Technology and the Literary Imagination

Drawing of the white whale's head rising from the ocean, biting a rowboat in half.

"Both jaws, like enormous shears, bit the craft completely in twain." From Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, considered in this class as "an epic of technological fatality." (Illustration by A. Burnham Shute, from the 1892 edition published by Harper.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Spring 2008



Cite This Course

Course Description

Course Features

Course Description

Our linked subjects are (1) the historical process by which the meaning of technology has been constructed, and (2) the concurrent transformation of the environment. To explain the emergence of technology as a pivotal word (and concept) in contemporary public discourse, we will examine responses — chiefly political and literary — to the development of the mechanic arts, and to the linked social, cultural, and ecological transformation of 19th- and 20th-century American society, culture, and landscape.

Note: In the interests of freshness and topicality we regard the STS.464 syllabus as sufficiently flexible to permit some — mostly minor — variations from year to year. One example of a different STS.464 syllabus can be found in STS.464 Cultural History of Technology, Spring 2005.

Other Versions

Other OCW Versions

This subject's syllabus varies from year to year, in the interests of freshness and topicality.

Related Content

Leo Marx, and Rosalind Williams. STS.464 Technology and the Literary Imagination. Spring 2008. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

For more information about using these materials and the Creative Commons license, see our Terms of Use.