Course Information


  • Number: ENGL 481
  • Title: Senior Seminar: Cyberpunk, Fact and Fiction
  • Term: Fall 2022
  • Meeting: MWF 11:30-12:20, LAAH 373


  • Name: Andrew Pilsch
  • Contact:
  • Office Hours & Locations:
    • MWF 12:30-1:30, Zoom Link

Course Description

Capstone seminar on significant figures, movements or issues with special attention to methods and materials of scholarship.

Course Learning Outcomes

In this course, students can expect:

  1. Formulate questions for generating and sustaining analytical conversations about literature
  2. Take a position on an issue in a particular text
  3. Articulate positions in persuasive essays, utilizing evidence and rhetoric
  4. Identify recurring themes across a variety of texts
  5. Synthesize evidence to establish how themes change between authors and why this matters

Books to Buy

Books are available at the campus bookstore.

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (ISBN: 9780441569595)
  • Ellen Ullman, Close to the Machine (ISBN: 9781250002488)


Assignment Due Date Percent Value
Discussion Questions 2-3 per week 20%
Short Reflections 3 per week 10%
Position Papers (3) See Schedule 30%
Thematic Analysis (2) See Schedule 40%

Discussion Questions

Thirty minutes before the start of class on the days in which readings are assigned (mostly Mondays and Wednesdays this semester; check the schedule to see if an entry ticket is due), you will need to post a discussion question to that week’s Discussion Question board. These questions will help start our conversation and will help to structure our knowledge of the course topic as we move forward.

Each question needs to be generative but can be specific. If you don’t understand a particular scene or wonder why the writer chose to portray a particular detail in a particular way, ask. If you notice a theme developing across several readings and find it reflected in this story, ask.

If a day has multiple assigned readings/viewings, you only need to post a question on one reading/viewing for that day.

Questions may be posted earlier, if you are unable to attend class.

Short Reflections

At the end of each class, post a 1-2 sentence reflection (basically, tell me what the most interesting thing said in that day’s class was). These will be posted to the Short Reflection board for each week.

These reflections can be posted by the following Sunday of a given week, if you are unable to attend class.

Position Papers (3)

Three times (in weeks 5, 9, and 13), you will produce a short paper (2-3 pages, double-spaced) that takes a position on a particular selection from one of the texts we have read so far in class.

These papers will cover material that has already been discussed in class but has not been covered by a position paper. The first paper, due at the start of week 5, will cover material from the first four weeks of class. The second paper will cover texts from week 5 through week 8; third covers weeks 10 through the end.

These position papers ask you to show insights and raise questions in response to the reading and course discussions. Papers that merely summarize an argument or restate the selected passage will receive a failing grade. You need to explain why the passage in question is thought-provoking, or unsettling, or unclear and suggest how you respond to this challenge.

Thematic Analysis (2)

Twice in the semester, you will produce a longer paper (4-5 pages, double-spaced) that analyzes the role of a shared theme across at least two works read to that point in the semester. Any works read during the semester may be included in either paper.

Thematic papers should begin with an introduction of the theme, what is it, how is it discussed, what are the stakes, etc.? The introduction needs to also identify the works to be discussed, identifying the author and providing a brief summary of the plot. Your audience for this summary should be someone who has read the work but not recently and needs reminding of the overall nature of the plot (relevant characters, a 1-2 sentence summary of the action, etc).

The body of the paper will use textual evidence to illustrate how each text explores or relates to the theme, using the general terms you established in the introduction. You can establish the relationship to theme using a discussion of style, imagery, or plot, or some combination of all three.

Having exemplified the theme in the two (or more) texts, conclude by explaining what important claims can be made about the similarities or differences in treatment by the two (or more) texts: if they each discuss love differently, what can that tell us about the nature of love? If they explore violence the same, what does that tell us? The conclusion should be addressing the larger issues of society in general, opening the argument out to the social arena outside the text, showing how the interplay between the two texts reveals something larger about the world.


Readings are to be completed before the start of class on the day indicated.

Each week, you will produce:

  1. Two Discussion Questions (except days we have readings on Friday)
  2. Three Short Reflections (one for each day class meets)

Week 1 – Origins & Destinations


Wed 08/24

Fri 08/26

  • William Gibson, “Winter Market” from Burning Chrome

Week 2 – When Cyber Met Punk

Mon 08/29

Wed 08/31

Fri 09/02

  • Finish Young

Week 3 – Definitions

Mon 09/05

No Class

Labor Day

Wed 09/07

Fri 09/09

  • Finish Definitions

Week 4 – First Verse

Mon 09/12

  • Tom Maddox, “Snake Eyes” from Mirrorshades

Wed 09/14

  • Pat Cadigan, “Rock On” from Storming the Reality Studio

Fri 09/16

  • Lewis Shiner, “Till Human Voices Wake Us” from Mirrorshades

Week 5 – Second Verse, Stranger Than the First

Mon 09/19

Wed 09/21

  • Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner, “Mozart in Mirrorshades” from Mirrorshades

