Courses

The UF courses listed below, taught by SFWG members, include substantial science fiction, fantasy, or utopian literary content.

 Fall 2017 | Spring 2017 | Fall 2016 | Spring 2016 |  Fall 2015


Fall 2017

Undergraduate Courses

CLA 3939. Jennifer Rea (Dept. of Classics), “Classics and Fantasy”

Why did the Greek philosopher Plato believe that fantasy could teach us nothing useful about ourselves? Why does Aristotle have problems with literature which describes the impossible? What can we learn about fantasy from the Roman author Vergil?

This course will examine the origins of science fiction and fantasy in Greco-Roman literature and how our popular media either challenges or reinforces our modern perceptions of ancient Greece and Rome. How does the sci-fi novel Hunted allude to an ancient Greek story about war and transform it into a contemporary social commentary about the effects of war on society? What can the ancients’ views on the soul teach us about Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Through an investigation of the ancients’ hopes and fears for the future, we will explore what makes re-imagining the values and politics of ancient Greece and Rome so appealing in our modern fantasy and science fiction literature and popular media.

Readings will include works from classical antiquity as well as modern science fiction and fantasy texts inspired by Greco-Roman antiquity. There will also be some viewing of excerpts from modern science fiction and fantasy films. Students are expected to be engaged in class discussions and to have read the required texts before coming to class. Course evaluation will include in-class writing and exams.

ENG 4133. Dragan Kujundzic (Center for Jewish Studies), “Vampire Cinema” (cross-listed with JST 4936 and JST 4905)

Vampires, werewolves, ghosts and apparitions from Bram Stoker, to Francis Ford Coppola and Anne Rice. The course will address issues of vampire and vEmpire (the imperial politics behind vampirism), vampirism and psychoanalysis, vampirism and modernism, vampirism and cinema, queer, gay and lesbian vampires, vampires of East and Central Europe, vampirism and anti-Semitism, vampirism and religion, vampirism and nationalism, etc.

The course will discuss the figure of the vampire in cinema and literature (Bram Stoker’s Dracula will be read or screened and analyzed, among others; particular attention will be given to the novel as a proto-cinematic medium), as well as the rendering of the vampire in cinema (from Murnau’s  Nosferatu, to Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Slayers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and  Twilight among others). The course will introduce students to the classics of vampire cinema as well as to the contemporary production in the genre of vampire films, television series, etc.

There will be a collective work (30% of the grade), one final paper (50%) (the final paper may be multiple choice test in the classroom or take home, TBA), and participation and attendance will count for 20% of the grade.

LIT 2120. Jaquelin Elliott (Dept. of English), “Survey of World Literature, 17th Century to Modern: The Marvelous and Fantastic”

For as long as people have told tales of magic, mystery, and the supernatural, they have blurred the line between fantasy and reality. The marvelous, fantastic, and uncanny each toy with that line, while genres like magical realism and urban fantasy have become, and remain, pre-eminently popular. But how do we account for the centuries-old popularity of the fantastic? The marvelous? The uncanny? The Gothic? Why have we always been drawn to the Gods and monsters of Shakespeare, of myth, of fairy tales? Why do we remain in thrall to Faustian bargains and ghost stories?

This course will interrogate these questions by examining the philosophical, theological, social, and political undercurrents that has drawn magic and “unreality” into and out of the lives and stories of people from all around the world. From the witchcraft of Shakespeare to Victorian horrors, from mid-century magical realism to present-day urban fantasy, our journey into the fantastic will take us to every corner of the map: Revolutionary-era France and Soviet Russia, where the devil comes out to dance; kaidan-haunted Japan, the Gothic American South, and war-torn Spain where the ghosts of the wronged seek revenge; Jamaica, where magic hangs in the humid air like hibiscus perfume and Latin America where it is baked into the very bricks of the streets; Nigeria, where the spirits of children torment the living and Ghana where Anansi the spider-god weaves his web; and, of course, the United Kingdom, where an evening stroll might put you face-to-face with witches, ghosts, and fae folk.

