****2018/19 Syllabus below*****
Dr Andrew Stones (Tutor)
Dr Graeme Macdonald (Convenor)
firstname.lastname@example.org (office hours: Tues 2-3pm, or by appointment)
Seminars: Tuesday 10:00 - 11:30am; Tuesday 11:30 - 1:00pm
Mode of assessment: 100% assessed (Two x 4000-word essays (90%) plus a Group Video Project (10%) Deadlines are still being finalised, but the first essay will be due at the start of term 2 (ie. in January), the Group Video Project will be due at the end of term 2, and the second essay will be due near the beginning of term 3.
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.
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) Start reading the primary texts. 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. It is essential you get some reading done in the break. The module runs at pretty much a novel a week (with occasional 'slow-downs' factored in) - they are (of course!) great to read, and not always lengthy - but I guarantee that if you leave the reading too close to call for each week then you will have a less productive time on the module.
2) It's always a good idea to have a look at some Introductions to the genre, to familiarise yourself with the terminology, preoccupations, movements and subgenres of the field. Fortunately, there are a great deal of useful Readers/Introductions & Anthologies available in the library, many in E-text format. A quick read of the introduction to these works is going to help orient the material for you from the off. Various examples of these introductory works can be found at the top of the Further Reading page, above.
There are no prescribed specific editions of the texts, though it is always good to get hold of the most academic and most up to date one. Please - no reading an upload of a pdf on a mobile phone in class. You'll see there are some further recommendations below the primary texts in some weeks. I'll add more to this as we progress.
Week 1: Introduction
Week 2: H.G. Wells, The Time Machine
Week 3: Joe Haldeman, The Forever War
Week 4: Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed
Week 5: SF Short Films: Chris Marker's La Jetée and others (shown in class, with discussion).
Week 6: Reading Week
Week 8: Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon
Recommended: Under the Skin (2013) dir. Jonathan Glazer
Week 10: Superhero Week: Warren Ellis, Adi Granov, Iron Man: Extremis (Marvel Comics, 2005)
Term 2 (below)
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).
Recommended: Stalker (1979) dir. Andrei Tarkovsky.
Recommended: Solaris (1972) dir. Andrei Tarkovsky.
Recommended: Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982) dir. Ridley Scott; Blade Runner: 2049 (2017) dir. Denis Villeneuve; Ghost in the Shell (1995) dir. Mamoru Oshii; Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004) dir. Mamoru Oshii; Isaac Asimov, I Robot (1950-); Karel Čapek, R.U.R (1920); Alex Garland, Ex-Machina (2014)
Week 6: Reading Week
Week 7: Lauren Beukes, Zoo City
Week 9: Sarah Hall, Madame Zero
Week 10: Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy Vol. 1)