ENGL 2020-36

Themes in Literature and Culture:

Science Fiction

Fall 2016 | Room: PH 308 | Day/Time: TTh: 100-225


About the Course | About David Lavery | Texts | Class Members | Course Requirements | Power Points | Websites, Links, Readings | Agenda



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About the Course

The Tennessee Board of Regents's stated goal for "Humanities and/or Fine Arts" requirements such as this course "is to enhance the understanding of students who, as citizens and educated members of their communities, need to know and appreciate their own human cultural heritage and its development in a historical and global context. Also, through study of Humanities and/or Fine Arts, students will develop an understanding, which they otherwise would not have, of the present as informed by the past.” This particular course will examine the history and nature of a literary/cinematic/television form that was once considered marginial and is now of central importance to all media. A study of the cultural significance of the genre by SF writer Thomas Disch is subtitled: "How Science Fiction Conquered the World." Reading and viewing representative SF, we will track that conquest and seek to understand what it means.


Dr. David Lavery

Office PH 316A | Office Hours M: 100-400 pm | T: 900-1100; 230-400 pm | W: 900-1100; 100-300 | Th: 900-1100

 E-mail david.lavery@mtsu.edu | Office Phone/Voice-Mail 615-898-5648 | Home Page http//davidlavery.net/


Dr. David Lavery is Director of Graduate Studies and Professor in the English Department at Middle Tennessee State University (1993- ). The recipient of the University's 2006 Distinguished Research Award, he is the author of over one hundred and fifty published essays, chapters, and reviews and the author / co-author / editor / co-editor of twenty-one books, including Joss Whedon, A Creative Portrait: From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Avengers, TV Goes to Hell: An Unofficial Road Map of Supernatural, The Essential Cult Television Reader, and The Essential Sopranos Reader. The co-convener of international conferences on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the work of Joss Whedon and The Sopranos; co-founder of the Whedon Studies Association and its journal Slayage and founding editor of Critical Studies in Television, he has lectured around the world on the subject of television (Australia, Turkey, the UK, Portugal, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany), been a guest/source for the BBC, NPR, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The New York Times, A Folha de Sao Paulo (Brazil), Publica (Portugal), Information (Netherlands), AP, The Toronto Star, USA Today, and from 2006-2008 taught film and television at Brunel University in London. He is currently working on two books: Genius at Work: Wallace Stevens, Charles Ives, Benjamin Lee Whorf and the Imagination of insurance and ". . . and imagination can see them again": Four Exercises in Barfieldian Poetics.


Course Requirements

Writing Completion of two of the following [A] A critical essay on one of the stories, TV series/episodes, or movies we have considered this term; [B] a book review of a SF novel approved by me; [C] a film review of a movie or television series approved by me; [D] an essay on a science fiction theme, genre, or sub-genre, template, or motif. Length: each approximately 1250 words | Weight: Each worth 30% of course grade. Due: See the course agenda. Submit via the appropriate D2L drop boxes.

An in-class cognitive-memory final exam (6/30/16): a matching test on authors, artists, terms, historical events, historical figures, etc., covering the entire course. You will be provided with a study guide to help prepare you for the exam. Weight: 20% of course grade.

A take-home essay final exam, in which you will write two 750 word essays on your choice from ten possible topics supplied by me. Weight: 20% of course grade.


Power Points | Websites/Links


Week One (8/23, 8/25)

Introduction to the Course | What is Science Fiction? | Movie/TV Show of the Week: Twilight Zone (1959-64)

Week Two (8/30, 9/1)

SFSC 1. Alien Encounters—Stories: Stanley G. Weinbaum, "A Martian Odyssey" (1934) | Frederic Brown, "Arena" (1944) | Cultural Contexts: Carl Gustav Jung, "The Shadow" (1951) | Frantz Fanon, "The Fact of Blackness" (1952) | Movie/TV Show of the Week: Galaxy Quest (1999)

Week Three (9/6, 9/8)

SFSC 1. Alien Encounters (continued)—Stories: Ray Bradbury, "Mars Is Heaven!" (1948) | Sonya Dorman, "When I Was Miss Dow" (1966) | Ursula K. Le Guin, "Vaster Than Empires and More Slow" (1971) | Greg Egan, "Wang’s Carpets" (1995) | Movie/TV Show of the Week: "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" (The X-Files [1996])