This course will examine the prevalence and cultural work of the marvelous and fantastic in world literature and how/why so many writers and film makers have chosen the strange, “unreal,” and supernatural as an outlet for expressions of political anxiety, wonder, pleasure, existentialism, horror, cathartic revenge, and much more. By the end of this course, students will arrive at a better understanding and appreciation of the social functions of fantasy and magic in fiction by engaging with texts from around the world.

LIT 3400. Terry Harpold (Dept. of English), “Climate Fiction”

As we move into an era of greater climate instability, climate science will shape how we imagine the collective futures of humans and other living creatures of the Earth. In this course we will investigate a vital contribution of the humanities to our understanding of the significance of climate change. We will read a wide range of climate-related texts, mostly from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and mostly in the emerging genre of climate fiction: stories that are grounded in realities of global climate crisis, mass extinction, climate-induced migration, and economic collapse: a world in which former habits of mind and body are incompatible with situations on the ground, in the air, and under the water. The diverse authors whose works we will study show that creating new habits is difficult and perilous; it is easier to find fear, cynicism, and despair – none of which responses, it is clear, is up to the challenges of the real futures that approach us.

Much of what we will read is, implicitly and explicitly, an indictment of the blind hubris, cruel appetite, and reckless improvidence that have pushed us all toward terrible ends. This course proposes that the literary imagination of climate, haunted by the losses and negations of crisis, may also point in the direction of a new ethic of climate that embraces critical reflection, shared responsibility, and hopeful resolve.

Graded writing requirements for this course include a flash fiction exercise, a take-home midterm exam, and a take-home final exam.

POW 4930/6930. M. Elizabeth Ginway (Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese Studies), “Brazilian Science Fiction”

Science fiction, because of its speculative potential and connections to science and technology, constitutes a unique vehicle for understanding the cultural impact of modernization in Brazil. Since industrialization is intimately tied to the military dictatorship (1964–85), its policies and authoritarian development, the course will focus principally on the science fiction written before, during and after the regime. We will examine issues of race, gender, politics and climate change in traditional alien and robot stories and in various subgenres, including cyberpunk, alternate histories and steampunk. Graduate students in the class will also be required to read critical and theoretical texts about genre of science fiction. Among the issues to be addressed are: How can we define science fiction? Is science fiction different in Brazil and Latin America? Why are anthologies of short fiction so popular in Brazil? What are the predominant issues and characteristics of BSF? Can we read traditional or canonical stories through the lens of science fiction? How are Brazilian SF films different from those in the U.S.? How does Brazilian science fiction fit into the global genre of SF?. This course will be taught in Portuguese.

Graduate Courses

LIT 6934. Terry Harpold (Dept. of English), “Climate Fiction”

As we move into an era of greater climate instability, climate science will shape how we imagine the collective futures of humans and other living creatures of the Earth. In this course we will investigate a vital contribution of the humanities to our understanding of the significance of climate change. We will read a wide range of climate-related texts, mostly from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and mostly in the emerging genre of climate fiction: stories that are grounded in realities of global climate crisis, mass extinction, climate-induced migration, and economic collapse: a world in which former habits of mind and body are incompatible with situations on the ground, in the air, and under the water. The diverse authors whose works we will study show that creating new habits is difficult and perilous; it is easier to find fear, cynicism, and despair – none of which responses, it is clear, is up to the challenges of the real futures that approach us.

Much of what we will read is, implicitly and explicitly, an indictment of the blind hubris, cruel appetite, and reckless improvidence that have pushed us all toward terrible ends. This course proposes that the literary imagination of climate, haunted by the losses and negations of crisis, may also point in the direction of a new ethic of climate that embraces critical reflection, shared responsibility, and hopeful resolve.

Graded writing requirements for this course include periodic participation in seeded class discussions and a final research paper.


