Fall 2016

Technology and Performance

Listed in: English, as ENGL-434


Christopher A. Grobe (Section 01)


In this course, we’ll explore the history (and the fantasy) of the performing machine on stage, on screen, and beyond.  It’s easy to think of technologies as dead things that enhance the live performances of humans.  This course will ask you to do something harder:  to find the liveness in a machine and to take its agency seriously.  We will watch how new technologies tangle with humans in performance, and we will ask:  what happens when human actors begin to accept a new technology as their scene partner–or their identity?

The course will consist of a few themed units (e.g., Robot Performance) with primary sources including plays (e.g., from R.U.R. to Hataraku Watashi), films (e.g., from Metropolis to Ex Machina), and popular performance (e.g., from “doing the robot” to the latest Janelle Monáe).  Secondary readings will run the gamut from cultural history and performance theory to reports on contemporary developments (e.g., in artificial intelligence, biomimetics, and theatrical robotics).  Other units might cover:  communication technologies, vocal and bodily prostheses, or musical instruments and other resonant things.

You will be required to do some short-form writing and oral presentation throughout, but the course culminates in an extended research project of your own devising.

Recommended requisite:  At least two intermediate, writing-attentive courses (e.g., 200-level courses in English).  Open to juniors and seniors.  Limited to 15 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Grobe.

If Overenrolled: Preference given to junior and senior majors. Ideally, though, students will come from a range of disciplinary backgrounds.


Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Research, Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016