Fall 2023 Undergraduate English Courses

358:254 Introduction to Science Fiction

01   CAC    08171   MTH2   GOLDSTONE   FH-A1

This course introduces the academic study of science fiction, following the history of the genre from its beginnings in the late 1800s to the present. Though very familiar especially in its contemporary TV and film forms, science fiction has been many things over its history: a kind of prophecy, a way of envisioning alternatives to the present, a form of escapist fantasy, a meditation on technology, a challenge to the authority of science or of prestige literature. We will pay particular attention to science fiction's changing cultural position, from its genesis in cheap American pulp-fiction magazines, to attempts to elevate it to serious literary status, to its complex position today as simultaneously a niche subculture and a blockbuster cross-media category. Students will learn how to analyze a genre both in its own terms and in terms of social and historical developments. Readings: short stories by many writers, likely including Rokeya Sakhawat Hussein, H.G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft, C.L. Moore, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, J.G. Ballard, Philip Dick, Joanna Russ, Stanisław Lem, Frank Herbert, Samuel Delany, William Gibson, Octavia Butler, and Ted Chiang, together with novels by Ursula Le Guin and Nnedi Okorafor. We will watch at least one Star Trek episode. Assignments: two short papers, in-class midterm, informal writing exercises.