Fall 2013 -
Undergraduate Course Description
Discipline and Number
7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
|Monsters and Mechanicals
Description of Course:
This course explores questions of monstrous and mechanical bodies in science fiction and fantasy literature as it has developed over the past century. Science fiction and fantasy stories are uniquely situated for exploring the nature of corporeal embodiment, because they push human, mechanized, and bestial forms beyond the limits of reality. We will critically examine the reasons why an author, or even a literary zeitgeist, chooses to use a specific kind of materiality when and as they did.
• In what ways do authors use fabulous or grotesque bodies to comment upon the world we currently live in?
• Why do fantastic, grotesque, and alien bodies exert such power?
• What is horror?
• Can monsters or aliens stand in for the “othered” bodies of individuals in society to convey a message too dangerous to be stated outright?
• What constitutes a robot, an android, a monster?
• Can mechanicals and human beings have meaningful relationships?
Examinations of body naturally give rise to critical questions about race, gender, sex, identity, able-bodiedness, etc. Thus, our readings and discussion will explore a broad swath of issues central to the current study of literature. Not only will this course focus on primary literary texts, but we will incorporate short excerpts and ideas from critical analyses of the works, philosophy, religion, critical theory, psychology, and so on. These supplemental works will bring a depth to our discussions and allow for more nuanced explorations.
**This course may be applied to the Medical and Scientific Humanities minor (MaSH)
**This course may be applied to the Gender Studies minor
Texts and videos may include:
“A Wife Manufactured to Order” Alice W. Fuller (1895)
Pulp Fantasy Stories from the 1910's to the 1950s (i.e. Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber,
Leigh Brackett, C. L. Moore, and Clark Ashton Smith)
R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), Karel Čapek (1920)
“The Shadow over Innsmouth.” Lovecraft, H.P. (1931)
Novellas from Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two A including:
“Who Goes There?” John Campbell; “Call Me Joe” Poul Anderson; “Baby is Three” Theodore Sturgeon; and“With Folded Hands” Jack Williamson
“That Only a Mother” Judith Merrill (1948)
I, Robot. Isaac Asimov (1950)
Nights at the Circus. Angela Carter (1984)
Bloodchild. Octavia Butler (1984)
“Evil Monkey Robot” Mary Robinette Kowal (2009)
Kraken. China Mieville (2010)
“Priced to Sell.” Naomi Novik (2011)
“Ice,” (1993) X-Files, Season 1, Episode 7
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stepford Wives (1975)
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
Weekly Reading Responses (200-350 words)
Reading Quizzes (Unannounced)
Final paper portfolio revised and developed from one of the Reading Responses OR
a creative project portfolio. These projects will be workshopped in class.
As a seminar-style course, thorough preparation and engaged student participation is expected.