Spring 2017

Undergraduate Courses

AML 2410. Chesya Burke (Dept. of English), “Mine of Our Mind: Black Women’s Speculative Fiction”

This course will interrogate the speculative fiction genre though the lens of black women writers. It offers a foray into key debates that surround contemporary genre fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) written by black women. We will also examine the concept of speculative fiction itself, attempting to define it within the black feminist literary aesthetic. We will seek to answer these questions: Do Black Women Spec Fic Writers stay true to the basic concepts and ideas of speculative fiction? How do they push the boundaries? Texts will include Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring, and the lyrics and artistic short film (music video) of Archandroid by Janelle Monae.

AML 2410. Rebecca McNulty (Dept. of English), “Cyberpunk, Post-Cyberpunk, and Technical Revolution”

This course will examine the genre of cyberpunk: alternate futures where corporations and technology contribute to breakdowns in social order. In addition, the course will account for the ways cyberpunk (and post-cyberpunk) futures speak not only about (im)possible futures, but also about the contemporary American moment(s) that engendered these visions. We will also take up the issue that James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel raise in Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology: what if “emerging technologies will change what it means to be human”? This course will explore how technology and corporations influence literature, politics, and the calculus of what it means to be a contemporary American. Readings will include William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Pat Cadigan’s Mindplayers, and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. We will also examine critical articles, current events, social media, video games, and recent technological innovations to consider what the genres of cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk say about multiple facets of the contemporary American identity.

ENC 1145. Heather Hannaford (Dept. of English), “The Paranormal and the Academy”

The prevalence of movies and television shows such as Paranormal Activity and Ghost Hunters points to our cultural moment’s increased attention to the paranormal. This course will explore how multiple academic disciplines interpret and analyze what we term the “paranormal.” We will also focus on writing in different disciplines, drawing on the Bedford/St. Martin’s Guide to Genres. How do we engage with the paranormal in multiple academic genres? First investigating ghosts in literature, we will uncover and analyze the meanings that writers and scholars attribute to the supernatural in fiction. Next, we assess how the social science fields view the paranormal by looking at studies from psychology and sociology. Finally, we will address how key scientific fields explain the supernatural. Students will build a comprehensive understanding of how the paranormal signifies in modern and contemporary culture.

ENG 1131. Jaquelin Elliott (Dept. of English), “Metamorphosis”

From Ovidian nightmares and animal husband tales to Victorian Gothic and MTV’s Teen Wolf, cultures across the globe have demonstrated a millennia-old preoccupation with metamorphosis, hybridity, and shapeshifting. A being that can move between worlds, identities, values, and physical bodies, the shapeshifter presents a perfect metaphor for our times – transgressing and blurring the boundaries between good and evil, human and animal, male and female, concrete and abstract, and high and low culture. In this course, students will engage with cultural studies, fandom studies, queer theory, and adaptation/remix theory through close readings of metamorphosis texts from different genres, mediums, and historical periods. These texts not only place metamorphosis at the center of their narratives, but also incarnate transformation in some way: whether they changed literary forms (Apuleius’ The Golden Ass), offer radical retellings (Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber), inspire transformative fan practice (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), or experiment with medium (Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth, hit podcast Welcome to Night Vale).

Writing assignments in this course will be experimental and creative and will require students to engage with a number of digital platforms and methods of production, including a reflective tumblr blog and a film review. The final project invites students to produce a short transformative adaptation/retelling in a creative medium of their choice, accompanied by an explanatory essay.


Fall 2016

Undergraduate Courses

AML 2070. Jaquelin Elliott (Dept. of English), “Gothic America”

In his essay “Invention of the American Gothic,” scholar Leslie Fiedler described American Gothic as “a pathological symptom rather than a proper literary movement.” It is a fair comment, as Gothicism is not only threaded throughout multiple genres and modes of American media, but is, in fact, deeply embedded within the American Canon, having played an integral role in the rise of American literature. But if American Gothic is a symptom, then what is the illness that it belies?

This course will examine the prevalence and cultural work of American Gothic fiction and how/why so many American authors have chosen the genre as an outlet for expressions of anxiety, outrage, and suffering in a country ostensibly built upon the ideals of optimism and equality. This course will unveil and interrogate the ghosts that haunt the American consciousness from the awe and terror of the wilderness to the specter of slavery to the darker aspects of the American Dream.

