Speculative Fiction: Estranging the Familiar
Speculative Fiction: Estranging the Familiar
C Lit 240B, Winter 2016
T/Th(F) 9:30am-11:20am MEB 250
Instructor: Mimi Nielsen Office Pdl B 205
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Office Hours: Tuesdays 1-3pm
Any situation in which some [people] prevent others from
engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence.
Science fiction, fantasy science, and speculative fiction render the familiar unfamiliar and in so doing provide us, as readers, with the opportunity to perceive the world and ourselves in new ways. In this course, we will take advantage of this loosely grouped genre mix's imaginative scope—in depicting utopic and dystopic societies—to consider portrayals of power and control, inclusiveness and exclusivity, as well as the significance of culture, language and symbols. We will focus on the values expressed in these texts and how they permeate and inflect themes of, for example, individuality and/or collectivity. What can we learn about a text by shifting our gaze, from a straightforward reading of the plot line to tracking and asking how and why particular values are assigned? We will also ponder if these texts convey hope and meaning despite scenarios of immense destruction, totalitarianism, and pervasive futility, and if so how?
To learn to write well is to learn to think clearly, a process that is greatly helped by engaging with the ideas and language of other thinkers. To this end, we will engage in small-group and class discussions to unpack our texts. Additionally, we will briefly draw on some of the basic concepts of sociology, eco-criticism, feminism, and post-colonialism. We will also consider our various texts within their socio-cultural and historical contexts.
The aim of C Lit 240 is to develop critical reading and academic writing skills by acquiring fluency in generating questions and articulating a point of view supported by textual evidence.
Required Texts and Materials:
The following texts are from New Zealand, Japan, USA, and Soviet Union/Russia. (While e-texts are ecological, the absence of in-kind pagination poses a problem during in-class close-readings. If possible, please purchase actual hardcopies of our readings.):
Genesis. Bernard Beckett. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2006). ISBN: 978-0-547-22549-4.
The Stories of Ibis. Hiroshi Yamamoto. Vi Media. Paperback (2010). ISBN: 13: 978-1421534404.
The Windup Girl. Paolo Bacigalupi. Night Shade Books (2014). ISBN: 978-1-59780-4.
Roadside Picnic. Arcady and Boris Strugatsky. Translation by Olena Bormashenko. Chicago Review Press. (2012). ISBN-10: 1613743416. Please note: This edition is required. Do not purchase an earlier edition.
Additional texts will be emailed to the class list and/or posted on Canvas. Make sure to update your email address.
One notebook sufficient for 10 weeks of bi-weekly two-page ‘free-writes.’
Blade Runner (Theatrical Cut, 2007). Available at the Media Center on the third floor of the Suzzallo Library. Must be viewed in the library. Please use call number: C Lit 240 F.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979) The same availability as above. (This is a 3 hour long film.)
Statutory Warning: These films, as well as our written texts, contain content that is at times both violent and offensive. If this poses a problem, please consider taking another class. Note: feel free to discuss all content in class.
Outside Resource: The Writing Center at the Odegaard Library
Offerings: ~one-to-one sessions (http://depts.washington.edu/owrc/signup.php
~research consultations (http://lib.washington.libcal.com/booking/owrc
~groups for English Language Learners (https://depts.washington.edu/owrc/programs.php#4
Be sure to provide the course name and number, as well as my name, when you schedule your appointments on-line so that I can give you extra credit.
Attendance and Participation:
Your participation evaluation includes finishing all readings and viewings before their assigned class and arriving in class on time unless you have a prior agreement with me. Because of the importance of group discussions—which are held at the beginning of each class—three tardies will result in the loss of one class’ participation points.
Asking questions, taking notes, and free-writing will help you hone your analytic skills as well as generate ideas for your papers.
As noted, regular and timely participation is required, as is bringing two written (printed—not handwritten) questions or comments pertaining to our day’s readings/viewings to each class session. We will discuss your questions and comments either as a class or in small groups. Your hard copies will be handed in at the end of class.