Fri 09/23

Week 6 – Crises

Mon 09/26

Wed 09/28

Fri 09/30

  • Finish Deleuze

Week 7 – Cyber Noir

Mon 10/03

Wed 10/05

  • Finish Blade Runner

Fri 10/07

  • Rough Draft Day
  • Thematic Analysis #1 Due

Week 8 – The Straylight Run

Mon 10/10

No Class

Fall Break

Wed 10/12

  • William Gibson, “The Gernsback Continuum” from Burning Chrome

Fri 10/14

Week 9 – "Things Are things"

Mon 10/17

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984), Ch. 5-9

Wed 10/19

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984), Ch. 10-15

Fri 10/21

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984), Rest
  • Position Paper #2 Due

Week 10 – Neotokyo is About to Explode

Mon 10/24

  • Akira
    • TW: Gore

Wed 10/26

  • Finish Akira

Fri 10/28

  • Takayuki Tatsumi, “The Japanese Reflection of Mirrorshades”

Week 11 – Computer Liberation

Mon 10/31

Wed 11/02

Fri 11/04

  • Finish Leary

Week 12 – The New Intimacy

Mon 11/07

  • Ellen Ullman, Close to the Machine, ch. 1-2

Wed 11/09

  • Ellen Ullman, Close to the Machine, ch. 3-4

Fri 11/11

  • Ellen Ullman, Close to the Machine, ch. 5-6

Week 13 – Women in the Matrix

Mon 11/14

  • Ellen Ullman, Close to the Machine, rest

Fri 11/18

Week 14

Mon 11/21

  • Catch-up Day

Wed 11/23

No Class

Reading Day

Fri 11/25

No Class


Week 15 – Legacies

Mon 11/28

Week 16 – The Last Cyberpunk

Mon 12/05

  • Watch The Matrix

Wed 12/07

  • Finish The Matrix
  • Thematic Analysis #2 Due

Course Policies

Student Visiting Hours

At the times listed in the sidebar throughout this site, I am in my office and it is your time to come talk to me about anything related (or unrelated) to class. This time is yours, I am not (supposed to be) doing anything else; you will not be interrupting me. If you have questions about class or have other questions I might be able to answer, please drop by.

Email Hours

I am available to answer email from 9:00am until 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Emails arriving outside of that time will be answered at my earliest convenience, but do not count on a quick answer to emails sent late at night or on the weekends.

Office Door

If my door is closed and it is not during office hours, please do not knock. I open my door when I’m available to chat outside of office hours, but close my door if I am working and cannot be disturbed.


Attendance in class is mandatory and is necessary for you to get what you need out of this course. You may have 2 unexcused absences. Every absence after 2 will result in a 5 point deduction from your attendance grade. I must have documentation (doctor’s notes, schedule for sports, etc) for excused absences. Please talk to me in advance if you have any extenuating circumstances.

Regardless of kind (excused or unexcused), missing more than 10 classes in the semester will result in your failing the course.

Late Work

Under Student Rule 7.4, I am under “under no obligation to provide an opportunity for the student to make up work missed because of an unexcused absence.” However, I do accept late work and will take off 5 points for every day late. A paper that would have received an 85% that was 3 days late will receive a 70%.

Extension Policy

Additionally, if you are falling behind on a project and feel that you are not going to finish on time, email me 24 hours before the assignment is due to request an extension. In this email, propose how many additional days you will need to finish the assignment. Requests for extension that do not contain this information will not be honored.


In the 21st century, it is unreasonable to accept “my computer died” as an excuse for late work. If you are working on assignments on a computer, please back up your work offsite. Sites such as Dropbox and Google Drive provide space for storing copies of your work; even a USB drive can be enough. I have recently started using BackBlaze and found it to be a great and inexpensive online, automated backup. Save multiple times throughout each work session to both your backup and your computer’s copy. In this class, I hold you accountable for making sure your technology is working correctly.

University Policies

Attendance Policy

The university views class attendance and participation as an individual student responsibility. Students are expected to attend class and to complete all assignments.

Please refer to Student Rule 7 in its entirety for information about excused absences, including definitions, and related documentation and timelines.

Makeup Work Policy

Students will be excused from attending class on the day of a graded activity or when attendance contributes to a student’s grade, for the reasons stated in Student Rule 7, or other reason deemed appropriate by the instructor.

Please refer to Student Rule 7 in its entirety for information about makeup work, including definitions, and related documentation and timelines.

