Syllabus Schedule Art Works Movie List Book List Cyburbia

Cyberpunk Class Schedule

Week 1:

8/25: INTRODUCTION to course; class members; cyberpunk and cyber-culture; discussion of syllabus, readings and special events


Background Cinema:

Double Indemnity (1947) dir. Billy Wilder, who wrote the script with Raymond Chandler, from James M. Cain’s novel; one of the first and best examples of film noir (America’s answer to post-War existen-tialism, in the form of shadowy,“hard-bitten” urban dramas based on homegrown crime fiction, and directed mostly by Germans who came to Hollywood), with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck (long before My Three Sons and The Big Valley). Film noir is a major stylistic influence on much Cyberpunk writing and sense of narrative. Some other film noir “classics”: Out of the Past, Criss Cross, Kiss Me Deadly, The Killing, The Killers, Pickup on South Street, Dark Passage, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Scarlet Street , etc. Other novelists whose work provided the basis of film noir include Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Cornell Woolrich

8/27: FILMSCREENING 1984 (1984) dir. Michael Radford, based on George Orwell, soundtrack by Eurythmics and Dominic Muldowney; a faithful adaptation of Orwell’s 1948 chilling social satire on the impending technosphere, a model narrative of dystopic science fiction (another major source of influence for cyberpunk), with John Hurt, Richard Burton, and Suzanna Hamilton

ASSIGNMENT over the Labor Day break, view two of the following films and write one-page reports on each (many of these films are available at Potomac Video in the Twinbrook Shopping Center on Braddock Rd; if you rent there, please mention that you’re from the Cyberpunk class at Mason):

  • The Man Who Fell to Earth dir. Nicolas Roeg (with David Bowie)
  • Starman and Escape from New York both dir. by John Carpenter
  • The Brother from Another Planet dir. John Sayles
  • La Jettée dir. Chris Marker
  • 12 Monkeys dir. Terry Gilliam (based on La Jettée)
  • RoboCop dir. Paul Verhoeven
  • Brainstorm dir. Douglas Trumbull
  • π (pi) dir. Darren Aronofsky
  • Alphaville dir. Jean-Luc Godard
  • Fahrenheit 451 dir. Francois Truffaut (from Ray Bradbury)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale dir. Volker Schlöndorff (from Margaret Atwood)

[Films may be substituted from the Cyberpunk film list at the end of the syllabus]

Week 2:


9/3: ASSIGNMENT DUE film reports

PORTFOLIO PRESENTATIONS five-minute presentation of your own work to class (video, slides, CD, hard copy or any other media—if you are presenting your own writing, please bring 20 copies to class)

9/6: (Saturday) Special Event DJ Spooky’s Rebirth of a Nation (based on D.W. Griffith ’s film), 7pm , Hirshhorn Museum , DC (possible field trip)

Week 3:

9/8: FILMSCREENING Brazil (1985) dir. Terry Gilliam

9/9: (Tuesday) LAST DAY TO ADD

9/10: GUEST SPEAKER Mike Bomford, agronomist from West Virginia University ’s Organic Research Project on “Agricultural Dystopia?”

Week 4:

9/15: GUEST SPEAKER Michael Jacobson-Hardy: Artist’s Talk by documentary photographer from Massachusetts , in conjunction with his exhibitions Beyond the Monuments in Washington DC (JC Gallery) and Factories, Schools, Prisons: A Photo-documentary on Social Class and Race in the United States (Fine Arts Gallery)

Talk is at 4:30pm in the Fine Arts Gallery; take a 10-minute break at 5:30 and be back in B204 by 5:40 for:

FILM SCREENING THX-1138 (1972) dir. George Lucas (with sound montages by Walter Murch)

Attendance will be taken at both the gallery talk and the screening

ASSIGNMENT write a 2-3 page paperdiscussing and comparing the films 1984, THX-1138 and Brazil as dystopic cinema, focusing particularly on parallels with our own world and society (due Monday, 9/22)

9/16: (Tuesday) Special Event— CVPA Celebration: AVT Faculty Exhibition reception in Mason Hall Atrium Gallery, 6pm , followed by CVPA Concert Hall Showcase, 7:30 , including digital art from AVT by David P. Rueckert and Emily Berry, Salih Abdul-Karim, Leigh Freeman, Andrew Stubbs Johnston and Hye Kyung (Emily) Lee