CLA 3930. Jennifer A. Rea (Dept. of Classics), “Heroes, Gods, and Monsters”

What kinds of monsters did the ancient Greeks and Romans imagine and why? What can monsters tell us about what is taboo in our own modern society and within the ancient Greek or Roman world? Who gets to define what is monstrous in a society and does the monster always escape at the end of the story?

This course will examine the origins of monsters in Greco-Roman literature and how our popular media either challenges or reinforces the stereotypes of the ancient world. Does Xander in Buffy the Vampire Slayer resemble an ancient Roman hero when he battles monsters? How does Snowpiercer take an ancient Roman myth about the gods and transform it into a contemporary social commentary on heroes, war and the environment? Through an investigation of the ancients’ hopes and fears for the future, we will explore what makes re-imagining the monsters, heroes and gods of ancient Greece and Rome so appealing in our modern fantasy and science fiction literature and popular media.

Readings will include works from classical antiquity. There will also be some viewing of excerpts from modern science fiction and fantasy films. Students are expected to be engaged in class discussions and to have read the required texts before coming to class. Course evaluation will include in-class writing and exams.

ENC 1145. Spencer Chalifour (Dept. of English), “Writing About Weird Fiction”

In his essay “Supernatural Horror in Fiction,” H.P. Lovecraft defines the weird tale as having to incorporate “a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.”

This course will focus on “weird fiction,” a genre originating in the late 19th century and containing elements of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and the macabre. In our examination of weird authors spanning its history, we will attempt to discover what differentiates weird fiction from similar genres and will use several theoretical and historical lenses to examine questions regarding what constitutes “The Weird.” What was the cultural and historical context for the inception of weird fiction? Why did British weird authors receive greater literary recognition than their American counterparts? Why since the 1980s are we experiencing a resurgence of weird fiction through the New Weird movement, and how do these authors continue the themes of their predecessors into the 21st century?

Readings for this class will span from early authors who had a strong influence over later weird writers (like E.T.A. Hoffman and Robert Chambers) to the weird writers of the early 20th century (like Lovecraft, Robert Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, Lord Dunsany, and Algernon Blackwood) to New Weird authors (including China Miéville, Thomas Ligotti, and Laird Barron). We will also examine theorists and historians who have analyzed the genre, such as S.T. Joshi and Jeff and Ann VanderMeer (whose anthology The Weird will be a primary text for the class) and how the weird has manifested in other pop cultural texts, such as the HBO TV series True Detective.

ENC 1145. Jill Coste (Dept. of English), “Writing About Adolescence and the Apocalypse”

Adolescence is a potent time of transformation, both physically and mentally. From identity formation to shifting allegiances, the remarkable changes that an adolescent goes through are ripe for exploration in literature, particularly when the adolescent experience is paired with an apocalyptic landscape. Dystopian young adult fiction has exploded in popularity in the last decade, but the post-apocalyptic adolescent protagonist is far from a new phenomenon. Long before The Hunger Games came The Chrysalids (1955), Logan’s Run (1967), and Battle Royale (1999), among others. This course will look at the history and the present of the adolescent and the apocalypse, tracing the context of cultural anxieties and the changing conception of the teenager.

Through the readings, students will interrogate the partnership of adolescence and the apocalypse and reflect on what it means to come of age at the end of the world. Why is the teenager such a common protagonist for the dystopian or post-apocalyptic narrative? What does the adolescent perspective add to the social critique that appears in these novels? How does a post-apocalyptic backdrop inform and complicate the space of adolescence? By discussing these questions and their possible answers, we will engage in a critical conversation about the role of adolescence and the apocalypse in our culture and others. Through our reading, we will encounter different inciting disasters, from nuclear holocaust to sweeping viruses to climate change, and we will examine how the experience of the adolescent protagonist varies through the different narrative milieus.

