Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Final Project Proposal

In short, I want to explore how three of the works that we read for this class – Frankenstein, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and House of Leaves – use copies to explore the real thing. I believe there is a clear progression in these novels: Frankenstein's monster, a copy to explore humans' relation to nature; Androids in DADES to explore humans' relation to other humans; and the very nature of House of Leaves, as a copied work, to explore the human relation to the self. I'm particularly drawn to an essay like this because it explores themes I've stayed on the periphery of (I remember reading Baudrillard for a class my freshman year and being terrified). In my research on this subject so far, I've come across a Baudrillard statement that I believe could shape my paper:
There are three orders of simulacra, running parallel to the successive mutations of the law of value since the Renaissance:
—The counterfeit is the dominant schema in the “classical” period, from the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution.
—Production is the dominant schema in the industrial era.
—Simulation is the dominant schema in the current code-governed phase.
The first order simulacrum operates on the natural law of value, the second order simulacrum on the market law of value, and the third order simulacrum on the structural law of value.

Of course I need to dive into the subject with much more effort, but I see a clear connection between this progression and the progression of novels that I seek to explore. Frankenstein's monster as the counterfeit, Androids as evidence of mass production, House of Leaves as a simulation of academic criticism and memoir (an admittedly weak argument that I will have to put more work into). Ultimately I will argue that as the copies progress outward, the human condition is focused inward, so as we move from counterfeit to mass production to simulation, the novels' focuses move from nature, to other people, to the self.
            But it could be argued that there is no difference between how these works treat copies, instead they all pursue the same universal truth, just the same as the shadows of Plato’s cave. They simply refer back to the same universal questions of literature asked over and over in (a)similar ways. What is the nature of truth and reality? It could be argued that this nature is unchanging, that humans remain uncertain, chained by concern, regardless of the time they come from and the philosophical/historical movements happening while they happen to be alive.
1. Sims, Christopher A. Tech Anxiety: Artificial Intelligence and Ontological Awakening in Four Science Fiction Novels. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013. 
2.Rosa, Jorge M. "A Misreading Gone Too Far? Baudrillard Meets Philip K. Dick." Science Fiction Studies 35.104 (2008): Depauw University. <>.
1.      In this book, there is an entire chapter dedicated to DADES, titled “The Dangers of Individualism and the Human Relationship to Technology in Philip K. Dicks’…” which deals heavily with Heidegger. I believe this connection, which will become clearer as I read the entire chapter, will help me to connect DADES to HOL. The focus on individualism will also help my argument address the relation of people to other people.
2.      I actually found the Baudrillard quote used above in this essay, which also focuses on DADES. However, I am particularly interested in what is only noted in this essay – Frankenstein as an entry point into Baudrillard’s 1st order and R.U.R. as a marked change from the earlier Industrial Revolution. At this point, I’m looking for threads to connect my final paper, and I believe that R.U.R. should prove to help me move from Frankenstein to DADES.


Nikki Moriello said...

Hey Nick,

I'm not entirely sure if we're supposed to post reaction comments on our posts for this week, but, better safe than sorry I guess.

I think your idea sounds really really cool. The idea of copies is prevalent throughout all the novels you intend to use. I mean, I don't know how you'd include it, but maybe you could include some sort of discussion on adaptations of books in film or rewrites or something, because this is another form of copying. It seems like you want to stay within the novels, though, but it's just an idea if you get stuck or something.
I don't really understand what's going on with Baudrillard, but I'm thinking that it's a progression of how copies/production has evolved and I'm guessing you're going to use the novels to illustrate the different forms of copying, which sounds pretty solid.
The thing that I feel is missing is that inherent possibility that you could be wrong that Adam always talks about in class. Like everything that you're proposing sounds really reasonable, which is good, but maybe it's also an indicator that you have to push it a little bit farther. But I noticed that you're still in the early stages of developing your ideas, so I'm sure you've already though about this.
But overall, this sounds really interesting/promising. I can't wait to see how it turns out.
Good luck!

Adam said...

What you have is an excellent starting point.

I could say a number of things in response, but they're all going to boil down to this: what is at stake in the idea of simulation or the simulacrum? Why do you care? Nikki and I both agree that it's interesting, but why? Clearly you buy into the idea that there is something about modernity which is deeply linked to or rooted in this concept, or these concepts. So show us why we should care about this concept in these books, and your argument will become more clear.

I like the idea of the progression through the three books. If it were me (and it isn't, so take this with a grain of salt) I'd be tempted to argue that HOL's particular relationship with digital technology is how you get at an understanding of HOL's stage and importance...

Good start - but as Nikki points out from a different angle, it isn't *quite* yet a description of a functioning essay.