Science Fiction: Cross-Cultural Perspectives
Course #: ENGL 124
Science Fiction has been one of the most popular genres of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, extending from a niche literary market into film, television, comics and even music. Given its cultural pervasiveness, in many ways, science fiction has become the key touchstone for popular culture. In this course, we will chart the development of science fiction as a distinct popular cultural form, paying particular attention to its defining characteristics. As such, we'll study a wide range of themes and issues central to science fiction literature: early narratives that champion a scientific sense of wonder and possibility alongside others that articulate fears of technological destruction; the development of the ''first-contact'' narrative that imagines meetings between humans and aliens both positively and negatively; the alternating hopes and fears that characterize utopias and dystopias; the dreams of an elsewhere captured in intergalactic space operas; imaginative conceptions of temporality in time travel and alternative history narratives; and the development of cyberpunk and its focus on the integration of humans with cybernetic technology and the development of artificial intelligence. Alongside the exploration of science fiction as a recognizable set of familiar narratives, we'll also study how these narratives relate to their own historical and cultural moments, expressing particular hopes and fears, anxieties and desires. Readings will mainly be short stories that we'll supplement with some critical essays about the history and aesthetics of science fiction.