Spring 2012 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions
Description of Course:
This course explores questions of body and identity 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 the human form beyond the limits of reality and incorporate non-human entities. 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.
• Is there a socio-historical relationship between the use of body snatchers and the understanding of the world at that moment? What makes body snatchers so scary?
• Why have in books and movies changed from the 19th to 21st centuries? Why are vampires so often sexy romantic characters now? Are they still monsters?
• Can monsters stand in for the “othered” bodies of individuals in our own society in order to convey a message too dangerous to be stated outright?
• What constitutes a robot, an android, a monster?
• In what ways do authors use fabulous or grotesque bodies to comment upon the world we currently live in?
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 exerpts 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.
Texts & Videos May Include:
Dracula. (1897) Bram Stoker. Norton Critical Edition (1997) ISBN#: 978-0446391306
Geek Love. (1990) Katharine Dunn. ISBN#: 0553585819
Kindred. (1980) Octavia Butler. ISBN#: 0807083690
Kraken. (2010) China Miéville. ISBN#: 0345497503
Lavinia. (2008) Ursula Le Guin. ISBN#: 9780156033688
The Night Watch. (2006) Sergei Lukyanenko. ISBN#: 1401359795
Runaways, Vol. 8: Dead End Kids. (2009) Joss Whedon. ISBN#: 9780785134596
R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). (1920) Karel Čapek. ISBN#: 0486419266
Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume 2. ISBN#: 0765305356
The short stories listed below are available through online reserves
"A Wife Manufactured to Order." (1895) Alice Fuller.
“Robbie.” (1939) Isaac Azimov.
“The Father-Thing.” (1954) Philip K. Dick.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)
Episodes of or selections from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, X-Files, Dr. Who, True Blood, Dollhouse and other programs.
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
Response Essays: Must complete 2 of 4 assigned short essays (1-2 pages).
Reading Quizzes: Best 10 quizzes count toward final grade.
Final Paper Portfolio: Portfolio will include rough draft with comments and final paper. Grade for portfolio is inclusive (5-7 pages).
Final Response Essay (1-2 pages) or Creative Writing Project (3-6 pages)