Week Four (9/13, 9/15)

SFSC 2. Artificial Life—Stories: Isaac Asimov, "Liar!" (1941) | Philip K. Dick, "Second Variety" (1953) | Cultural Contexts: Jean Baudrillard, "The Precession of the Simulacra" (1981) | Donna J. Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" (1985; 1991) | Movie/TV Show of the Week: Blade Runner (1982)

Week Five (9/20, 9/22)

SFSC 2. Artificial Life (continuedStories: Kate Wilhelm, "Baby, You Were Great" (1966) | James Tiptree, Jr., "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" (1973) | William Gibson, "Burning Chrome" (1985) | Ken Liu, "The Algorithms for Love" (2004) | Movie/TV Show of the Week: Ex Machina (2015)

Week Six (9/27, 9/29)

SFSC 3. Time—Stories: C.L. Moore, "Vintage Season" (1946) | Robert A. Heinlein, "All You Zombies—" (1959) | Cultural Contexts: Jean-Paul Sartre, "From Being and Nothingness" (1943) | Michio Kaku, "To Build a Time Machine" (1994) | Movie/TV Show of the Week: Life on Mars (2006-2007)

Week Seven (10/4, 10/6)

SFSC 3. Time (continuedStories: Robert Silverberg, "When We Went to See the End of the World" (1972) | Kim Stanley Robinson, "The Lucky Strike" (1984) | Connie Willis, "At the Rialto" (1989) | Ted Chiang, "Story of Your Life" (1998) | Movie/TV Show of the Week: Looper (2012)  | First Writing Assignment Due


Fall Break (10/8-10/11)


Week Eight (10/13)

FSC 4. Utopias and Dystopias—Stories: Damon Knight, "Country of the Kind" (1955) | Harlan Ellison, "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" (1965) | Cultural Contexts: William H. Whyte, Jr. From The Organization Man (1956) | Fredric Jameson, "Progress versus Utopia; or Can We Imagine the Future?" (1982) | Movie/TV Show of the Week: Snowpiercer (2013)

Week Nine (10/18, 10/20)

SFSC 4. Utopias and Dystopias (continuedStories: Joanna Russ, "When It Changed" (1972) | John Varley, "The Persistence of Vision" (1978) | Mike Resnick, "Kirinyaga" (1988) | Nalo Hopkinson, "Something to Hitch Meat to" (2001) | Movie/TV Show of the Week: Gattaca (1997)

Week Ten (10/25, 10/27)

SFSC 5. Disasters and Apocalypses (continued)—Stories: Stanislaus Lem, "How the World Was Saved" (1967) | Sakyo Komatsu, "Take Your Choice" (1967) | C.J. Cherryh, "Cassandra" (1978) | Ian McDonald, "Recording Angel" (1996) | Movie/TV Show of the Week: The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

Week Eleven (11/1, 11/3)

SFSC 6. Evolutions—Stories: John W. Campbell, Jr., "Twilight" (1934) | Daniel Keyes, "Flowers for Algernon" (1959) | Cultural Contexts: Stephen Jay Gould, "Nonmoral Nature" (1982) | Marvin Minsky, "Will Robots Inherit the Earth?" (1994) | Movie/TV Show of the Week: The Matrix (1999)

Week Twelve (11/8, 11/10)

SFSC 6. Evolutions (continued)—Stories: Roger Zelazny, "For a Breath I Tarry" (1966) | Samuel R. Delany, "Driftglass" (1967) | Greg Bear, "Blood Music" (1983) | Terry Bisson, "Bears Discover Fire" (1990) | Movie/TV Show of the Week: Fringe

Week Thirteen (11/15, 11/17)

Doctor Who: An Introduction | Screening: An Adventure in Space and Time

Week Fourteen (11/22)

Doctor Who (continued) | Screening: "Blink" | Second Writing Assignment Due


Thanksgiving Holiday (11/23-11/26)


Week Fifteen (11/29) | Screening: "The Day of the Doctor"


Final Exams (12/2-12/8)