9/17: READING DISCUSSION Mark Dery’s Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century (1996), Introduction (p.1), Chapter One “Turn On, Boot up, Jack In: Cyberdelia” (p.19), and Chapter Two “Metal Machine Music: Cyberpunk Meets the Black Leather Synth-Rockers” (p.73)

MUSIC/FILM SCREENING Sonic Outlaws (1995) dir. Craig Baldwin, on culture jamming and copyright violations, Negativland (vs. U2), Tape-Beatles, John Oswald, Emergency Broadcasting Network, and Barbie Liberation Network

Week 5:

9/22: ASSIGNMENT DUE 2-3 page paper on 1984, THX-1138 and Brazil

READING DISCUSSION Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (on which the film Blade Runner was based), and dystopic sci-fi

MUSIC Cyber-Precedents: David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk, Afrika Bambaataa, Gary Numan/Tubeway Army

9/24: GUEST SPEAKERS Shelley Eshkar and Paul Kaiser: Artists’ Talk by multimedia artists from New York City , in conjunction with their video installation Pedestrian (JC Gallery) and Paul Kaiser’s interactive multimedia installation Robert Wilson: Visionary of Theater (Concert Hall)

Talk is at 4:30pm in the Johnson Center Cinema ; take a 15-minute break after the talk and return to B204 for:

VIDEOSCREENING Mark Pauline and Survival Research Laboratories

Attendance will be taken at both the gallery talk and the screening

9/25: (Thursday) Special Event— “Performance: Between Art and Theater,” multimedia talks by Bonnie Marranca, co-founder/editor of PAJ: A Journal of Art and Performance (NYC), and Paul Kaiser, 3pm , Harris Theatre , followed by a reception, 4:30-6pm , Concert Hall lobby

9/26: (Friday) LAST DAY TO DROP

Week 6:

9/29: FILMSCREENINGBlade Runner (1982) dir. Ridley Scott (based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)

DISCUSSION comparing Androids… and Blade Runner

10/1: DISCUSSION of SRL and Machine Art in conjunction with:

READING DISCUSSION Mark Dery’s Escape Velocity… Chapter Three “Waging a Tinkerer’s War: Mechanical Spectacle” (p.109)

REVIEW OF CYBER PRESS SF Eye,Artbyte, Wired, Adbusters, Mondo 2000, Processed World, Whole Earth Review, The Gauntlet, Semiotext(e), etc.

FEEDBACK informal discussion of cyber-phenomena you find as you look around the world

Week 7:



ASSIGNMENT : over the Columbus Day break, view two of the following films and write one-page reports on each:

  • Gattaca dir. Andrew Niccol
  • Scanners andExistenz both dir .by David Cronenberg
  • Max Headroom dirs. Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton
  • Hardware dir. Richard Stanley
  • The Conversation dir. Francis Ford Coppola (and Walter Murch)
  • Alien dir. Ridley Scott
  • Aliens dir. James Cameron
  • Dawn of the Dead dir. George A. Romero
  • Road Warrior dir. George Miller
  • The Impostor dir. Gary Fleder (from Philip K. Dick)
  • Total Recall dir. Paul Verhoeven (from Philip K. Dick, sort of)

[Films may be substituted from the Cyberpunk film list at the end of the syllabus]

Week 8:


10/14: (TUESDAY—note day change, this day only)

ASSIGNMENT DUE film reports

READING DISCUSSION William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer

FILM SCREENING Videodrome (1983) dir. David Cronenberg discussion follows

ASSIGNMENT rent and view Strange Days (1995) dir. Kathryn Bigelow with script by James Cameron and Jay Cocks; this is one of the few “cyberpunk” films that falls between the flurries of cinematic releases in the early to mid-‘80s, and the late ‘90s; write a 3-page paper comparing the world of Bigelow’s film, especially its “prophetic”(?) qualities and our own; useful additional material might include screening Douglas Turnbull’s Brainstorm (on similar themes), and consulting the four chapters on Strange Days in the recent book Kathryn Bigelow: Hollywood Transgressor edited by Deborah Jermyn and Sean Redmond (due Wednesday, 10/29)

10/15: FILM Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) dir. Shinya Tsukamoto discussion follows

READING DISCUSSION Mark Dery”s Escape Velocity… Chapter Four “Ritual Mechanics: Cybernetic Body Art” (p.151), and Chapter Five “RoboCopulation: Sex Times Technology Equals the Future” (p.181)

Week 9:

