Tu/W/Th 01:00-03:30 205 Dwinelle Instructor: Howard Fisher

Session D:  July 3rd-August 11th.

“I’ve seen justice for all genders and classes and sexualities, and it was as alien to me as the extra-terrestrial creatures who practiced it. This image of justice sprang from my own imagination, taking place on another planet, in another time, for a species of people very unlike humans. It took science fiction for me to see a clear picture of what justice could be. And at the end of the day, that’s all it was – fiction.” — Maisha Johnson

This course will trace an American tradition of science fiction writing from the antebellum period to the present. Focusing on films, novels, and especially short stories, the course serves as an introduction to the genre and as an exploration of the insights that science fiction offers as an object of socio-cultural analysis. The course specifically develops students’ understanding of the forms and tropes that define science fiction and connects these to a critical language for discussing matters of ethnic and racial diversity in the history of the United States. With these goals in mind, the course examines the development of a genre while situating works within their socio-cultural and historical contexts.

The central questions that structure the course proceed from the fundamental paradox that attends the genre: How do we imagine something different from what we have? What allows the science fiction story to establish, with remarkable economy, a vision of a world? How do we recognize similarities and locate differences between historical circumstances and the circumstances represented in science fiction? What kinds of desires and fears do the worlds of American science fiction enact? When do they do so critically as opposed to unthoughtfully, and how do we tell the difference? How have indigenous, African, latino/a, and Asian American writers and filmmakers given form to their marginalized experiences and to radical political projects for social justice through science fiction? Is science fiction able to broaden the range of possible ways cultural diversity can be imagined, or only change its guise?

Course Structure:

We begin with famous writers of the pre-Civil War and American Renaissance periods to inquire why the age gives rise to visions of technological advancement, human perfectibility through biological modification, and punished hubris. We will focus on how and why excitement and anxiety about industrialization appears again and again alongside fear of slave rebellion. We will likewise examine works of the same period that give shape to early visions of American black nationalism.

In the second unit of the course, we read works that emerge from the legal and institutional xenophobia of the early twentieth century in the U.S. The fictions read in this unit address questions of demographic transformation and projects that seek to manage it. We will continue to pursue the way that science fiction creates new worlds but will take up the additional goal of describing science fiction’s relation to satire.

We then turn our attention to science fiction after the American Civil Rights movement. Here the course will examine the way fictions of the period generate both post-racial fantasies and visions of interracial harmony. Special attention will be given to how works reflect an increased interest in precisely locating racial and ethnic difference in the mind and/or the body.

The course concludes by bringing a plurality of perspectives to bear on the qualities that fundamentally distinguish science fiction. For instance, how do attempts on the part of indigenous people to disentangle native science from “primitive” knowledge and myth change the scope of the genre? How does a narrator’s insistence on its radical sexual difference present barriers to what a reader can know about a possible world? We consider not only how these works critique contemporary social organizations, but also how they reframe the science fiction genre as a means of enriching the social imaginary. This unit will also address a problem of generic interpretation that arises at the intersections of cultural difference: not all literature that can be interpreted as science fiction is written as science fiction. It may read as such for some people while for others it represents a contemporary lived reality. Thus to read a work as science fiction can be to appropriate its way of meaning or to place it at a distance at a distance from reality. To help us approach these works with care, we will read them alongside critical and theoretical texts by scholars of feminist, Native-American, African-American, and queer studies.


Zainab Amadahy, The Moons of Palmares

Ray Bradbury, “The Other Foot”

Octavia Butler, “Bloodchild”

Martin R. Delany,  selections from Blake, or The Huts of America

Samuel R. Delaney, “Among the Blobs” and “Aye, and Gomorrah…”

George P. Elliott, “The NRACP”

Alexis Pauline Gumbs, “Evidence”

Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Birthmark” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

H.P. Lovecraft, “The Horror at Red Hook” and The Shadow over Innsmouth

Herman Melville, “The Bell Tower”

Mia Mingus, “Hollow”

Edgar Allan Poe, “The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade” and “Things of the Future”

Gerald Vizenor, “Custer of the Slipstream”


Change of Mind (1969), dir. Robert Stevens

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), dir. Don Taylor

Monsters (2010), dir. Gareth Edwards

A course reader will be available at University Copy Services, 2425 Channing Way. Course readings are also available on bcourses.


Comp Lit N60 002 AC: 别样美洲人:乌托邦小说中的美国文化

本课将追溯南北战争前到如今的美国传统的科幻小说写作。着重于电影、小说、尤 其短篇小说,本课从科幻小说这一文体入门并将探讨科幻小说对社会文化分析所能提供的 见解。该课旨于加深学生对科幻小说的形式和特征的理解,并联系科幻小说到美国历史上 种族和种族多样性问题的批判探讨。

我们如何想象与我们本身不相似的事物?什么允许科幻故事以显着的经济来建立一 个世界愿景?我们如何认识历史与科幻小说中的相似与不似之处?美国科幻小说表现了怎 样的欲望和恐惧?科幻小说何时起有意识地描绘欲望和恐惧而我们该如何理解这种意识转 变?印第安裔、非裔,拉丁美裔和亚裔美国作家和电影人如何通过科幻小说展现他们遭遇 边缘化经历和激进的社会正义运动?科幻小说能够拓展文化多样性的想象形式上的想象空 间,还是只能改变其外在?

课程结构: 我们从内战和美国文艺复兴时期的著名作家开始去思考为何这一时期诞生了技术进 步的愿景、通过生物改造的人类完美性和对傲慢的惩罚。我们将重点关注如何以及为何工 业化的兴奋与焦虑伴随着对奴隶叛乱的担忧一次次出现。同时我们也会研究同时期提出的 美国黑人民族主义初期观念的作品。 在本课程的第二个单元中,我们将阅读从美国二十世纪初出现的法律和制度排外主 义作品。本单位所读的小说涉及人口转变和寻求相关管理的问题。我们将继续探究科幻创 造新世界的方式并进一步思考科幻小说与讽刺描绘间的联系。 我们将在美国民权运动之后把注意力转向科幻小说。本课将研究这一时期小说产生 的后种族幻想和种族和睦。我们将特别留意科幻小说如何定位在心灵和/或身体中的种族 的民族差异。

课程以多元观点去从根本上区分科幻小说的品质。例如,印第安裔人民如何将本土 科学从“原始”知识和神话中解脱出来?是否会改变这一类型的范围?叙述者激进的性别差 异叙述是否会阻碍读者对可能世界的了解?我们不仅考虑到这些作品如何批判当代社会组 织,而且还考虑到如何重塑科幻文体去丰富社会想象力。本单元还将解决在文化差异的交 汇中产生的通用解释问题:并不是所有可以解释为科幻的文学都被以科幻小说为写作模版 。对于某些人来说这二者可能是一样的,而对于另一些人来说,它则可能代表着当代的现