Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Midterm Essay Prompts

Reminders: Regardless of prompt, you need to make a single coherent argument, from the beginning through the end; you should be every bit as focused writing a five page essay as you are writing a two page essay. Your argument must be your own; to whatever extent you draw on the work of others, you need to cite their work, using whatever citation method you wish. Research is desirable but not required. Your target audience is always an intelligent but skeptical reader who is familiar with same texts as you.

Due: Next Wednesday by midnight, to give you a full week.

Option 1: Both Lyotard and Haraway understand "gender" and "technology" as being related concepts. Taking this as a starting point, do the following: after explaining both Lyotard's understanding of the relationship between gender and technology and Haraway's understanding of that relationship, argue for either Haraway's concept or Lyotard's. Using research, personal experience, or perhaps a detailed reading of one of our other texts, explain why we should understand the relationship between gender and technology through either Lyotard or Haraway.

Option 2: Using as many texts as you want from the semester so far, but principally focusing on one, discuss what you understand as the relationship between technology and human nature. Is technology part of human nature? Are we an aspect of technology? Does technology alter or threaten human nature? These are examples of the kinds of questions you might try to answer.

Option 3: Below are two excerpts from Herbert Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man, labelled a and b. Read both excerpts, then the prompt will resume.

a) “Pacified existence.” The phrase conveys poorly enough the intent to sum up, in one guiding idea, the tabooed and ridiculed end of technology, the repressed final cause behind the scientific enterprise. If this final cause were to materialize and become effective, the Logos of technics would open a universe of qualitatively different relations between man and man, and man and nature.

b) All joy and all happiness derive from the ability to transcend Nature – a transcendence in which the mastery of Nature is itself subordinated to liberation and pacification of existence. All tranquillity, all delight is the result and of conscious mediation, of autonomy and contradiction. Glorification of the natural is part of the ideology which protects an unnatural society in its struggle against liberation. The defamation of birth control is a striking example. In some backward areas of the world, it is also “natural” that black races are inferior to white, and that the dogs get the hindmost, and that business must be. It is also natural that big fish eat little fish – though it may not seem natural to the little fish. Civilization produces the means for freeing Nature from its own brutality, its own insufficiency, its own blindness, by virtue of the cognitive and transforming power of Reason. And Reason can fulfill this function only as post-technological rationality, in which technics is itself the instrumentality of pacification, organon of the “art of life.” The function of Reason then converges with the function of Art.

Resumption of Prompt: Using details from at least one text we've read this semester, first define and then either defend or attack Marcuse's beliefs about the proper relationship of technological humanity to nature. Example: After defining "pacification of nature," one might argue that the end of nature in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a predictable result of trying to "pacify" it. Or you might argue the opposite - that if we took the project of "pacifying" nature seriously, we wouldn't destroy it.

Note: I will not be answering questions over the weekend!

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