Dr. Daniel Leonard

Bilkent University

Fall 2013-14

Interested students should register for the course and then contact Dr. Leonard so that we can coordinate the time of the first class meeting. If you experience any difficulties in registration, contact Dr. Leonard or Süheyla Yılmaz, CCI Program Secretary, in room 224 G of G Building.

Mechanization and its Discontents — Syllabus

Machines have transformed the way we live, work and play.  But our relations with machines have also profoundly influenced how we think about our bodies and minds, redefining what it means to be human.  Machines have extended the reach of the senses, increased productivity, and introduced new modes of knowledge and social interaction.  Scientific instruments, industrial production, and information technology are just a few of the epoch-making achievements of mechanization.  Beginning with the Scientific Revolution and moving forward to the present, we will explore both the possibilities and problems of the machine age through literary and philosophical texts, works of art and films.  In doing so, we will encounter innovators who have imagined future utopias where humans live in synergy with helpful machines, and critics who have considered mechanization a dehumanizing force.  From experimental devices to assembly lines, computers and social networking, machines forge connections and produce new forms of life.  Do they also alienate us from others and ourselves?

By reading a selection of philosophical, scientific, and literary texts, and discussing key works of art and film, we will evaluate some of the historical developments that have characterized the machine and information ages and defined modern mechanism and its discontents. These primary materials will be accompanied by theoretical reflections that will provide students with a sense of the methods and paradigms used by critics and artists in their exploration of the complex relations between humans and the machines they create.  Drawing from philosophy, the history of science, literature and art history, this interdisciplinary course is open to interested students in the social sciences, humanities and natural and applied sciences.

The course readings are grouped into four thematic and historical sections.  Each segment of the course will be accompanied by a film that reflects some of the themes and questions explored in class, to give rise to more discussion.  For more details, see the syllabus.