Syllabus (2009) – graduate seminar

English 355 (Spring 2009)

Jay Clayton, Vanderbilt University

(Jan. 8)
(Jan. 15)
(Jan. 22)
(Jan. 29)
(Feb. 5)
(Feb. 12)
(Feb. 19)
(Feb. 26)
(Spring Break)
(Mar. 12)
(Mar. 19)

Week 11
(Mar. 26)

(Apr. 2)
(Apr. 9)
(Apr. 16)

Week 1 (January 8) – Introduction

Francis Galton, “Hereditary Talent and Character” (1865).

Sander L. Gilman, “Collaboration, the Economy, and the Future of the Humanities” (available online through JSTOR at the Vanderbilt Library)

Week 2 (January 15)

Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (online text) . Darwin revised the Voyage extensively for later editions. The online text is the final edition, but you should feel free to use any edition you like. Because the first edition has different chapter numbers, I am including the first items in Darwin’s analytic Table of Contents for each chapter to help with identifying the relevant chapters. Read the following chapters. (If you would like to read more, I recommend Ch. 2, Rio de Janeiro; Ch. 5, Bahia Blanca; and Ch. 8, Excursion to Colonia del Sacramient.)

  • Ch. 1 – Porto Praya (read beginning through February 29, 1832)
  • Ch. 3 – Monte Video, Maldonado
    (read beginning through July 26, 1832)
  • Ch. 10 – Tierra del Fuego
  • Ch. 14 – San Carlos, Chiloe
    (read February 12, 1835 to the end)
  • Ch. 15 – Valparaiso, Portillo Pass
  • Ch. 17 – Galapagos Archipelago
  • Ch. 21 – Mauritius (read July 19, 1836 to the end)

Andrea Barrett, Ship Fever (1996) (OAK – Course Documents)

  • “The Behavior of the Hawkweeds”
  • “Rare Bird”
  • Soroche
  • “Birds with No Feet”

Alfred Russel Wallace, excerpt from “On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type” (1858) (2 pages) – (OAK – Course Documents)

Recommended: Charles Darwin, excerpt from “On the Tendency of Species to Form Varieties; and On the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection” (1858) (4 pages) – (OAK – Course Documents)

Week 3 (January 22)

Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (1859).   Read chs. 1-4, 6, 9, and 13-14.

Recommended: Gillian Beer, Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction, “Introduction” and Ch. 3, “Analogy, Metaphor and Narrative in The Origin (Acorn – online resource)

Week 4 (January 29)

Wilkie Collins, The Legacy of Cain (1889) (numerous e-prints available on Amazon)

Jay Clayton, from “Undisciplined Cultures: Peacock, Mary Somerville, and Mr. Pickwick,” from Charles Dickens in Cyberspace: The Afterlife of the Nineteenth Century in Postmodern Culture, pp. 81-101. (OAK – Course Documents)

Amanda Anderson and Joseph Valente, “Introduction: Discipline and Freedom,” in Disciplinarity at the Fin de Siecle, ed. Anderson and Valente (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2002), pp. 1-4 (the remainder of the essay consists of chapter summaries). (OAK – Course Documents)

John Guillory, “Literary Study and the Modern System of the Disciplines,” in Disciplinarity at the Fin de Siecle, pp. 19-43. (OAK – Course Documents)

Week 5 (February 5)

H. G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896)

Thomas Huxley, “Evolution and Ethics” (1893)

Mark Greene, et al., “Moral Issues of Human-Non-Human Primate Neural Grafting ” ( Science 309 [July 2005]: 385-6) (available online through JSTOR at the Vanderbilt Library)

Jay Clayton, “Victorian Chimeras, or What Literature Can Contribute to Genetics Policy Today,” New Literary History 38 (2007): 569-92 (available online through JSTOR at the Vanderbilt Library)

Week 6 (February 12)

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)

Aldous Huxley, “A Note on Eugenics” (Library E-reserve)

J. B. S. Haldane , “Daedalus, or, Science and the Future ” (1923)

S. Lander and Robert Weinberg, “Genomics: Journey to the Center of Biology,” Science 287 (10 March 2000): 1777-82 (available online through JSTOR at the Vanderbilt Library)

Gattaca (1997), Andrew Niccol, dir.