ENC 1145. Madeline Gangnes (Dept. of English), “Writing About Late-Victorian Serialized Fiction and Periodicals”

The popular conception of a novel today is a book bound in one self-contained volume. However, many of the major canonical British texts from the early nineteenth century were published in three volumes, and by the middle and latter part of the 1800s, novels by authors such as Charles Dickens and H. G. Wells were not published as collected volumes until after they had been serialized over the course of several months or longer. Serialization is responsible for many Western storytelling conventions: cliffhangers at the end of chapters or sections in a book, for example, or shorter narratives that are part of a series, such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Today, we no longer read these texts in a format that resembles their original publication. In this course, we will read a selection of Victorian novels, series, short stories, and other texts that were first published in British periodicals in the late 1800s. We will also examine illustrations, cartoons, advertisements, and other materials that were printed alongside these texts in an effort to re-contextualize them. When possible, we will read the texts in facsimile editions or scans of the periodicals so that we may experience their original format as a Victorian reader would have done.

ENC 1145. Karina A. Vado (Dept. of English), “Writing About Visionary Feminist Fiction”

“Visionary fiction,” adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha write in Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, “is a term we developed to distinguish science fiction that has relevance toward building new, freer worlds from the mainstream strain of science fiction, which most often reinforces dominant narratives of power. Visionary fiction encompasses all of the fantastic, with the arc always bending toward justice” (4). Visionary fiction can thus be understood as an umbrella term that incorporates science fiction, utopias/dystopias, horror, magical realism, and fantasy works that not only address theories of power/power relations along the fault lines of class, (dis)ability, gender, race, and sexuality, but also engage the fantastical to imagine alternatives to our current dystopian conditions.

In this course, we will look at the visionary fictions produced by U.S. feminist women writers such as James Tiptree Jr., Jewelle Gomez, Octavia Butler, and Ursula K. Le Guin, and examine how these writers’ feminist politics, and social justice orientations inform their alternative vistas of the future. We will then attempt to answer the following questions: What makes these texts feminist? How is the fantastical or the spectacular (re)appropriated by these writers to critique—and look beyond— “real world” systems of oppression? Lastly, what (if any) is the political import of visionary feminist fiction?

To help us answer these questions, we will critically analyze the assigned texts (and their respective authors) in relation to the various sociopolitical and historical moments that these were being animated by, written in, and/or responding to (for instance, the U.S. eugenics movement, the suffragette movement, the 1960s feminist movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement, etc.). As such, we’ll be reading these novels/short stories chronologically. We will thus start with Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s feminist utopian text, Herland (1910), and we’ll end the course with Sabrina Vourvoulias’ immigration-based critical dystopian novel, Ink (2010). In reading these texts chronologically, we will trace the development, evolution, and transformation of visionary feminist fiction.

Graduate Courses

LIT 6934. Sid Dobrin (Dept. of English), “Writing/Memory; Augmentation/Prosthetic”

Early rhetoricians placed substantial value upon the idea and practice of memory. Memoria, after all, was one of the five canons of rhetoric. As writing technologies evolved, rhetoric was repeatedly adapted to account for literacy in the same ways as orality. As written and print culture became the dominant form of communication, memoria began to fall by the wayside as an emphasized element of rhetoric, some criticizing writing as technology determined to eliminate the need for memory, others praising its contributions to sustained memory. In the digital age, we find ourselves needing to engage memory more directly, albeit in a drastically different form, one that might reductively be understood as bound to augmentation.

This seminar will examine histories of memory and the relationship between writing technologies/digital technologies and memory. This seminar will consider the very idea of augmentation ranging from the prosthetic augmented body to information augmenting technologies like augmented reality applications. Encumbered in these discussions, we will address issues of identity, posthumanism, the body, digital media, circulation, delivery, telepresence, and extension.


Spring 2016

Undergraduate Courses

ENG 4936. Tace Hedrick (Dept. of English), “Honors Seminar: Science, Race, and Sexuality in Octavia Butler’s Speculative Fiction”

In this course we will examine the work of Octavia Butler, black feminist speculative fiction writer. Although few readers were aware of her until well into the 1990s, her work has garnered more and more attention for its examination of connections between “alien” otherness, theories of genetic interdependence, and race and sexuality. We will be reading her major works including the Xenogenesis trilogy. We will also be looking at her influences as well as what she herself had to say about racial and sexual politics in the United States.

