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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: Contemporary Science Fiction (PG Version) (ENLI11233)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course focuses on contemporary literary science fiction and its representations and analyses of today's world. Although often setting its narratives in the future or an alternative reality, science fiction engages with contemporary pressures, problems and possibilities, extrapolating from the present to estrange and interrogate its ideas, beliefs and practices. This course introduces students to some of the most influential science fiction writing of the last thirty years, and encourages them to explore how it has depicted and explored the world we live in. Rather than focusing on the history and development of science fiction or attempting a complete survey of the current state of the field, this course will be idea-led: taking two or three key themes carefully specified at the beginning of the course (which might include such topics as identity, time, alterity, consciousness, the human, the posthuman, the alien, counter-factual history, virtual reality, simulation, etc.), it will ask students to discuss their presentation in contemporary science fiction. The literature will be read alongside arguments drawn from science, philosophy, politics and critical theory. Students will be encouraged to examine the way particular genres of science fiction (the short story or novel, 'hard' or 'soft' science fiction, cyberpunk and its cognate subgenres, space opera, utopian and dystopian fiction, etc.) find different means of depicting, exploring and putting into narrative the course's chosen themes. This course is taught jointly with undergraduate students.
Course description This course will allow students to examine the variety of ways in which science fiction literature explores contemporary ideas of who we are, how we engage in community, and how we respond to otherness. They will do so by reading and discussing some of the most influential and challenging science fiction texts of the last thirty years. These literary texts will be read in the light of critical and theoretical arguments as well as selected texts from philosophy, political theory, sociology and popular science writing. The ability to read literary and theoretical writing independently and with precision and confidence that students have gained from their prior study of English Literature will be essential for the successful completion of this course. Also, although not set as part of the course, students will have the opportunity to discuss other modes of science fiction (television, film, video games, etc.) in relation to the literature they are reading.
On the basis of students' preparatory reading, seminars will be used to discuss the literary, philosophical, psychological, social, cultural and political implications of different manners of writing science fiction. In order to fully prepare for these seminar discussions, students will be required to meet in advance in smaller 'autonomous learning groups' to produce material which will be presented to the class in a variety of forms (written reports posted to the course v.l.e., informal contributions to class discussion, or more formal verbal presentations during the seminar). Active preparation for and participation in class discussion is required, and will be assessed as a part of the student's overall performance on the course.
The structure of reading and analysis on the course is broadly comparative: students will be asked to explore the similarities and differences between the set texts, and examine the various types of analysis made possible by the critical and theoretical modes of reading to which they are introduced. The guided examination of the similarities and differences between the range of texts and approaches studied will help students to develop the analytical skills and knowledge that will be assessed in their essays.
The course is assessed by one essay, to be completed by week 12 of the course, and an assessment of students' participation in class and their autonomous learning groups. Written feedback will be provided on each element of assessment, and further oral follow-up feedback from the tutor will be available for anyone who would like it.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2017/18, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  3
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) 1 hour per week for Autonomous Learning
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 4,000 word essay (100%)
Feedback Students will receive detailed written feedback on their essay and their class participation. Optional follow-up sessions will be available for face-to-face consultation to help students understand the implications of this feedback, and to further explore ways in which future work might be enhanced.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Construct original, clear and coherent arguments about science fiction literature's depictions of contemporary ideas, institutions, practices and problems;
  2. Evaluate the ways in which different genres of science fiction writing make possible different modes of engagement with these;
  3. Analyse science fiction texts using recognised literary critical and critical theoretical methodologies to substantiate and illustrate those arguments;
  4. Extrapolate, evaluate and assess ideas from a range of non-literary sources in order to bring them to bear on their analyses of science fiction;
  5. Orally present the results of research undertaken individually and as part of a small group, respond judiciously to such research undertaken by others, and critically evaluate the importance of such material for an understanding of the chief themes of the course.
