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EN361 Introduction to Alternative Lifeworlds Fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy and the Weird)

Professor Stephen Shapiro, Dr Graeme Macdonald (Convenors) and Dr Lara Choksey

emails: (office hours Autumn Term: Wed 1-2; Thur 4-5, H528) (office hours Spring Term: Tues 1-2, Wed 9-10) (office hours: 11-12 and 2-3 on Mondays in H5.19)

2017/18 - seminars:

SS/GM's are on Wednesdays 10-11:30 and 11:30-1. Lara's is Monday 9:30-11.

Mode of assessment: 100% assessed (2 x 5,000-word essays) Departmental Essay Deadlines

For Visiting Students, see here.

This module is a Pathway Approved Option for both the World and American Pathways and an option under the other Pathways.

Module Description

This module orients students in the genres of the fantastic—science fiction, fantasy and the Weird—tracing traditions, origins and differences in order to ask what it is they do, and how it is they do it. The three genres together wield a huge influence over contemporary life and the way that we imagine both ourselves and our world. Born of modernity and the industrial revolution, fantastika is the literature of our age, concerned with futurity, history and social change: the inheritor of the tradition of utopian speculation, it has also given rise to dystopian nightmares. It is a literature of social commentary and wild imagination, exploring the boundaries of human possibility, foregrounding the Other, and consistently estranging us from our own comfortable perspectives, making it ideal for exploring radical alternatives. However, it is also the literature of escapism and naivety, of reactionary attitudes and fear of difference. It can foreground the Other only to villify, or demonise; it can travel thousands of years and millions of miles simply to confirm the prejudices of the present. It is because the fantastic sits on this knife-edge of how humanity responds to the world around it that it provides such an important lens into any analysis of contemporary events.

The module will seek to swiftly ground students in science fiction, exploring the different themes, subgenres and literary strategies that it has evolved over the years. It will seek, in places, to incorporate fantasy and the Weird into an explicit exploration of the limits of science fiction, and trace the alternative tradition drawn on by the contemporary efflorescence of the 'post-genre fantastic', as well as looking at the new movements such as Afrofuturism, biopunk and Resource Future fiction. Throughout both terms, literary texts will be studied alongside films, television and music. Students will be expected to read and engage with sophisticated literary and political theory alongside their readings of the primary texts, and by the end of the module will have gained an understanding of the fantastic, what it does, and how to interpret it.

The module will be taught in weekly seminars.

Q: What reading should I do to prepare for the module over the summer?

1) If you want to start reading the primary texts, then do so in the order they appear in the syllabus. We’ve located texts not because they are chronological (although there’s a bit of that), but to build a sequential environment.

2) THis year, there is a required secondary text, which we will be reading in term 1.

Stuart Hall et al., eds. Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. I(2nd ed.) eds. Stuart Hall, Jessica Evans, and Sean Nixon.

If you want to economize, a used copy of the first edition should be fine. The seocnd edition has a new chapter, but we won't be reading that. There may be small changes between the two editions, but nothing huge, I suspect. First edition here: A caveat - if you buy a used copy DO IT EARLY ENOUGH that you will receive it by week 2.

If you want you can start reading through the book, although, the exact page numbers will be assigned in week 1.

2017-18 syllabus

Term 1: Shapiro

Week 1 - Introduction

Week 2: HG Wells, The Island of Dr Moreau

Week 3 -"The Poetics and Politics of Exhibiting Other Cultures" in Representation. Please read from I Introduction to to the end of section 4.6 Summary. You can bypass the selcted readngs in the text. Think about how our texts can function museumologically and tehnographically.

Octavia Butler, Dawn [1st book in the Xenogenesis/ Lilith's Brood trilogy]. All three can be purchased here.

Week 4: tentatively - "Spectacle of the Other" in Representation

Week 5: Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

Reading Week

Week 7: Joe Haldeman, The Forever War

Week 8: Westworld, Season 1 (2016) - free with cancelable Amazon Student Prime account; "Genre and Gender: The Case of Soap Opera" in Representation

Week 9: Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

Week 10: E. L. Konigsberg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Cityscape dispossesed

Syllabus - Term 2

Combined Handouts Weeks 1-5: (PDF Document)

In Term 2, we'll be covering several themes and building from what you have learned in Term One. These will include: sf and invasion/colonisation narratives; genre, time and memory; dystopias; the alien/future/cyborg body; future tech; resource futures and limits. (Purchase any edition).

Week 1 - Strugatsky Brothers, Roadside Picnic (Word Document) RoadsideHandout

Week 2 - Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  (Word Document) AndroidsHandout

Week 3 - China Mièville, The City and the City (Word Document) MiévilleHandout

Week 4 - Stanislaw Lem, Solaris (Word Document) Solaris Handout

Week 5 - SF Short Films: Chris Marker's La Jetée and others (shown in class with discussion).

Reading Week

Week 7 - Michel Faber, Under the Skin Under the Skin Handout

Week 8 - Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon

Week 9 - Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake  Oryx and Crake critical excerpts

Week 10 - Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy Vol. 1)

 dystopia.jpeg chaubin3-e1354223400838.jpg

Under the Skin



Electric Sheep

moon harsh