ENL 2930. Terry Harpold (Dept. of English), “Climate Fiction”

“Modern science fiction is the only form of literature that consistently considers the nature of the changes that face us, the possible consequences, and the possible solutions.” – Isaac Asimov

As we move into an era of increased climate instability, scientific analysis of climate change is central to our understanding of physical systems of our planet and the impact of these systems on human life. Science fiction (sf), the distinctive literary form of our time, bridges elite and popular cultures and broadly engages enthusiasts and scholars alike in the work of imagining our possible futures. These areas of scientific, intellectual, and artistic inquiry – climate studies and sf – are converging in the new field of “climate fiction”: print and graphic fiction and film grounded in scientific realities of environmental change, and projecting the resulting transformations of our societies, politics, and cultures. In this course we will read major works in this emerging literary genre from the late 19th through the early 21st centuries.

ENL 2930 coincides with an international colloquium at UF on “Imagining Climate Change: Science and Fiction in Dialogue” (February 17–18, 2016). The instructor (Harpold) is one of the organizers of the colloquium, which is co-sponsored by The France-Florida Research Institute, The Center for African Studies, The Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, the Department of English, the Florida Climate Institute at the University of Florida, the Science Fiction Working Group, the UF Smathers Libraries, and the UF Water Institute. Colloquium events are made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States. See http://imagining-climate.clas.ufl.edu for a complete schedule of events.

This course is a humanities (H) subject area course in UF’s General Education Program and carries “Cluster A” credit toward UF’s Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability Studies.

IDH 3931. Andrew Gordon (Emeritus, Dept. of English), “American Science Fiction Literature and Film”

This course will survey the history of twentieth and twenty-first century American science fiction (sf) literature and film. We will consider sf as the literature of science, technology, and change, and as perhaps the most characteristic American literature since 1945, a genre affecting all areas of our popular culture. By the end of the course, you should understand the theory and methodologies which have been applied to the study of science fiction and be able to apply them yourself.

SPN 3930. Mary E. Ginway (Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese Studies), “Latin American Science Fiction and Film”

Latin American science fiction and film offers a distinct perspective on a genre associated with Hollywood blockbusters, high production value, heroic space operas and dazzling special effects. By viewing films and reading texts in Latin American science fiction, students will understand how filmmakers and writers transform SF narratives and use innovative film techniques in keeping with the region’s lower production values and different social reality and political concerns. The course will include films and short stories on similar science fiction themes. Students will learn to classify diverse types of science fiction and fantasy based on genre paradigms in order to analyze texts effectively, while also examining the key differences between the Anglo-American and Latin American perspectives. This course is taught in English.

Graduate Courses

LIT 6857. Phillip Wegner (Dept. of English), “Reading (and Watching) 1984: A Return to the Scene of the Postmodern”

The title for our seminar is taken from Michael North’s landmark study, Reading 1922: A Return to the Scene of the Modern (1999). North’s book offers an experiment in reading the extraordinary range of works released in the year 1922—including T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Claude McKay’s Harlem Shadows, Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, and James Joyce’s Ulysses—as “a limited test case in investigating the relationship between literary modernism and the public world of which it was a part.” In this seminar, we shall perform a similar experiment for the literary and cultural situation of postmodernism, taking as our focus works released in the banner year of 1984. That year saw not only the publication of such key theoretical statements as Fredric Jameson’s essay, “Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” the special Social Text double issue, “The 60s Without Apology,” the English translation of Jean François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, and the posthumous publication of the second and third volumes of Michel Foucault’s landmark Histoire de la sexualité, but also an extraordinary range of novels and films by established figures and the debut works of others who would become vitally important in the years to follow. The year 1984 also resonated in the larger cultural context in another way, as it was the setting of George Orwell’s great Cold War fantasy, Nineteen Eighty-four (1949). Many of the works released in that year also directly reference and respond to Orwell’s masterpiece, marking the distance of current realities from Orwell’s own. In the course of our seminar, we will explore as many of the key works of 1984 as time permits, including Jameson’s and Lyotard’s studies, The 60s without Apology, the three volumes of The History of Sexuality, and a number of the following: Don DeLillo’s White Noise, Martin Amis’s Money, Julian Barnes’s Flaubert’s Parrot, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School, Samuel Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Wild Shore, Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City, Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory, Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October, James Cameron’s TheTerminator, Brian De Palma’s Body Double, John Sayles’ The Brother from Another Planet, the Coen brothers’ Blood Simple, Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise, Michael Radford’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Ridley Scott’s Apple Macintosh commercial.

