Dr. Natalie Grinnell

Reeves Family Professor in Humanities


LIBA 101: Artificial Lives:
Literary Androids, Robots and Cyborgs

Time and Date This Course Meets: MWF 8:30-9:20am

Where this course meets: Main 222

Instructor: Dr. Natalie Grinnell, Office 223 Main, Office Phone: 864-597-4564

Course Description: Robots, androids, cyborgs: what is artificial life? Should such creatures have the same rights and responsibilities as human beings?  Are they property? Could they attain sentience, and, if so, what would that mean for the definition of humanity?  These questions have been contemplated in literarature since Karl Čapek’s R.U.R. was published in 1920. This course will explore the literary tradition of the robot over the last 100 years and consider the serious questions that artists and filmmakers have asked about the nature of humanity through their depiction of artificial life.

Course Outcomes: Students will learn to think critically about questions of identity and perspective; read actively and analytically; argue persuasively and coherently; write focused, well-organized, and error-free papers which integrate content relevant to the topic and employ clear, direct, concise diction; learn to reflect on their writing and reading and their process of improvement over the course of the semester.


  • Klara and the Sun by Ishiguro (ISBN 9780593311295)
  • R.U.R. and the Vision of Artificial Life by Karel Čapek (ISBN 9780262544504)
  • Robots Through the Ages, eds. Silverberg and Schmidt (ISBN 9798212384834)
  • The Transition to College Writing by Hjortshoj (ISBN 9780312440824)

Textbooks are available in the Wofford College Bookstore (see “Note on Textbooks” at right); additional Texts Available on Moodle or at the Sandor Teszler Library. Students are discouraged from using electronic editions of course texts, including Kindle editions, as they may be difficult to cite for writing assignments. Note that all editions used for the course are required to have page numbers.

Part of adapting to college-level work is learning to write and speak about difficult or uncomfortable subjects; therefore, students should note that the readings for this course may include adult topics that are not often or explicitly covered in K-12 education.

Course Requirements:

  • Read everything you are assigned to read, on time and with care and attention.
  • Active participation in class
  • Three short papers with revisions
  • Creation of artificial life entry
  • Final Exam
  • Occasional quizzes or exercises, usually completed in class
  • Regular attendance

Grade Breakdown:

  • Essay 1: 20%
  • Essay 2: 20%
  • Essay 3: 20%
  • Artificial Life Entry: 10%
  • Final Exam: 15%
  • Other: 15%