Dr. Kathryn Crowther (Georgia Perimeter College)
As a Victorianist teaching primarily first-year English, I have to look for creative ways to bring my 19th-century interests into the classroom. A few semesters ago I was teaching freshman composition at Georgia Tech, and I began brainstorming for a way to design a course that combined Victorian texts with a focus on technology. I thought that 19th-century literature would be a hard sell in a class of engineers and programmers until conversations with my office mate (and JVC online editor), Lisa Hager, steered me in the direction of “Steampunk.” It was the perfect topic: Victorian aesthetics and technology refigured in a fantasy/science-fiction/alternate-history setting. Using Steampunk as my end point, I designed a course entitled “Machines and Monsters: Technology in Literature from Steam Engines to Steampunk” which began with 19th century literature like Frankenstein and The Time Machine and ended with the Steampunk novel, The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. My intent was simply to assign texts that would open up the class discussion to the intersection of literature and technology; however, as the semester progressed, I realized that Steampunk actually speaks to deeper cultural issues related to technology and opens up a model for creativity and innovation that taps into some of the central concerns of the contemporary college classroom.