Reading Westworld – Edited Collection

Coined in the early twentieth century, the term ‘robot’ conjures up images of man-made machines, artificial bodies, A.I.s and more recently, cyborgs. From Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968) to Spike Jonze’s Her (2013)every narrative of artificial life shares common themes – they are stories of identity, desire, rebellion and protest. Far from being confined to the realm of science fiction, advances in modern technology suggest machines which can think and act like us are an imminent reality. We are already in an era of companion robots, animated sex dolls, machines that feel pain, and AI that passes the Turing Test. Combined with a tumultuous twenty-first century, it seems timely to question our own humanity in the wake of an era which threatens to dehumanise, control and exert power over our individuality. The dynamics of HBO’s recent series Westworld engage with multidisciplinary debates within humanities research, from American self-mythologies to the role of technology in academic pedagogy, and it thus offers a timely site for investigating contemporary questions that cross disciplinary divides. This collection seeks to investigate Westworld’s key themes such as those linked to history and environment, technology and the posthuman, and the influences and intertexts of the series. We are interested in papers from a range of disciplines which engage with aspects of these themes, and those which consider any of the following:

  • Space and location – the role of scenery and landscapes
  • Racial identity and slavery, transgressive and othered characters (Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Native Americans)
  • theme parks and mazes
  • cyborgs and AI
  • bodies and somatechnics
  • technology and consciousness
  • memory and visual technologies
  • American histories and the West
  • Civil War and unrest
  • hyperreal spaces and heterotopia
  • Westworld and theory (Lacan, Žižek, Haraway, Baudrillard, Jameson)
  • gender, sexuality and queer identity
  • Intertextuality: Shakespeare, Dick, Vonnegut, Borges, Dante, The MatrixBladerunner, Westworld (1973), The Truman Show, etc.
  • diegetic levels and narrative theory
  • video gaming and programming
  • hypertext and interactivity
  • surveillance and power
  • Westworld and pedagogy –teaching Westworld
  • the role of music within the series – its function and influence
  • authenticity and revolution – the quest for freedom

Researchers at all stages are welcomed. Abstracts of 300 words and a short biography should be submitted to
Antonia Mackay (antoniamackay@brookes.ac.uk); Alex Goody (agoody@brookes.ac.uk)
by January 26th 2018.