Absences related to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 may necessitate a period of more than 30 days for make-up work, and the timeframe for make-up work should be agreed upon by the student and instructor” (Student Rule 7, Section 7.4.1).

“The instructor is under no obligation to provide an opportunity for the student to make up work missed because of an unexcused absence” (Student Rule 7, Section 7.4.2).

Students who request an excused absence are expected to uphold the Aggie Honor Code and Student Conduct Code. (See Student Rule 24.)

Academic Integrity Statement and Policy

“An Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.”

“Texas A&M University students are responsible for authenticating all work submitted to an instructor. If asked, students must be able to produce proof that the item submitted is indeed the work of that student. Students must keep appropriate records at all times. The inability to authenticate one’s work, should the instructor request it, may be sufficient grounds to initiate an academic misconduct case” (Section, Student Rule 20).

You can learn more about the Aggie Honor System Office Rules and Procedures, academic integrity, and your rights and responsibilities at

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Policy

Texas A&M University is committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for all students. If you experience barriers to your education due to a disability or think you may have a disability, please contact Disability Resources in the Student Services Building or at (979) 845-1637 or visit Disabilities may include, but are not limited to attentional, learning, mental health, sensory, physical, or chronic health conditions. All students are encouraged to discuss their disability related needs with Disability Resources and their instructors as soon as possible.

Title IX and Statement on Limits to Confidentiality

Texas A&M University is committed to fostering a learning environment that is safe and productive for all. University policies and federal and state laws prohibit gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

With the exception of some medical and mental health providers, all university employees (including full and part-time faculty, staff, paid graduate assistants, student workers, etc.) are Mandatory Reporters and must report to the Title IX Office if the employee experiences, observes, or becomes aware of an incident that meets the following conditions (see University Rule 08.01.01.M1):

  • The incident is reasonably believed to be discrimination or harassment.
  • The incident is alleged to have been committed by or against a person who, at the time of the incident, was (1) a student enrolled at the University or (2) an employee of the University.

Mandatory Reporters must file a report regardless of how the information comes to their attention – including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Although Mandatory Reporters must file a report, in most instances, you will be able to control how the report is handled, including whether or not to pursue a formal investigation. The University’s goal is to make sure you are aware of the range of options available to you and to ensure access to the resources you need.

Students wishing to discuss concerns in a confidential setting are encouraged to make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

Students can learn more about filing a report, accessing supportive resources, and navigating the Title IX investigation and resolution process on the University’s Title IX webpage.

Statement on Mental Health and Wellness

Texas A&M University recognizes that mental health and wellness are critical factors that influence a student’s academic success and overall wellbeing. Students are encouraged to engage in proper self-care by utilizing the resources and services available from Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS). Students who need someone to talk to can call the TAMU Helpline (979-845-2700) from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. weekdays and 24 hours on weekends. 24-hour emergency help is also available through the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255) or at

Department Policies

University Writing Center

The mission of the University Writing Center (UWC) is to help you develop and refine the communication skills vital to success in college and beyond. You can choose to work with a trained UWC peer consultant in person or via web conference or email. Consultants can help with everything from lab reports to application essays and at any stage of your process, from brainstorming to reviewing the final draft. You can also get help with public speaking, presentations, and group projects. The UWC’s main location is on the second floor of Evans Library; there’s also a walk-in location on the second floor of the Business Library & Collaboration Commons. To schedule an appointment or view our helpful handouts and videos, visit Or call 979-458-1455.

Statement on Generative AI

We in the Department of English believe that writing is central to the production of knowledge. The written word is how ideas circulate but, more importantly, the act of crafting words, sentences, paragraphs, and essays refines thoughts into ideas that matter. As such, we strongly stand against the usage of generative artificial intelligence—applications such as ChatGPT or Bard—as a replacement for the act of writing that has been the bedrock of human knowledge for thousands of years.

Writing has always incorporated tools as well as the voices and ideas of other people. GenAI can be a powerful tool in any writer’s arsenal, but its use is not without risk. While GenAI’s ability to convincingly string words together has a place in the writing process, it also risks introducing factual inaccuracies and, more importantly, risks making invisible the important connections between writing and thinking we are cultivating in this class.

If you use GenAI tools to assist your writing process, I ask you to provide a short (1-2 page) GenAI Statement that includes the following:

  1. What GenAI Tools Did You Use?
  2. What Prompts Did You Provide to the Tool?
  3. How Did You Incorporate AI-generated Material Into Your Writing?
  4. How Did Your Use of GenAI Shape Your Thinking About the Assignment?

Without this documentation, usage of AI will be considered plagiarism and subject to the university’s academic integrity policy. Also, you are responsible for fact-checking any GenAI; errors in citation or other basic facts will also be considered a violation of academic integrity