Introduction to Literary Study: Fiction as Speculation

Course Number: ENGL 10
Prerequisites: Writing 2
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 10
Quarter: Summer B 2015
Day(s): MTWR
Time: 2:00 PM - 3:25 PM
Location: SH 1609

What does literature contribute to society? There are many answers to this
question (engagement with the complexities and perspectives of other minds,
empathy, critical self-reflection, critique of injustice), but the one that this
class will centrally focus upon is the enterprise of producing imaginative new
possibilities and pathways. This is the great literary tradition of speculation.
How, this literature asks, could our world be ordered differently? What
potentials have we failed to actualize? How could things be better (or worse)?
How, in short, does literature chart new, alternative futures for our culture?
We will read a number of works that produce speculative pasts, presents, and
futures, including Shakespeare's speculative magic and its abnegation, Walt
Whitman's evocation of a new America reimagined through poetry, Lewis Carroll's
speculative fantasy of trans-species, trans-scalar being, H. G. Wells'
masterpiece of future history that imagines what would happen if scientists
ruled the world, Ursula LeGuin's speculative forest planet, Jeannette
Winterson's reimagining of a world of scrambled genders and temporalities, and
Gerald Vizenor's speculative claiming of Christopher Columbus as the rallying
point for a future Native American genomic utopia. All of these works dare to
reimagine the world. We will approach literary study itself as a speculative
attempt to engage, critique, and integrate these potentials within our own world and