Science Fiction

Course Number: ENGL 192
Prerequisites: Writing 2, or 50, or 109, or English 10 or upper-division standing
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Writing Requirement, GE Area G Requirement
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 192
Quarter: Fall 2010
Day(s): MWF
Time: 9:00 - 9:50 AM
Location: SH 2635

"Science fiction is really sociological studies of the future, things that the writer believes are going to happen by putting two and two together."
--Ray Bradbury

"Science fiction frequently tries to imagine what life would be like on a plane as far above us as we are above savagery; its setting is often of a kind that appears to us technologically miraculous. It is thus a mode of romance with a strong tendency to myth."
--Northrop Fye

"Science Fiction is that class of prose narrative treating of a situation that could not arise in the world we know, but which is hypothesized on the basis of some innovation in science or technology, or pseudo-technology, whether human or extra-terrestrial in origin."
--Kingsley Amis

Over the last century, science fiction has become one of the more influential, intellectually rigorous and pleasurable ways to speculate about the accelerating changes in our world. This course will offer a selective survey of the themes animating the genre since WWII. Our discussions will engage (but not be limited to) the following questions: how might science fiction be said to redefine "the human"? How might our texts manipulate notions of paranoia (paranoia associated with the Cold War, but also with a sense that people are becoming corporate and media instruments)? Although science fiction is most often thought of as future-oriented, these texts also frequently re-imagine the past; what are the implications of this temporal re-visioning? Why is slavery (in various forms) a prominent aspect of the contemporary science fiction landscape? How are various anxieties about social and biological reproduction put into dialogue in these works? What happens to notions of gender and sexuality when technological innovations, such as genetic manipulation and cloning, come into play? What compels the notable exploration of warfare in contemporary science fiction? To what extent may these texts be read as meditations on loss and mourning? What is the relationship between science and religion in the science fiction texts? How might the texts be said to re-animate aspects of religion that have been displaced in a civil society enthralled with the powers of science? Students will be asked to write two papers, short daily assignments and an in-class final exam. A tentative list of our novelists includes: Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Orson Scott Card, William Gibson, Stanislaw Lem, Ursula LeGuin and H.G. Wells. We will also consider several films.