ENMC481I-1 (Schedule # 62276)
University of Virginia
Fall 2003
930-1045 TR PV8 B003 (Pavilion VIII, basement classroom)
Mr. David Golumbia
Office: 304B Bryan
Fall 2003 Office Hours: T 2:30-4, W 11-1, R 11-1 and by appt

Fictional Networks, Alternate Selves:
Contemporary Literature, Science Fiction and the Cultures of Technology

Fiction increasingly serves as a vehicle for the description of alternatives for many crucial aspects of human life. In this course we will follow some themes involving the development or description of alternative communicative, social and linguistic "networks," and the creation of alternative models for self and identity, where we will look in particular at fictions that postulate "artificial intelligences," "cyborgs," "self-assembling systems" and other novel forms of person and body. We will read novels by Ellen Ullman, M. T. Anderson, Octavia Butler, Louise Erdrich, Greg Bear and Syne Mitchell and experimental writers and poets such as Lyn Hejinian, mez_breeze, Harryette Mullen, Mei-Mei Berssunbrugge, Rae Armantrout and Harryette Mullen. We will also view films and television including episodes of Star Trek, and David Cronenberg's eXistenZ. Along with the primary texts we'll read a few critical articles and chapters to help orient us, including ones by Donna Haraway, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and Ellen Ullman.

Primary Materials

Books (available at UVa bookstore):

Films and television programs (on reserve in Robertson Media Lab)

Other media (online or on reserve in Robertson Media Lab)

Secondary readings (available online)


There are two major assignments for this course; students will choose to write either two short (6-8pp.) papers, or a draft and revision of a longer (10-12pp.) paper. The first assignment is due at the beginning of the class period on Oct 16, and the second is due at the beginning of the class period on Dec 4. These papers should relate to the subject matter and materials of the course, but are otherwise open as to topic and text. We will have brief one-on-one conversations during office hours basis to determine topics together; all paper topics need to be approved by the instructor.


The course is conducted through lecture and discussion. In most cases books are discussed for two days, and the expectation is that we will discuss the entire book on the first day, so the assignment is to finish the book before the first day on which it is discussed. When we discuss films or TV programs or other media, the assignment is to watch the program or review the resource prior to the class period during which we will discuss it, so that you will be able to participate in discussion knowledgeably.


Grades are constituted 85% by the two papers. The remaining 15% of the grade is made up by class participation. This does not mean you are expected have a carefully-prepared topic for discussion about every book or program; as long as you participate actively some of the time, it is possible to get full credit for participation.

Honor Code

All work for this class is subject to the University's Honor Code.


R Aug 28 - Introduction

T Sep 2 - M. T. Anderson, Feed
R Sep 4 - M. T. Anderson, Feed

T Sep 9 - Syne Mitchell, The Changeling Plague
R Sep 11 - Syne Mitchell, The Changeling Plague

T Sep 16 - Octavia Butler, Clay's Ark
R Sep 18 - Octavia Butler, Clay's Ark; Donna Haraway, "Cyborg Manifesto"

T Sep 23 - Star Trek: "The Changeling"
R Sep 25 - Star Trek: The Next Generation: "The Best of Both Worlds I-II"

T Sep 30 - Greg Bear, Blood Music
R Oct 2 - Greg Bear, Blood Music; Deleuze and Guattari, "Rhizome"

T Oct 7 - Frank Miller with Lynn Varley, Ronin
R Oct 9 - The X-Files: "Kill Switch"

T Oct 14 - No Class: Reading Period
R Oct 16 - Poems by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge and Harryette Mullen (selections in Rankine & Spahr collection). First assignment due.

T Oct 21 - Poems by Lyn Hejinian and Lucie-Brock Broido (selections in Rankine & Spahr collection)
R Oct 23 - Poems by Rae Armantrout and Susan Howe (selections in Rankine & Spahr collection)

T Oct 28 - Star Trek: "The Ultimate Computer"; Star Trek: The Next Generation: "11001001"
R Oct 30 - Star Trek: Voyager: "Dark Frontier I-II"; Lawley, "Computers and the Communication of Gender"

T Nov 4 - Louise Erdrich, The Antelope Wife
R Nov 6 - Louise Erdrich, The Antelope Wife

T Nov 11 - Ellen Ullman, The Bug
R Nov 13 - Ellen Ullman, The Bug; Ellen Ullman, "Close to the Machine: An Interview"

T Nov 18 - David Cronenberg, eXistenZ
R Nov 20 - Everquest, Runescape and Lineage

T Nov 25 - Writings and net.art by mez_breeze, Jodi, and jimpunk
R Nov 27 - No Class: Thanksgiving Break

T Dec 2 - Michael Crichton, Prey
R Dec 4 - Michael Crichton, Prey. Second assignment due.