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Syllabus for English 38:

Literary Forms (The Cinema)

More, or Less, Than Human?



ADVISORY:  This class is not intended for younger students.  You are expected to view a number of R rated films which contain graphic violent and/or sexual images, simulated sex, simulated death, simulated torture, blood, adult language, and adult themes.  This material is unsuitable for those under 17 and can be particularly disturbing for young, immature, or tender-hearted viewers.   


System Requirements:  Pentium-based computer or equivalent, preferably P-4, 512 RAM, and a DSL or cable modem connection.  You can access the required “video highlighter” clips by one of the following methods:

               1. There will be links in each lesson to streaming media clips. You will need a broadband connection to view them.  Windows XP and Media Player 9 are recommended.  If you have a Mac or older version of Windows see the following link to determine what will work.


               If you have problems viewing a streaming clip, immediately notify the techie at bwilder@mpc.edu

               2. There are two complete sets of the recommended DVD versions of the feature films on reserve in the MPC Library if you have trouble finding them.  One set is for in-Library use only, the other set can be checked out individually.  

               3. Many of the films are available to rent from stores like Blockbuster or from NetFlix.




David Clemens, BA, MA, Sonoma State University, degree coursework at MPC, UC Berkeley, and Sonoma; additional recent coursework at Berkeley, UCLA, BYU, CSU Pomona.  UCLA Certificate in Online Teaching, 1997.  Published in New Directions in Teaching, San Francisco Chronicle, Teaching English in the Two Year Colleges, Inside English, San Jose Mercury, Informal LogicFormer Contributing Editor Media and Methods.  Member of the Education and Consulting Board of the Acceleration Studies Foundation.





Email dclemens@mpc.edu 




R.U.RKarel Capek (Dover ed.)

Our Posthuman Future—Francis Fukuyama

I Sing the Body Electric—Ray Bradbury



Books available from MPC Bookstore (831) 657-4680, Amazon.com or other online booksellers.  Ebooks are .99 downloads from fictionwise.com


Course Description:


3 units, Letter Grade or Credit/No Credit.  From Metropolis to The Matrix, this class investigates classic, historical, popular, and contemporary films, TV, and associated literary works which ask, “What is a human being . . . and what isn’t?”  Considerations include representations of utopias and dystopias, computer technologies and networks, artificial intelligence, reproductive technologies, virtual reality, and genetic engineering.  The emphasis will be on how formal qualities affect/effect meaning and interpretation.


Prerequisite:  ENGL 1A

Credit transferable:  CSU, UC

General Ed. Credit:  CSU, Area C2; IGETC, Area 3B; MPC, Area C, Area F

       Goals and Objectives:


·                    to develop a cinematic vocabulary, a historical vocabulary, and a scientific vocabulary concerning issues of human/machine convergence, that is, to have been exposed to those films, non-fiction works, and fictional works which have  shaped contemporary ideas about dehumanized people and anthropomorphized machines;


·                    to develop a cinematic literacy so that the student may speak appraisingly, analytically, and with some measure of authority about this particular speculative sub-genre, what it expresses and how it does so; 


·                    to develop a personal outlook on pertinent events of the near past, the present, and the prospects for the near future, and a personal set of criteria for deciding the question:  more, or less, than human?


Grading Policy


A, B, C, D, F, W, I   See Paper Grading Criteria below for more details. 


Flaming Policy

See associated icon.

Course Motto:


The history of the future has been a present of unanticipated consequences.


Special Notes:


This is a lower division class, however, while developed independently, it in many ways resembles classes offered at U. C. Berkeley, one titled “Comparative Literature 41E, Literary Forms, The Cinema, Robot Love:  The Mechanical Uncanny” and a special section of Rhetoric and Film Studies on the “android cinema.”  While the material is necessarily lower division, I have tried to give the course sufficient substance so that it will be satisfying to the upper division or graduated student.


I have designed this online class so that you will be introduced to a film at the end of each Lesson.  You then watch that film, at your convenience and on your own.  The next Lesson begins with commentary about what you have watched, and you are directed to Clips from the film you watched to underline main points before I introduce the next film.


Online classes are very difficult in that they require far more self-direction and initiative than face-to-face classes.  They often have a much higher drop rate than regular classes.  However, if you run into problems, please go to the Help page and make use of the college’s resources and support.


Paper Grading Criteria:


·                    familiarity with course materials and concepts demonstrated by their appearance in the construction and development of your essays and exams;

·                    absence of degraded language (journalese, hype, euphemism, cliché, cant) and ability to clearly define terms you use;

·                    ability to negotiate levels of abstraction by providing concrete and specific material to support general inferences and by drawing general conclusions from specific material (the absence of dead-level abstracting);

·                    grammatical, denotative, and connotative coherence;

·                    ability to analyze texts and positions (yours and others) by articulating constituent elements and their implications;

·                    ability to apply John Simon’s definition of criticism:  "Criticism at best, of course, is only a set of subjective opinions.  But it is opinions expounded at some length:  explained, illustrated with examples and quotations, supported with comparisons and contrasts to other works, related to certain standards of aesthetics and even ethics, and viewed in a larger context of human life."


Course grading criteria:


Your final course grade will be based on your having completed all written assignments and the 10 page final paper on time and with sufficient quality; viewing all required films and clips; reading all required books, essays, and short stories; and, participating in required in online discussions.




·                    Papers should submitted as Word doc email attachments, double-spaced; 12 pt. Times New Roman font;

·                    you may withdraw only during the first 75% of the course;

·                    late papers are penalized one grade per day late;

·                    a paper not handed in counts as an F.






©Concept, Content, and Course Design by David Clemens

©Theme music for the Syllabus:  "Repro" by Ben Goodwin

©Promotional Website by Tristan Newcombe ( www.angelfire.com/realm2/singularity )


Revised 06/07