When possible, time will be set aside at the end of class for free-writing on any aspect of the group- or class-discussions that captures your interest. Your questions/quotes, ‘free-writes,’ as well as your response papers will form the backbone of your portfolio and hopefully contribute material for your essay assignments.
One student-instructor conference is required and counts for 5% of your participation grade. That said you are always welcome to come to my office hours. I am very happy to meet with you and discuss our texts, your ideas/questions, and/or your writing. If my hours do not jive with your schedule, please email me and we will figure out a time that does. Please bring your portfolio-notebook.
During the quarter, you will write two 1-2 page (350-700 words) response papers addressing our chosen texts. These must be uploaded onto the Canvas site by 5 pm, the day before class (include your name, date, and response paper number on the first page). I will provide the topics. Throughout the quarter, I will call on individual students to present a brief summary of the core ideas and to field questions from the class.
Formal Writing Assignments:
~Two thesis statements of your choosing. They must include 1) a question that you are posing in relationship to your chosen texts (I use the term text to refer to both literary and cinematic narratives), 2) a brief and assertively stated claim/position based upon that question, 3) a ‘so-what’ statement.
Your claim should be formulated as a strongly opinionated stance and not left as an open-ended exploratory approach to the texts. This does not mean that your claim has to be 100% true in regard to all aspects of your chosen texts, but that you can argue that your claim and subsequent analysis provide a unique or in-depth consideration of an important aspect of these texts.
The ‘so-what’ statement is meant to explain what your question/claim provides, either in the way of better understanding your chosen texts or as a means of more generally considering a particular aspect of the texts within a larger context—this provides an opportunity to relate your ‘reading’ of our fictional texts to reality, if you like. Please upload your thesis statement onto Canvas by 5 pm the evening before the thesis workshop class.
~You will expound your theses into two 4-5 page (1150-1450 words) comparative essays.
The first ‘drafts’ must meet their respective minimum word requirement or they will be docked 10% of the assigned points, contain relevant quotes, extensive analysis, and have been crafted and proof-read for flow and grammar. Note that it is often easier to write a longer paper, as a short paper requires more clarity and concision so as to convey the necessary analytical arc.
~Since writing is a process, for both essays you will write a full-length first ‘draft,’ which will be peer-reviewed (mandatory in-class attendance for credit). With the help of the peer reviews, you will then write and submit a revised draft.
For the first essay I will comment extensively on your revision, after which you will write a final polished version.
For the second essay your post-peer review revision will comprise your final paper. If you would like my feedback, please make an appointment to meet with me during my office hours, or for another time if your schedule so requires.
Each draft must be uploaded onto Canvas by appointed time.
Also, bring three hard copies of the rough draft to class for peer review.
~In order to maintain an equitable class, no late work is accepted, unless cleared with me. Work is due as scheduled despite absences.
Additional information regarding your writing assignments can be found posted on the Files page.
Your final assignment will be a two-page (600-700 words) comparative analysis of Roadside Picnic and one or two texts of your choosing. These will be presented during our last two classes.
Students requesting accommodations for this class are encouraged to make an appointment to see me during my office hours to discuss their needs. You can also contact Disability Resources for Students: 11 Mary Gates Hall; (206) 543-8924; email@example.com.
Plagiarism, or academic dishonesty, is presenting someone else's ideas or writing as your own. If you use another’s ideas you must cite the source. Any student found to have plagiarized will be reported to the College of Arts and Sciences for review. Please see: http://depts.washington.edu/grading/conduct/honesty.html
Class Participation: 35%
Response Papers: 15%
Theses 10% (Requires participation in thesis writing workshops.)
Essays: 40% (First 20%, Second 20%) Use Writing Center for extra credit (3 pts/draft).
Jan 5: Course Introduction. In-Class: Read Fredric Brown’s short story “Answer.” Read a brief excerpt from Cixin Liu’s postscript to The Three-Body Problem. Discussion.
Jan 7: A brief introduction to Bernard Beckett’s Genesis. Read up to “Third Hour” on pg 67. Bring 2 Questions and 2 Quotes (to every class).
