POSTHUMANISM

English 4900/6190
Summer 2015 l MW 1:00-4:20

Dr. Nathaniel A. Rivers
nrivers1@slu.edu l www.nathanielrivers.org l Adorjan Hall 232

Course Introduction
Not simply a recent phenomenon wrought by new technologies, posthumanism is a theoretical
wedge we can use to open up and explore the black box that is "the human." As Judith Halberstam and Ira Livingston
write in Posthuman Bodies, “The posthuman does not necessitate the obsolescence of the human; it does not
represent an evolution or devolution of the human. Rather it participates in re-distributions of difference and
identity” (10). Posthumanism is, in fact, nothing new; the questions ex/posed by posthumanism are quite old. Ranging
across critical theory, rhetorical studies, and cognitive science, and literature, this course positions posthumanism as a
way to rethink "the human" in a variety of contexts: rhetorical, literary, and scientific.

At stake for and within posthumanism is the definition and the work of defining the human. It is not so much a rejection
of the human (antihumanism) nor is an escape from the human (transhumanism). Posthumanism is a way unpacking
and keeping fluid the human. Rosi Braidotti’s The Posthuman proves uniquely suited to our purposes insomuch as she
clearly distinguishes posthuman from other humanisms: traditional humanism, antihumanism, and transhumanism. Her
forceful articulation of the posthuman is the perfect launching pad for exploration of posthumanism. “Humanism’s
restricted notion of what counts as the human is one of the keys to understand how we got to a post-human turn at
all” (Braidotti 16). As Cary Wolfe puts it, “posthumanism in my sense isn’t posthuman at all—in the sense of being ‘after’
our embodiment has been transcended—but is only posthumanist, in the sense that it opposes the fantasies of
disembodiment and autonomy, inherited from humanism itself” (What Is Posthumanism vx). While the “post” in
posthumanism, as Wolfe argues, does not so much signal a temporal after so much as a dogged pursuit after, the
posthuman does emerge in our particular moment in which technology allows for a seemingly infinite range of
mediations: bodily, environmental, informational (both in terms of artificial intelligence and genetic manipulation).

Course Assignments
Three key activities constitute the graded portions of this course: participation, presentations, and the iterative writing
assignment (IWA). Participation is pretty straightforward: as a seminar, this course is built around lively, informed
conversation. Being present and being prepared is vital. In terms of presentations, each student is required to give a
short, ten-minute presentation on one of the readings in order to jump start our conversation. The style and formality of
presentations can vary, but each presentation must provide both a set of compelling questions that address the
particularity of the reading as well as its connection to other readers and a series of particularly insightful quotes from
the reading that we can focus on.

The iterative writing assignment (IWA) is the third and largest course component. In short, the IWA is an essay written
in layers throughout the semester. Each week, students add to the essay and revise that which they have already
composed. The IWA grows in length, complexity and nuance as students make their way through course readings and
in response to class discussions and presentations. Feedback (both instructor and peer) is likewise iterative and
ongoing. See the course calendar for more details.

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Course Reading List
We3 (Morrison & Quitely)
Vibrant Matter (Bennett)
Habeas Viscus (Weheliye)

The Posthuman (Braidotti)
Dawn (Butler)
The Diamond Age (Stephenson)

Ambient Rhetoric (Rickert)
Natural-Born Cyborgs (Clark)

Course Grading Scale
Final grades are calculated according to the following:

A
AB+

93-100 points B
90-92 points B87-89 points C+

83-86 points
80-82 points
77-79 points

C
CD+

73-76 points
70-72 points
67-69 points

D
F

60-66 points
59 points & below

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Here is the general course rubric:

A = Achievement outstanding relative to the level necessary to meet course requirements.
B = Achievement significantly above the level necessary to meet course requirements.
C = Achievement meeting the basic course requirements in every respect.
D = Achievement worthy of credit even though it does not fully meet the basic course requirements every respect.
F = Performance failing to meet the basic course requirements.

Core Course Policies
Technology Expectations




ability to interact with the course website and other websites
access to word processing, visual design, podcasting, and web design software
a suitable email account checked regularly for course-related business
a Flash drive or other means to backup coursework

Routine work with technology is a component of this course. Students need not be technological experts to succeed in
this course, but digital technology interaction is integral and computer problems are not valid excuses for incomplete
work. Practice the core principle of digital data work: redundant backup. Digital technology will fail; be prepared for that
eventuality.