Week 7 (February 19)

Grand Rounds: Ellen Wright Clayton (Tuesday, February 17, 8:00-9:00 a.m – Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital)

Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (2003)

Ellen Wright Clayton, “Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Genomic Medicine,” New England Journal of Medicine (349:6 [August 7, 2003], 562-69)

View online: “Cracking the Code of Life (2 hour PBS special, Nova [2002])

Week 8 (February 26)

Blade Runner, dir. Ridley Scott (1982, 1992, 2007).  Watch the 1992 Director’s Cut or the 2007 Final Cut.

Nancy Kress, Beaker’s Dozen (1998)

  • “Beggars in Spain”
  • “Evolution”
  • “Sex Education”
  • “Dancing on Air”

Option 1: Octavia Butler, Dawn (1987) – Book 1 of the Xenogenesis Series

  • Recommended:
    • Butler, Adulthood Rites (1988) – Book 2 of the Xenogenesis Series
    • Butler, Imago (1989) – Book 3 of the Xenogenesis Series

Option 2: Edward Bulwer Lytton, The Coming Race (Broadview Press) and Samuel Butler, Erewhon.

(Spring Break – March 2-6)

Week 9 (March 12)

Richard Powers, The Gold Bug Variations (1991)

Jay Clayton, “Genome Time: New Age Evolution, The Gold Bug Variations, and Gattaca,” in Charles Dickens in Cyberspace: The Afterlife of the Nineteenth Century in Postmodern Culture (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003), 166-89 (Library E-reserve)

Week 10 (March 19)

Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000)

Week 11 (March 23-27)

Monday: John Dupré, “What Are Genomes,” 12:00-1:30 (lunch provided).  2525 West End Ave. (near Borders and Starbucks)

Tuesday: John Dupré, “Post Genomic Darwinism,” 4:10, 115 Wilson Hall

Wednesday: Regenia Gagnier brown-bag seminar, “The Novel as Anthropology: Gender, Liberalism, and Resentment in Trollope’s The Prime Minister,” 12:00-1:30, Curb Center (123 Buttrick)

Thursday: Regenia Gagnier lecture,  “A Literary Anthropology of Freedom and Choice: The Novel as Philosophical Anthropology,” 4:10, 115 Wilson

Friday: Regenia Gagnier brown-bag seminar, “Dickens’s Little Dorrit as the Novel of Constraint,” 12:00-1:30, Curb Center (123 Buttrick)

Recommended reading: Gagnier, “Individualism and Globalization: On the Relationship of Part to Whole” 

Week 12 (April 2)

Kazua Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (2005)

The President’s Council on Bioethics, Human Cloning and Human Dignity:
An Ethical Inquiry
(Washington, D.C., July 2002)

Week 13 (April 9)

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (2004)

Week 14 (April 16) Monday

Ian McEwan, Saturday (2005)


Procedures and Requirments

  • Blog entries to Genetics and Literature every other week (due Wednesday evening at 8:00 p.m.)
    • The blog is hosted on Please open a (free) account with WordPress and sign up as a contributor to the blog. I will have to confirm you as an “author” before you can post to the site.
    • All blog postings must contain tags and categories (where relevant).
  • Class participation
    • The contributors to the blog that week will be responsible for initiating discussion of the works under discussion.
    • Every member of the seminar is expected to contribute at least once during every class (this is a minimum expectation).
  • Collaborative paper
    (8-10 pages)

    • The aim of this project is to promote interdisciplinary exchange between science and the humanities and to explore collaborative research techniques that are more common in scientific disciplines than in English.  With my assistance each student will contact a professor in the medical school or related disciplines to explore possibilities for developing a research project related to a topic that professor (or post-doc) is pursuing.  The goal is to have each student write a paper, preferably co-authored with someone in another discipline, suitable for presentation at a conference such as the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities or the Science and Literature Society, and for eventual submission to a journal.  Students will meet several times during the semester with a scholar from another discipline and learn about that person’s research with the goal identifying a literary work or film that explores the social or cultural implications raised by the other discipline’s investigations.  In the process, students will learn something about how grants are developed in the sciences; how multi-disciplinary teamwork occurs in the biosciences and bioethics; and how to generate papers on social, ethical, or cultural issues raised by science and medicine.

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