Undergraduate Course: Reading Science Fiction (ENLI10391)
|School||School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This course focuses on narrative science fiction, allowing students to explore the ways in which texts construct stories, present and explore ideas, and engage with today's world. An influential critical definition of science fiction is that it is the literature of 'cognitive estrangement': that it de-familiarises the world by presenting alternate realities that are conceptually explored so as to raise questions about consensus views of reality, technology, consciousness, identity and politics. This course introduces students to some of the most influential science fiction writing of the last hundred and fifty years, and encourages them to explore the narrative techniques it employs to depict and explore both alternative worlds and the world we live in. Rather than offering a complete survey of the history of the genre, this course will be analysis-focused and concept-led: taking two or three key themes clearly specified at the beginning of the course (which might include such topics as identity, time, consciousness, the human and the alien, counter-factual history, evolution and the politics of ecology, reality and representation, gender, race, sex, etc.), it will ask students to discuss the forms of presentation used to explore them in a range of science fiction narratives.
This course asks students to examine the variety of ways in which science fiction narrative constructs, presents and explores 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 hundred and fifty years. The focus will be on narrative analysis and narratology: carefully examining the techniques used to depict the worlds, characters and events will allow students to develop the skills in close reading that are essential to literary criticism generally. Through detailed analyses of the set literature, discussions will work outwards from the texts towards investigations of the ways important social and political ideas are presented. Students will explore the ways in which 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.
On the basis of students' preparatory reading, seminars will be used to examine the texts carefully and examine the ways in which they present the course's key themes. The seminars will be discussion-based, focusing on sharing arguments, constructing presentations and engaging in debates about 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 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 two essays, one to be completed by Week 9 of the course and one to be written during the exam period, and an assessment of students' participation in class and their autonomous learning groups. Detailed 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)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|Pre-requisites||A MINIMUM of 4 college/university level literature courses at grade B or above (should include no more than one introductory level literature course). Related courses such as cross disciplinary, "Freshman Seminars", civilisation or creative writing classes are not considered for admission to this course.
Applicants should also note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission. In making admissions decisions preference will be given to students who achieve above the minimum requirement with the typical visiting student admitted to this course having four or more literature classes at grade A.
** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Other Study Hours 10,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Additional Information (Learning and Teaching)
1 hour per week autonomous learning group.
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
2500 word coursework essay (40%) submitted mid-semester
+ 3000 word final essay submitted at end of semester / in exam period (60%).
OR: Alternative model: alternative coursework assessment (40%)
+ 3000 word final essay submitted at end of semester / in exam period (60%)
||Detailed 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.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Construct original, clear and coherent arguments about the narrative techniques science-fiction literature employs to construct its stories
- Evaluate the ways in which those stories present and explore scientific, political, social and philosophical problems and ideas
- Analyse science fiction texts using recognised literary critical and critical theoretical methodologies to substantiate and illustrate those arguments
- Assess ideas from a range of literary-critical sources in order to bring them to bear on their analyses of science fiction
- 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.
H.G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau, London: Collins, 2017
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, London: Vintage, 2004
Arthur C. Clark, Childhood's End, London: Pan, 2017
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale, London: Vintage, 1998
Samuel Delany, Dhalgren, London: Gollancz, 2010
Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness, Gollancz, 2017
Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly, London: Gollancz, 1999
William Gibson, Neuromancer, London: Gollancz, 2016
Octavia Butler, Lilith's Brood, London: Warner, 2000
Greg Egan, Axiomatic, London: Orion, 1995*
James Tiptree, jr., Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, Gollancz, 2014*
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
Bal, Mieke, Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative, Abingdon: Routledge, 1997
M. Keith Booker and Anne-Marie Thomas, eds, The Science Fiction Handbook, Oxford: Blackwell, 2009
Booth, Wayne C., The Rhetoric of Fiction, University of Chicago Press, 1961
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
Genette, Gérard, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983
Chris Hables Gray, ed., The Cyborg Handbook, London: Routledge, 1995
Donna Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: the Reinvention of Nature, London: Routledge, 1991
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
N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999
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
Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics Abingdon: Routledge, 2002 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
|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 10 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 practiced 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.
|Additional Class Delivery Information
||Two-hour seminar per week for 10 weeks;
plus one hour per week for 10 weeks Autonomous Learning Group - at times to be arranged
|Course organiser||Dr Simon Malpas
Tel: (0131 6)50 3596
|Course secretary||Ms Sheila Strathdee
Tel: (0131 6)50 3619