LIT 6934. Stephanie Smith (Dept. of English), “American Gothic(s): Ghosts, Monsters, and the Abhuman”

The trappings of Gothicism originated in Europe: the castle, the dungeon, hauntings and secret chambers being central features—in other words, the architecture that supposedly denotes civilization where dread and horror reign instead. In the United States, Gothicism is rooted in a different history: a Puritan religious and capitalist heritage in which xenophobia, racism, sexism, slavery, servitude, and genocide all had (have?) a place. The secret chambers of the castle became the cave in the wilderness, the hold of the boat, the slave-auction, places where exploitation and torture belied the rational Enlightenment theory upon which the nation was founded. This course will start with three intertwined, non-U.S. texts that present a kind of ur-text of the Gothic tradition: Jane Eyre, Rebecca and The Wide Sargasso Sea and then we will use various theories of the abject and the Gothic to examine several key texts in which the United States tradition began and continues into the 21st century; each text will feature a ghost, a monster, or some version of the abhuman. Texts may include: “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” short stories by Hawthorne, Melville and Poe; Moby-Dick, The Turn of the Screw, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, As I Lay Dying, Beloved.


Fall 2015

Undergraduate Courses

CLA 3930. Jennifer A. Rea (Dept. of Classics), “Classics and Fantasy”

Why did the Greek philosopher Plato believe that fantasy could teach us nothing useful about ourselves? Why does Aristotle have problems with literature which describes the impossible? What can we learn about the monstrous fantastic from the Roman poets Horace and Vergil?

This course will examine the origins of science fiction and fantasy in Greco-Roman literature and how our popular media either challenges or reinforces our modern perceptions of ancient Greece and Rome. Does Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer kill like an ancient Roman? How does The Hunger Games take an ancient Greek myth and transform it into a contemporary social commentary on children and war? Through an investigation of the ancients’ hopes and fears for the future, we will explore what makes re-imagining the values and politics of ancient Greece and Rome so appealing in our modern fantasy and science fiction literature and popular media.

Readings will include works from classical antiquity as well as modern science fiction and fantasy texts inspired by Greco-Roman antiquity. There will also be some viewing of excerpts from modern science fiction and fantasy films. Students are expected to be engaged in class discussions and to have read the required texts before coming to class. Course evaluation will include in-class writing and exams.

ENC 1145. Jaquelin Elliott (Dept. of English), “Writing About Children’s Horror

Many children and young adults are powerfully attracted to the strange, dark, and terrifying. The question—or questions, really—is why? Is it because the things that frighten us as children are taboo, and we seek out what is forbidden to us? Are these things forbidden because they excite young curiosities? Why might younger readers and viewers want to be afraid?

In this course, we will survey “scary” texts (fairy tales and short fiction, long fiction, films, etc.) created for children and young adults or often consumed by these audiences. Themes of the works we will examine may include trauma, abuse, death, abandonment, sexual endangerment, monstrosity, and loss of identity. We will engage with these texts and themes by way of multiple historical and critical lenses, so as to better understand the social functions of children’s literature and horror, as well as grapple with important literary problems such as audience reception, censorship, and the flexibility of genres.

Writing assignments will be experimental and creative and will require students to engage with a variety of digital platforms and methods of production. Assignments will include a reflective blog, a class wiki, a film review, short response papers, and a final research paper.

