and a final exam.

Learning Outcomes

English 202 fulfills the Mason Core requirement for Literature. Students completing this course should be able to

  1. Read for comprehension, detail, and nuance.
  2. Identify the specific literary qualities of language as employed in the texts they read.
  3. Analyze the ways specific literary devices contribute to the meaning of a text.
  4. Identify and evaluate the contribution of the social, political, historical, and cultural contexts in which a literary text is produced.
  5. Evaluate a critical argument in others' writing as well as one's own.

Texts (in bookstore, but you may also use e-book editions)
Phillip K. Dick Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Greg Egan. Axiomatic: Short Stories of Science Fiction.
William Gibson. Neuromancer
Norbert Wiener. The Human Use of Human Beings

Online texts ( Follow the links or download from BlackBoard)
Ray Kurzweil. The Ray Kurzweil Reader
Max Tegmark, "Parallel Universes"
Verner Vinge, "Technological Singularity"

Course Assignments (Total 100 points)
(Almost) Weekly Reading Responses:  10@ 2.5 pts: 25
            (No Responses due on Essay or Exam weeks)
Short Essays (1000 – 1500 words): 2@ 15 pts: 30
Midterm Exam: 1@ 20 pts: 20
Final Exam: 1@ 25 pts: 25

Due Dates

Responses will be due most Mondays by noon
Essay 1 will be due Sun Feb 28
Midterm exam will be in class on Wed March 2
Essay 2 will be due Sun April 17
Final Exam will be Monday, May 9 from 10:30 – 1:15

(Responses and essays will be be submitted via BlackBoard. The responses will be due by noon. The essays are due anytime on the due date. BlackBoard requires that I set a time; I set it to 11:59pm, but I really don't care if the essays are submitted a few hours late. As long as the essays are there in the morning, I don't count them as late).


In grading essays, I use the following general criteria:

An "A" essay is well organized, specific, clearly written, and has a strong thesis. Strong organization requires focused paragraphs with specific support following a clear overall structure with each topic sentence supporting the central thesis.

A "B" essay is well organized and has a clear thesis, but may be less specific in its examples, or less clear in its presentation and language.

A "C" essay is average college-level writing. It is organized, but the paragraph structure might be too loose (long unfocused paragraphs, for example), or the language unclear. The thesis is present, but might be too broad or too simple for a sustained analysis.

A "D" essay may have problems with the thesis, organization, or language throughout the essay.

An "F" essay would have problems with more than one of these issues

As noted above, the assignments in the course add up to 100 possible points. I calculate grades as follows:

A+ 100%
A 95% A- 90%
B+ 88% B 85% B- 80%
C+ 78% C 75% C- 70%
D 65% D- 60% F 0 – 50%

So an assignment worth 10 points would receive 8.5 points for a B, 9.5 points for an A, and 10 points for an A+.

At the end of the semester, the points are added up, and final grades are calculated as follows:

A+ 98–100
A 93–97 A- 90–92
B+ 87–89 B 84–86 B- 80–83
C+ 77–79 C 74–76 C- 70–73
D 60–69   F 0–59

Course Policies

Late Assignments: Late papers will lose 5% per day unless you make prior arrangements with me.

Revision Policy: The two essays may be revised for a higher grade, but they must be substantially revised. You cannot lose a grade by revising, but a higher grade is not guaranteed. I have found that "B" papers (or higher) are often more difficult to revise, since serious revision requires thoroughly changing the essay's structure, and "B" papers usually have a fairly good structure. "C" papers (or lower) often respond more dramatically to revision, since the major changes they require are often more straightforward. I recommend revising "C" papers or lower only. If you plan to revise a "B" paper, please see me beforehand so we can discuss a revision strategy.

The weekly responses, quizzes, and exams cannot be revised.

All revisions must be turned in by April 27

Plagiarism: Plagiarism means using the exact words, opinions, or factual information from another source without giving that source credit. Writers give credit through the use of accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes, or end notes; a simple listing of books, articles, and websites is not sufficient.

Writers must include a Works Cited or References list at the end of their essay, providing full bibliographic information for every source cited in their essay, including the course textbooks.

Instructors at George Mason University are bound to uphold the George Mason Honor Code, which requires us to report any suspected instances of plagiarism to the Honor Committee. All judgments about plagiarism are made after careful review by the Honor Committee, which may issue penalties ranging from grade-deductions to course failure to expulsion from GMU.

Students with disabilities: If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS). All academic accommodations must be arranged through the ODS.

GMU Nondiscrimination Policy: George Mason University is committed to providing equal opportunity and an educational and work environment free from any discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, or age. GMU shall adhere to all applicable state and federal equal opportunity/affirmative action statutes and regulations.

GMU Email: Students must activate their Mason email account and check it regularly. For privacy reasons, all class-related emails will be sent only to students' official GMU email addresses.

Course Schedule


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Course Schedule