M/W/F 11:00-12:00 242 Dwinelle Instructor: Paco Brito
Utopian hope often meets an insistence on some fixed idea of human nature. Demands for greater freedom and equality are countered by “realistic” estimations of how much order and hierarchy we must bear in order to live together in society. This course will explore this drama of revolutionary desire and reactionary response as it is staged in novels by four women: Mary Shelley, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, and Ann Leckie; as well as in the short stories that Alice Sheldon published under the pen name James Tiptree, Jr. We will read these works of SF—science fiction but also speculative fiction, fiction that’s simultaneously grounded in this world and imagining another—alongside and against different theoretical accounts of what it means to be human. In so doing, we’ll examine the political in the personal; everyday questions of love, sex, friendship, family, work, reproduction, community, and death; and more outlandish scenarios involving monsters, cyborgs, and genetically-engineered creatures, alien encounters, ecological apocalypses, and galactic empires. We will also conduct an extended inquiry into the various forms that present themselves to us as natural, organic wholes, whether they’re selves or societies, poems or novels.
As this is a writing course that fulfills the university’s R1B requirement, it will involve both further training in literary analysis—in the communication of an interpretation of a literary text to a reader—and an introduction to writing with sources and responding to scholarly arguments.
Texts will include:
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) by Mary Shelley
Dawn (1987) by Octavia Butler
Oryx and Crake (2003) by Margaret Atwood
Ancillary Justice (2014) by Ann Leckie
“The Last Flight of Dr. Ain,” “The Screwfly Solution,” “The Women Men Don’t See,” “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” “Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death,” and “And I Awoke to Find Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side” (1970s) by James Tiptree, Jr.
Texts will also be drawn from:
Philosophy, theory, and essays by Aristotle, Michel de Montaigne, Thomas Hobbes, Jean- Jacques Rousseau, Heinrich von Kleist, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hannah Arendt, Donna J. Haraway, Barbara Johnson, and Judith Butler.
Poetry by Ovid, Petrarch, Shakespeare, William Blake, John Keats, Emily Dickinson, César Vallejo, Wallace Stevens, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Marianne Moore Short fiction by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, Silvina Ocampo, Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel R. Delany, Joanna Russ, and Ted Chiang.
Films by Fritz Lang, Ridley Scott, Lizzie Borden, Terry Gilliam, and Denis Villeneuve.