This class uses science fiction to explore how we understand ourselves in a perpetually shifting present and to look closely at how and why we cast ourselves into the future, into alternative contemporary realities, into variations on being. These conjurings suggest vastly different possibilities of what it means to be human — indeed, what it means to be sentient.
If the genre once suffered from a certain lack of respect when compared to “proper” literary forms, it has always enjoyed a devoted readership, and in recent years it has attracted serious attention from scholars in many disciplines. Using a combination of anthropological analysis and critical theory, we will study science fiction to consider the influences that inspired often radically inventive forms of liberation, repression, social organization, economic structure, linguistic variation, gender norms, political arrangement, and configurations of self, both human and otherwise. This, in turn, illuminates assumptions that marked some of the larger cultural contexts in which these texts were created while illustrating changes in specific manifestations of the imaginary.
The semester starts with history and definitions, explores in depth a particularly well-known classic, and consider culturally significant iterations of science fiction by focusing on distinct but overlapping themes.
In a sense, our work is designed to answer, in as many ways as possible, one simple question: what is the purpose of science fiction?