Course Description and Objectives:
English 339-539 (Modern Science Fiction) 3 UG credits, 2 GR credits
This course examines the development of the science fiction genre in the 20th and 21st centuries. After touching on the Pulp Era and the Golden Age, we will look at the explosion of SF since the 1960s, considering the theoretical, scientific, cultural, and social underpinnings of movements such as the New Wave, Cyberpunk, New Space Opera, New Weird, and more. Readings include a range of classic short fiction as well as a series of classic and recent novels.
Americans have had a love/hate relationship with speculative fiction (SF), including fantasy and science fiction, often taking it seriously only when the authors deny the SF-nal nature of their work (Vonnegut and Atwood are two of the most obvious cases). Now, one can of course argue about its literary merits (see: Reader Response and Reception theories), but one cannot underestimate its impact across the culture, including cinematic genres. In this course, we will explore the rise of the genre (and sub-genres) beginning in the early 20th C and see how it has subsequently developed in concert with the broader culture.
Given the assumptions stated above, students may expect that they will be called on to read extensively, to discuss those readings in class, and to write regularly concerning the readings and discussions. All of these elements will be factored into the course evaluation system.
In general, the course has these objectives for students to pursue:
(1) Become acquainted with the history of SF, particularly its movements and currents, and the cultural contexts in which it arose.
(2) Become familiar with some of the major writers, themes, texts, and subgenres of SF.
(3) Explore a variety of contemporary and historical approaches to works in the genre.
(4) Improve analytic writing skills.
(5) Practice presentation/teaching skills.