Narrative As Technology
Module 1: Narrative as a tool for thinking about technology, part 1
Teaching Instructions

Both Mary Shelley and Nathaniel Hawthorne are considered "Romantic" writers, the one British, the other American. While the Romantics are usually seen as antipathetic toward science, they both wrote science fiction. One could argue that these texts are very critical of scientists and scientific ambitions, but they also seem to be sympathetic to them. Both works wish to understand what drives us to create new technologies, and both portray the scientist's work as a heroic quest.

LEVEL DESCRIPTORS:

First-year college / AP English (High School)

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

To see that science fiction is one place where writers and readers can begin to

  • question the effects of technology on not just our future but our current lives -- any period's "future" can be a metaphor for what's happening now, as can the past;
  • imagine the ethical dilemmas that we will face in the future (or soon, or now) because of technological advance for the sake of helping us prepare our reaction.
and to begin picking out some of the features of science fiction, in particular its questioning of the effects on human beings of the various technologies we use to comprehend the world, including reading, writing, and seeing, as well as experimenting.

DISCUSSION POSSIBILITIES:

Holst's "The Zebra Storyteller" is about the value of imagining the future before it comes. Both Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" question scientists' motives for pursuing discoveries and technological advance. As students to look at Victor Frankenstein and Aylmer as flawed (perhaps tragic) heroes: what is their relation to the human? what are they afraid of? Ask students to discuss in class what they wrote for Assignment 1.

ASSESSMENT:

The vigor of class discussion will determine the degree to which students understand that science fiction provides a place for thinking about what really matters in life outside of a religious context. In other words, they are engaged in that thinking if discussion is animated.

 

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