Science Fiction

Course Number: ENGL 192
Prerequisites: Check on GOLD
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 192
Quarter: Summer A 2014
Day(s): MTWR
Time: 5:00 PM - 6:05 PM
Location: GIRV 1115

What, if anything, does “the human” mean today? Many contemporary debates about the promises and dangers of future technologies depend upon implicit assumptions about the essence of both technology and the human. Is technology anti-human? Will future technologies transform the human into something else entirely? Would this be a step forward or a great tragedy? This course explores these questions and many more by reading a number of works of science fiction that pose these problems as thought experiments, unraveling the fate of the human in various future scenarios. We will attempt to parse out three different frameworks for thinking about the future of the human, each tied to a different body of narratives and the philosophical programs developed in them: the Posthuman, the Transhuman, and the Non-Human. Posthumanism, or the abandoning of the human as a meaningful category, will be explored in both technophilic and technophobic forms through the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Margaret Atwood, and others. We'll explore Transhumanism, or the transference of the tenets of humanism into new, enhanced technological forms, through the works of James Tiptree Jr., Greg Egan, and in other forms of media. Perhaps most radically, we'll look at the intertwined fates of humans and non-humans in the work of Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, and in several films. How, we will ask, does science fiction police or irrupt the boundaries between the post-, trans-, and non-human? Regardless of how the future actually plays out, do these considerations change the way we can or should think about the human in the present?