Special Topics in Rhetoric
Technology and the Body
From Charles Olson’s desire to project himself into a poem to David Cronenberg’s filmic representations of teleported bodies, the possibility of converting a living organism into a transportable code or script fueled artistic experimentation throughout the second half of the 20th century. While the idea of a technologically replicable body has served as a source of creative inspiration, today it is also emerging as a biomedical reality. Geneticist-entrepreneur Craig Venter recently described the 21st-century as “the digital age of biology,” noting that now “we can send DNA code to anywhere in the planet in less than a second.” In this course, we will critically examine the cultural, ethical, and aesthetic implications of an informational conception of the body. We will ask: what happens when life itself is no longer identified with an organismic body, but instead, understood as “code,” “information,” or “writing”? Our approach to this question will be two-pronged: we will explore theoretical accounts of the relationship between embodiment, art, and information technology, drawing on critical readings from science studies, literary criticism, art history, philosophy of technology, and disability studies.
We will also adopt an inductive approach by observing live performances at Zellerbach Hall and attempting to translate these events into verbal, written, and digital languages. Since this course is primarily concerned with the status of the human body in an age of intensive technological intervention, we will pay close attention to dance and movement art, asking, what is it about bodily movement and presence that escapes or exceeds scriptural notation?
This course is approved for the "History and Theory" concentration.