Sharon E. Crowley
B CUSP 117
Examines an important social issue such as ecology, art, political change, the power of media, educational reform, or the role of science in contemporary culture through interdisciplinary investigation and the lens of the visual, literary, and performing arts. Offered: W.
Science Fiction (SF) has long served as a medium for imagining alternative worlds that invite us to think critically about our own, real world, and how we come to “know” it. This course will proceed along two parallel tracks. Firstly, students will get to know the SF genre directly by reading and viewing, in pairs, both printed SF texts and the films based upon them. Secondly, interspersed alongside those texts, we will read popular and scholarly writing about the distinctive characteristics of SF (as opposed to other kinds of literature) and how it works both as cultural critique, and as a “thought experiment” for how we produce knowledge. Taken as a whole, the course invites students to explore the relationship between this popular cultural form, which is mainly consumed as entertainment, and the philosophical and political issues that it engages with. The course will be organized around side-by-side pairings of printed texts with their film adaptations, in order to spark discussion about how the different forms of representation affect the reader/viewer’s experience of the material. Possible text-film pairings include Frankenstein (including scenes from both the 1931 and 1994 film versions); A Scanner Darkly; and V for Vendetta (here, the print text is a graphic novel), though others may end up on the syllabus instead. Critical texts will engage ongoing debates about the SF genre, film studies, and the tension between popular vs. academic SF studies.
Student learning goals
Students will learn the basics of literary and film analysis, with a specific focus on the complexities of adapting printed texts to other mediums of representation.
Students will learn the issues and stakes involved in ongoing debates about SF as a genre, and the discourses about it in both popular and academic contexts.
Students will develop and write up a research project of their own, thereby learning how to navigate the various resources available for university-level research work.
General method of instruction
Some lecture, seminar-style discussions, small group work, in-class writing exercises, and guided library research work.
A DC-I course. Some prior college composition instruction would be helpful but not necessary.
Class assignments and grading
Ongoing close-reading, research, and reflection journal writing; class discussion leadership; a short paper for each unit; and a final written creative project with explanatory paper.
A combination of graded written work (weighted at 75-80%) and class participation/leadership (weighted at 20-25%).