Jan 12: Finish reading Genesis. A reminder to always bring a hard-copy of 2 question and 2 quotes to class.
Jan 14: Read secondary readings (They are posted on the Canvas site under "Files.": "Plato Unmasked" "Will AI Surpass US?" and “Othering 101” Discussion: Secondary readings and Genesis.
Jan 19: Watch Blade Runner before class (available at the Media Center at Suzzallo). Discuss Blade Runner and Genesis. Please bring the book (Genesis) to class. Bring copies of the 3 posted articles to class. Talk about response paper topics.
Due: Response Paper #1: See prompts posted on Canvas. Upload by 5 pm Wednesday, Jan 20th.
Jan 21: Hiroshi Yamamoto’s Stories of Ibis. Read Story 6: “The Day Shion Came.” Thesis workshop.
Due: Upload thesis by 5pm Friday, Jan 22nd.
Jan 26: Due: Rough Draft, Essay #1. Peer Review workshop. Upload draft by 10 pm Monday, Jan 25th and bring 3 printed copies to class. Attendance required for first draft credit.
Jan 28: Read from The Stories of Ibis, Story 4: “Black Hole Diver.”
Due: Revised Draft Essay #1 Upload by 10 pm Sunday, Jan 31st.
Feb 2: Read from The Stories of Ibis, Story 7: “AI’s Story.”
Feb 4: Read Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl to page 85 or through chapter 7. A brief introduction to post-colonialism.
Feb 9: Read The Windup Girl to page 166 or through chapter 16. A brief introduction to feminist theory.
Feb 11: Read The Windup Girl to page 218 or through chapter 24. A brief introduction to eco-criticism. Practice posing questions of the text, listing possible perspectives for inquiry.
Due: Final Draft Essay #1. Upload by 10 pm Sunday, Feb, 14th.
Feb 16: Read The Windup Girl to page 308 or through chapter 38.
Feb 18: Finish reading The Windup Girl (including the epilogue). Discuss the significance of sci-fi in terms of its imaginative versus its realistic content; ie reading sci-fi ‘simply’ as a celebration of science’s possibilities or as social criticism. Thesis Workshop #2.
Due: Upload thesis statement by 5 pm Friday.
Feb 23: Rough Draft Essay #2 (Upload by Monday 10 pm). Peer Review workshop. Bring 3 printed copies to class.
Feb 25: Read Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic to page 55. A brief intro on the Cold War.
Mar 1: Read Roadside Picnic to page 104.
Due: Revised/Final Draft Essay #2. Upload by 10 pm Wednesday, Mar. 2nd.
Mar 3: Read Roadside Picnic to page 156.
Mar 8: Finish Roadside Picnic (Read the afterword, too.) Discussion on the thematic and cultural aspects of our various texts. We will also consider ways of approaching texts--a seemingly infinite multitude of lenses.
Due: Response Paper #2. See prompts posted on Canvas. Upload by 5 pm Wednesday.
Mar 10: We will end by considering the concept of utopia, and look at the presence of awe and/or hope in sci-fi in general and in our various texts in particular.
Completed Course. No further work required
Any situation in which some men prevent others from
engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence.
Science fiction, fantasy science, and speculative fiction render the familiar unfamiliar and in so doing provide us, as readers, with the opportunity to perceive the world and ourselves in new ways. In this course we will take advantage of this loosely grouped genre-mix's imaginative scope—in depicting utopic and dystopic societies—to consider portrayals of power and control, inclusiveness and exclusivity, as well as the significance of culture, language and symbols. We will focus on the values in these texts that express, for example, individuality and/or collectivity, and query to what end? We will also ponder if these texts convey hope and meaning despite scenarios of immense destruction, totalitarianism, and pervasive futility, and if so how?
To learn to write well is to learn to think clearly, a process that is greatly helped by engaging with the ideas and language of other thinkers. To this end we will engage in small-group and class discussions to unpack our texts. Additionally, we will draw on some of the basic concepts of eco-criticism, feminism, and post-colonialism. We will also consider our various texts within their social and historical contexts.