ENC 1145. Rebecca McNulty (Dept. of English), “Writing About Strangeness

In the introduction to Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, editors describe “slipstream, the genre that isn’t,” as “a canon [of] mist and wishful thinking” (vii). Slip-stream fantasy has long relied on the concept of “strangeness” to show the ways fantastic elements penetrate aspects of daily life. These strange slip-stream elements appear in all lengths of fiction, and each medium complicates the fantastic elements of what “strangeness” really means. In this course, we will engage with a variety of stories to create our own definitions of “strange” and “slip-stream” and attempt to understand why these categories have become so popular in contemporary fiction.

The course readings will examine the concept of “strangeness” through multiple contemporary short stories by writers from diverse backgrounds, including: selections from the anthology Feeling Very Strange, the collection Stranger Things Happen, and the magazine Strange Horizons.

To explore how authors use the longer novel format to expand upon and complicate the definition of “strange,” we will consider Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Strange Pilgrims and Leslye Walton’s The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. The course will also examine the history of “strangeness” in Robert Lewis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Assignments will include (but will not be limited to) reading response papers, an in-class presentation on the story of a student’s choice, and a series of academic essays, culminating in a final research paper. Students will also be expected to participate in daily discussions and in-class workshops.

LIT 3113. Shaun Duke (Dept. of English), “American Space Opera: The Roots and Political Blowback

Coined by Wilson Tucker in 1941 as a pejorative, the science fiction subgenre of “space opera” has become a staple of science fiction narrative, most popularly envisioned in film by the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises. But far from mere visual spectacle or adventure, space opera’s history suggests a complicated relationship between the subgenre and the contemporary culture in which it is written. From its roots in the often paranoid and sometimes blatantly racist narratives (e.g., “Yellow Peril” stories) of what I.F. Clarke calls “future war fiction,” to its development as a legitimate subgenre in the pulps and the Golden Age via writers such as E.E. “Doc” Smith and Alfred Bester, space opera has always been in conversation with its time. It reinforces contemporary values or, as science fiction is apt to do, it critiques or deconstructs those values.

This course will explore the development of American space opera from its literary origins in late 19th-century “future war fiction” and the “Edisonades” to its codification as a subgenre in the pulps via writers such as Edmond Hamilton and E.E. “Doc” Smith. From there, the course will trace the legitimization of space opera as a subgenre in the Golden Age and the political blowbacks to its imperialistic and/or “conservative” themes or narrative tropes in the New Wave (Samuel R. Delany, et. al.) and New Space Opera periods (Tobias Buckell, C.J. Cherryh, et al.).

Readings will consist of serialized fiction, novels, and critical readings on science fiction, history, or relevant literary or cultural theory. Students will be expected to keep up with the readings and to regularly participate in class discussion. Written course requirements will include two short essays, a group discussion panel, weekly discussion questions, and one final essay.

LIT 4188. Philip Wegner (Dept. of English), “Literary and/as Science Fiction

In this course, we will explore the increasingly prominent place of science fiction within the global English language literary output of the early twenty first century. For many years, there was an implicit divide between what was understood by many critics and readers to be “serious” literature and genre fiction, including science fiction. However, a growing number of the most prominent younger authors of the last two decades or so have drawn more and more upon the figures, tropes, and devices of science fiction, and some have even produced works that would be identified as science fiction. At the same time, established writers previously enjoyed only by fans of science fiction have garnered wider and more diverse audiences as their work begins to move into new territories. The result has been a tremendous revitalization of contemporary world English language literature as it has been able to respond in ever more productive ways to the rapidly changing realities of our increasingly planetary lives. Our readings will be drawn from a diverse range of national traditions, including the US, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, and the Caribbean, and will include many of the following: Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Krake; Kevin Barry, City of Bohane; Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others; Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; William Gibson, Zero History; Joe Haldeman, Camouflage; Nalo Hopkinson, The Salt Roads; Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go; Ursula K. Le Guin, The Other Wind; Karen Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds; Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven; Cormac McCarthy, The Road; David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas; Kim Stanley Robinson, 2312; China Miéville, The City and the City; Colson Whitehead, Zone One; and Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.