10/20: PERFORMANCE slide. video and audio documentation of “cyberpunk” theater performances by Kirby Malone , including City of Strangers (1982), Utoporama: A Political Science Fiction (1984), Social Amnesia, a live movie (1985-86), The Pleasure Raiders (1990), Mayakovsky’s BATH HOUSE (1991), Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1995, based on Philip K. Dick), Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (1998), Cyburbia Productions’ Silence & Darkness, a live movie for the cell phone age (1999-2003) and José Rivera’s Marisol (2000)

10/22: READING DISCUSSION Mark Dery’s Escape Velocity… Chapter Six “Cyborging the Body Politic” (p.227)

FILM - The Terminator (1984) dir. James Cameron

Week 10:

10/27: GUEST SPEAKER William Noland: Artist’s Talk by multimedia and video artist/sculptor/photographer from Duke University (NC), in conjunction with his video installation American Landscape (JC Gallery), with soundtrack by Scott Lindroth, and text by Don DeLillo performed by Frederick Neumann (of Mabou Mines), 4:30pm, Harris Theatre, followed by a reception in the Johnson Center Gallery

Talk is at 4:30pm in the Harris Theatre, where attendance will be taken; take a 15-minute break after the talk and return to B204 for small groups working on Final Projects

10/29 : ASSIGNMENT DUE 3-page paper on Strange Days

FILM DISCUSSION on Strange Daysand The Terminator

MUSIC Laurie Anderson, Front Line Assembly, Voivod, Michael Franti, Deltron 3030, Warren Zevon’s Transverse City

MUSIC VIDEOS Nine Inch Nails, Tool, and others

10/30: (Thursday) Special Events: Halloween Beach Party, 5-8pm , Concert Hall lawn, followed byWar of the Worlds by Anne Bogart’s Saratoga International Theatre Institute (SITI), 8pm , Concert Hall

10/30-11/1: (Thurs.-Sat.) Special Event: Robert Lepage and Ex Machina’s (from Quebec City) multimedia production of La Casa Azul, on the life and art of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, 7:30pm, Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater (possible field trip on Friday or Saturday)

Week 11:


11/5: READING DISCUSSION “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), pp. 74-120, The Ultimate Cyberpunk [read author note on p. 393]

FILM SCREENING - TBA Equilibrium , City of Lost Children, or Waking Life discussion follows

11/6: (Thursday) Special Event “Book Art,” a talk by Johanna Drucker, artist and professor, University of Virginia , 4:30pm , Fine Arts Gallery, in conjunction with AVT Book Arts Show

Week 12:


11/12: FILM SCREENING Dark City (1998) dir. Alex Provas discussion follows

WRITING ASSIGNMENT compareDark City and The Matrix (as well as other films such as eXistenZ, The Truman Show, The Thirteenth Floor and Pleasantville) on the theme of “what you see is not what’s really there” (2-5 pages) (due Wednesday, 11/19)

Week 13:

11/17: READING DISCUSSION Mark Dery’s The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium:

American Culture on the Brink (1999): “Introduction” (p.1), “Trendspotting: I Shop, Therefore I Am” p. (181), “Wild Nature, Wired Nature: The Unabomber Meets the Digerati”(p. 225), “Space Oddities: Heaven’s Gate and Homo Cyber—Strange Alliances on the Level Above Human” (p. 247), “Conclusion: Last Things” (p. 258)

MUSIC—TBA (time permitting)

11/19: WRITING ASSIGNMENT DUE ( The Matrix , The Matrix: Reloaded, The Matrix: Revolutions , Dark City , The Truman Show, The Thirteenth Floor and Pleasantville)

DISCUSSION of FILMS/WRITING ASSIGNMENT comparing Dark City, The Matrix , etc.

FEEDBACK informal discussion of cyber-phenomena you find as you look around the world

11/20: (Thursday) Special Event Batu: Artist’s Talk by Georgian Sculptor in conjunction with his exhibition Future Visions—Past Dreams, 4;30pm, Concert Hall, followed by a reception

Week 14:

11/24: FILM SCREENING—TBA The Handmaid’s Tale, Man Facing Southeast, or The Mind Snatchers discussion follows


Week 15:


12/3: GUEST SPEAKER Egon Verheyen, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Humanities:

Art Historian’s Talk on Germans artist Käthe Kollwitz’s exhibition of etchings from The Weavers, Harris Theatre , followed by a reception in the Johnson Center Gallery

Attendance will be taken at the talk in the Harris at 4:30

Week 16:



DISCUSSION semester summary of cyber-culture Discussion and feedback on course Student evaluations of class

Week 17:



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