EXPANDED COURSE DESCRIPTION
Science fiction has emerged as one of the most popular genres
in our contemporary culture. Why are science fiction texts, including
novels, short stories, films, and television shows, so culturally pervasive,
and what does this popularity tell us about the impact of science and technology?
This course will examine how the medium of science fiction, from its origins
with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to its more recent manifestations,
has given cultural expressions to changing--and often ambivalent--attitudes
towards modern science and technology.
ORGANIZATION OF THE COURSE:
There will be one two-hour lecture and one two-hour discussion class per
week. The lecture will set the broader context for understanding that
week's readings and themes, and will also deal with the development of critical
skills in reading, writing, and thinking. The discussion class will
focus directly on the texts assigned for each week. All students will
be expected to come to class having completed the assigned reading so that
they are prepared to discuss it.
COURSE LEARNING OBJECTIVES:
1. Brief Statement of Purpose
The first half of the course will focus on the historical development of
science fiction and the parallel developments of science and technology in
their cultural contexts. Among the topics to be covered are responses
to Enlightenment and Victorian science, representations of the scientist,
scientific utopias, the mechanized society, and the reactions of science fiction
authors to the brave new world of genetics, the atomic bomb, and space travel.
In the second term we will concentrate on the attitudes of contemporary science
fiction writers and film makers towards the cultural significance of science
and technology. Themes to be discussed include feminist SF, the infinite
universes of some interpretations of quantum mechanics, time travel, the
threat of catastrophe due to technological progress, depictions of the process
of scientific discovery, the complex relationship between science and religion,
the ethical dilemmas of the biotechnology revolution, and the disappearing
boundaries between human and computer.
2. Specific Learning Objectives:
It is hoped that students will gain an understanding of the conventions and
tropes of science fiction, while recognizing the ways the genre has changed
as scientific knowledge and culture have developed. In addition, the
course will teach critical skills required for the reading, appreciation,
and study of science fiction as well as those that are more generally applicable
across disciplinary boundaries. Thus, we will discuss the protocols
of reading science fiction, science fiction iconography, how to "read" film--whether
science fiction or not--and how to write effective, well written essays.
We will look at the most common writing errors that students make, and offer
strategies that will enable students to avoid and correct them.