Personal Technology Devices
Students may use laptops, cell phones, and other digital devices during class, provided that they do not disrupt other
students’ learning. This is not a trick. This course is situated in an increasingly connected multimedia environment. Each
student is responsible for his or her own engagement with class meetings, and thus his or her resultant success or
failure.

Availability of Online Material
Because of the nature of the course, some material posted to the course website may be publicly accessible through
the Web. (A student’s grades and personal information will not be shared publicly.) Additionally, any material posted to
the course website may be used anonymously for teaching or published research purposes. For these reasons,
students are encouraged to select usernames that are different from their real names.

Collaborative Work
Because one of the most salient features of digital technology is its social aspect, teamwork and group projects are
required elements of the course. Student teammates are responsible for updating each other and the instructor about
project development and progress. Additionally, student teams are responsible for negotiating all aspects of their
work, including planning, drafting, revising, file managing, scheduling, and leading tutorials and presentations. When a
group project is assigned, students will complete activities that foster successful collaboration. After the conclusion of
group projects, individuals complete forms to assess the contributions of group members and the global performance
of the team.

Course Goals
4000-Level Rhetoric, Writing and Technology Courses

• Design multimodal arguments and persuasive messages for complex situations, including academic,
public, and professional
• Situate various theories of rhetoric, writing, and pedagogy within their own historical contexts and in
relation to ours
• Use disciplinary knowledge in rhetorical history, writing theory, and pedagogy, to respond to particular
situations and audiences

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Attendance
As a summer seminar driven by student discussion, attendance and participation in all facets of the course is essential.
Given the vital importance of student participation, I expect every student to attend every class. If an absence is
unavoidable, students are asked to discuss it with me beforehand so that alternative arrangements can be made.

SLU Statement of Academic Integrity
The University is a community of learning, whose effectiveness requires an environment of mutual trust and integrity,
such as would be expected at a Jesuit, Catholic institution. As members of this community, students, faculty, and staff
members share the responsibility to maintain this environment. Academic dishonesty violates it. Although not all forms
of academic dishonesty can be listed here, it can be said in general that soliciting, receiving, or providing any
unauthorized assistance in the completion of any work submitted toward academic credit is dishonest. It not only
violates the mutual trust necessary between faculty and students but also undermines the validity of the University’s
evaluation of students and takes unfair advantage of fellow students. Further, it is the responsibility of any student who
observes such dishonest conduct to call it to the attention of a faculty member or administrator.

Student Conduct
This course’s code of student conduct is informed by Saint Louis University’s own code of student conduct, best
encapsulated by the following statement:

“All members of the University community are expected to contribute to the development and sustainability of
community through word and action. Our community is characterized by respect for the dignity of others,
honesty, and the pursuit of truth.”

Insults, slurs, or attacks of any kind are not allowed in this class (this includes f2f meetings and on the course site). Any
student who engages in this type of behavior in the classroom will be permanently removed from the class. This code
of conduct is equally important to maintain during group meetings outside of class. In order to have an effective
teaching and learning environment we must practice both respect and tolerance, without question. The remainder of
the university’s code of student conduct can be found at http://www.slu.edu/x24293.xml.

English as Second Language
Help is available at the ESL Resource Center, where tutors are specialized to work with second-language concerns.
They work with any international student, undergraduate or graduate, who wishes to seek assistance. In one-on-one
consultations and workshops, our ESL writing coaches provide feedback and offer strategies to improve your writing at
every stage, from brainstorming for ideas to polishing final drafts. We also offer workshops and individual assistance in
other language-related areas, including TOEFL test-taking strategies, multi-media projects, grammar, research, and
conversation skills. For more information, to make or cancel an appointment contact Christian Rayner at 314-977-3052
or visit http://www.slu.edu/x49411.xml.

Students with Special Needs
In recognition that people learn in a variety of ways and that learning is influenced by multiple factors (e.g., prior
experience, study skills, learning disability), resources to support student success are available on campus. Students
who think they might benefit from these resources can find out more about: 1) course-level support (e.g., faculty
member, departmental resources, etc.) by asking the course instructor, and 2) university-level support (e.g., tutoring/
writing services, Disability Services) by visiting the Student Success Center (BSC 331) or by going to www.slu.edu/
success.

Students who believe that, due to a disability, they could benefit from academic accommodations are encouraged to
contact Disability Services at 314-977-8885 or visit the Student Success Center. Confidentiality will be observed in all
inquiries. Course instructors support student accommodation requests when an approved letter from Disability
Services has been received and when students discuss these accommodations with the instructor after receipt of the
approved letter.
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