Reading List
Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake, London: Virago, 2003
Iain M. Banks, The Player of Games, London: Orbit, 1988
Octavia Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories, second edition, New York: Seven Stories, 2005
Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others, New York: Vintage, 2002
Greg Egan, Axiomatic, London: Orion, 1995
Ken MacLeod, The Execution Channel, London: Orbit, 2007
Linda Nagata, The Bohr Maker, Hawaii: Mythic Island Press, 1995
Hannu Rajaniemi, The Quantum Thief, London: Orion, 2010
Dan Simmons, Hyperion, London: Gollancz, 2011
Charles Stross, The Atrocity Archives, London: Orbit, 2013
Peter Watts, Blindsight, New York: Tor, 2006
Connie Willis, Time is the Fire: The Best of Connie Willis, London: Gollancz, 2013

Vincent B. Leitch, ed., The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2nd ed), New York and London: Norton, 2010
Neil Badmington, ed., Posthumanism, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000
Donna Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: the Reinvention of Nature, London: Routledge, 1991
N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999
Simon Malpas, ed., Postmodern Debates, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001

Lucie Armitt, ed., Where No Man Has Gone Before: Women and Science Fiction, London: Routledge, 1991
Brian Attebery, Decoding Gender in Science Fiction, London: Routledge, 2002
Margaret Atwood, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, London: Virago, 2011
M. Keith Booker and Anne-Marie Thomas, eds, The Science Fiction Handbook, Oxford: Blackwell, 2009
Mark Bould and China Miéville, eds, Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, Hanover, NH: Wesleyan UP, 2009
Mark Bould, et. al., eds, The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, Basingstoke: Routledge, 2009
Bukatman, Scott, Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction, Durham: Duke UP, 1993
Carl Freedman, Critical Theory and Science Fiction, Hanover, NH: Wesleyan UP, 2000
Chris Hables Gray, ed., The Cyborg Handbook, London: Routledge, 1995
David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, eds, The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF, New York: Tor, 1994
Donald M. Hassler and Clyde Wilcox, eds, Political Science Fiction, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997
Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003
Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions, London: Verso, 2005
Ursula Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women and Places, New York: Grove Press, 1989
Roger Luckhurst, Science Fiction, London: Polity, 2005
Andrew Milner, Locating Science Fiction, Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2012
Tom Moylan, Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000
Peter Nichols, ed., The Science in Science Fiction, London: Joseph, 1982
Peter Y. Paik, From Utopia to Apocalypse: Science Fiction and the Politics of Catastrophe, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010
Adam Roberts, Science Fiction, London: Routledge, 2006
Adam Roberts, The History of Science Fiction, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2005
Joanna Russ, To Write Like a Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction, Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995
Andy Sawyer and David Seed, eds, Speaking Science Fiction: Dialogues and Interviews, Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2000
David Seed, Science Fiction: a Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011
Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979
Darko Suvin, Defined by a Hollow: Essays on Utopia, Science Fiction and Political Epistemology, Frankfurt am Main and Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010
Gary Westfahl, Cosmic Engineers: A Study of Hard Science Fiction, Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996
Jenny Wolmark, Aliens and Others: Science Fiction, Feminism and Postmodernism, Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993
Jenny Wolmark, ed., Cybersexualities: A Reader on Feminist Theory, Cyborgs and Cyberspace, Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1999
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills As an outcome of having studied this course, students will benefit from having developed a range of personal and professional skills commensurate with the range of SCQF Level 11 characteristics:
Knowledge and understanding: students will have had the opportunity to demonstrate their critical understanding of a range of the principal theories and concepts of literary analysis in relation to their reading and discussion of the course material;
Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: in their work for class discussion, presentations and formal assessment tasks, students will have been able to practice the application of these theories and concepts in their construction of arguments about the course material;
Generic Cognitive Skills: in completing assessed essays and class presentations, students will have practised identifying, defining, conceptualising and analysing complex problems and issues germane to the discipline;
Communication: through participating in these tasks students will also have demonstrated the ability to communicate ideas and information about specialised topics in the discipline to an informed audience of their peers and subject specialists;
Autonomy and Working with Others: students will also have shown the capacity to work autonomously and in small groups on designated tasks, develop new thinking with their peers, and take responsibility for the reporting, analysis and defence of these ideas to a larger group.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Simon Malpas
Tel: (0131 6)50 3596
Course secretaryMiss Kara Mccormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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