Archive for March, 2009


Mar 31 2009

“Science Girl” or “Technology Girl”….

by at 12:30 pm

Next semester is going to come sooner than I’d like, so I’m starting to really think about this application process. I like Science and Technology Studies as a whole, but I know that my writing sample is going to have to emphasize one over the either (ie: more science-y, or more technologically based). So, I was thinking, will I “package” myself more as “science girl” or “technology girl?” (haha, I like them both actually….sounds like a nifty super-hero name). After much thought, I’ve decided that I’m probably going to submit a writing sample that demonstrates my interests in electricity and literature, that way I can have both science and technology: the electrical phenomenon is itself scientific, but it’s applications could also bring it into the technological sphere. I’ve really started thinking about this distinction between science and technology after someone in the audience at UVA asked for me to expand on that distinction, and I think that was incredibly helpful. It’s really quite simple–electricity, as a principle, is science, and it’s application is technological– but I don’t think I was explicitly thinking about the distinction. 

So, in light of all this, I think I’m going to stick with the electrical metaphor and magnetism that we see earlier in the century, rather than focusing on the more technological metaphors of bodies and machines that we begin to see later in the century. I’d like to focus on how notions of animal magnetism provide mental maps, which allowed for a more fluid understanding of race. I touch on this in my UVA presentation: when bodies are thought to be unified by an electrical principle, then the importance of skin is diminished. I’ve always wanted to write on Robert Montgomery Bird’s Sheppard Lee and now I think I’ll have my chance! Bird, himself a trained physician, was clearly informed by principles of animal magnetism with all the “body jumping” that happens throughout. I’m thinking about how Sheppard Lee’s soul enters the body of the dead slave. Oh, I’m excited! I miss early American texts (Sheppard Lee is 1835, I believe), and I think I can have the opportunity to get back into this period.

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Mar 27 2009

Tech of Text Paper

by at 10:28 pm

After speaking with Macovski, it looks like I’m going to be changing the focus of my paper. He really liked the parts of my annotated bibliography that talk about bodies and machines (Harraway’s cyborg stuff; Fox’s stuff on “adapting to the machine;” Rhys’s background on Watt and the steam engine work ethic, etc) . While I will be discussing Luddism, the crux of the introductory section will discuss the history of the factory and how technological advances in the factories increasingly lead to the mechanization of the human body (think of the electrification of the factory, which now extends the day…those bodies which have yet to be replaced by machines are now expected to work longer hours, and hence begin to become like the machine). I then plan on connecting this to Sister Carrie. In the beginning of the novel, Carrie moves to Chicago in the hopes of finding a job. She wants to work at a department store, but because she has no previous job experience her only option is the factory. Carrie takes a job at a factory. The bodies of the workers are described as machines, but Carrie is having a hard time keeping up. Carrie finds the job at the factory disastifying because a) she does not enjoy the work, and b) because she does not make enough money to buy the commodites she wants. Here I could bring in the Peiss article from Merish’s class on working girls and how they often suplimented their incomes by giving sexual favors to men. Carrie does this at first with Drouet but eventually becomes a kept woman exclusively and leaves her job at the factory. She eventually becomes a successful actress and she resists adapting to the machine and instead finds success in another venue. So, Sister Carrie is then a neo-luddist novel, which represents Carrie’s rejection of this automized life. Also, Hurstwood’s failure would need to be discussed. It’s a novel about Carrie’s ascent and Hurstwood’s decsent. Why does Carrie succeed and Hurstwood fail?

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