In this course, Technology and the Senses, many of the texts we studied and the ensuing discussions revolved around futuristic or alternate societies, like a world where people could fall in love with their operating systems (Her), or a world without food (Soylent). We also had thought provoking discussions revolving the different the different senses and what affect different sensations had on the mind and body. In addition to the various texts, films, ads, etc. that we have examined this year in relation to English 101, I would suggest adding the book, The Giver, by Lois Lowry to the required reading list for this course.
The Giver is set in a society void of emotion, feeling, choice, and color. The society is all about rigid order, peace, and sameness. While there are no negative sensations in this society like pain or war or hunger, there are also no positive sensations, such as music and passion and color and joy. Nobody in this society has individual identity or freedom of expression. However, one member of the society is responsible for keeping the ‘memories of the past’ in order to ensure that history is not repeated. This person has a lens into what normal life could used to look like – the memories he or she keeps range from memories of sunburns and sleigh rides to romantic love and death. This person protects the other members of the society by taking the whole burden of past memories and feelings. The protagonist, Jonah, has been selected to be the keeper of memories. He soon realizes how miserable and bland his society is and yearns to escape to a more colorful and exciting life where he’d have free choice and be able to experience extremes, both good and bad.
The theme of sensation and the relationship between pain and pleasure is very prominent throughout The Giver. Reading and discussing this text in class would have enhanced existing discussions relating to senses and sensation had it been included as part of the course. Lowry’s novel emphasizes the importance of physically experiencing things such as touch, sound, and sight and shows the reader what life would be like with very limited sensation and freedom. Also, as mentioned above, The Giver takes place in an alternate society, a world with no depth – something else we have studied in English this semester. It can be beneficial to discuss alternate societies, that have different customs, values, and beliefs than that in which we live, in order to get a better idea about one’s own culture.
I think that if our class had read The Giver this semester, or at least seen the movie, we could have had interesting and thoughtful discussions that would have added to the class as a whole and helped people realize the importance of sensation and advancement, whether it is technological or societal.