Fall 2012 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Turner Fred
Discipline and Number
LIT 3311 Section HN1
MW Time 4:00 PM - 5:15 PM
Course Title
The Literature of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Description of Course:

LIT 3311: Science Fiction Fall 2012
Course Description
Frederick Turner

Science fiction can be defined as the extrapolation of current knowledge into alternate worlds future, past, or elsewhere, and the fictional inhabitation of that world by characters in action. If so, science fiction may be the oldest of all genres of storytelling, since the description fits most of the great epics and tales of the ancient world, including The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Odyssey, the Mayan Popol Vuh, the Biblical Book of Genesis, and the Mahabharata. This class will concentrate mostly on American and British science fiction of the last half century, with some glimpses further back.

We will explore such science fiction themes as planetary and stellar scale engineering, the interface of the human being with technology and artificial intelligence, the exploration of different moral/political/economic cultures, the paradoxes of time, the origin, further evolution, and destiny of humanity, the redefinition of the divine, and alien psychology. We will also consider the literary characteristics of science fiction (as opposed to such genres as the mainstream novel, fantasy, the essay, lyric poetry), and attempt to assess the artistic quality of the works we read. Though we will not have time to directly address the fantasy genre as such, or science fiction films, games, and video, we will surely be bringing them into the discussion.

Required Texts:

Tentative Bibliography
(I will cut this list down to about 12 books and may substitute others)

Kim Stanley Robinson: Red Mars
Arthur C. Clarke: Childhood’s End
Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange
John Milton: Paradise Lost
H.G. Wells: The Food of the Gods
Lois McMaster Bujold: Young Miles
Ursula K. Le Guin:The Left Hand of Darkness
George Orwell: 1984
Frederick Turner: Genesis: An Epic Poem
Greg Bear: Eon
Neal Stephenson: The Diamond Age
William Gibson: Neuromancer
Homer: The Odyssey
Jonathan Swift: Gulliver’s Travels
Robert Heinlein: Starship Troopers
Iain Banks: Excession
C. J. Cherryh: Downbelow Station
Orson Scott Card: Ender’s Game
The Book of Genesis

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

The class will be conducted in a Socratic discussion format, with lively in-class essay quizzes on the reading. The reading will be large in volume but mostly accessible to a contemporary reader, with such satisfying characteristics as suspense, exciting plots, and engaging characters. Grades will be based on students' quiz essays and their contributions to class discussion. Regular and punctual attendance is a high priority. A term paper is optional.

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