Office hours: Tuesday/Thursday 1-2 and by appointment
Much like the epic poems of the Greeks and Romans, the plays of Shakespeare, the epistolary fiction of the eighteenth century, and the Gothic novel, contemporary science fiction and fantasy novels have become a well-established part of the university canon. Through their entrenchment in the halls of academe, these so-called classic sci-fi/fantasy authors, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, L. Frank Baum, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Madeleine L'Engle, have lost their outsider status and have, ironically, become as much a part of the problem as Faulkner, Hemingway, Melville, Milton, and the rest of the dead white males who formerly held sway over the canon.
This course is founded upon the principle that to replace one canon with another simply serves to perpetuate the false dichotomy of high and low art, and that no distinction should be made between "literary" versus "pulp" science fiction and fantasy. To this end, we will eschew the canonized authors of the sci-fi/fantasy realm and delve instead into popular but overlooked books, those which have been dismissed by critics as poorly written genre novels, sold for a quarter in the grocery store, and otherwise marginalized. Through their daring exploration of such topics as interspecies sex, robots turned bad, magical unicorns, giant killer insects, and the heightened attractiveness of young female scientists when stranded on faraway planets, these books present the ultimate challenge to our notions of right and wrong, good and bad, and our place in the universe.
The mid-term and final papers will each consist of a free-form analysis of one or more texts we have read. In the spirit of the writers we will be reading, revision of these essays is not required and is, in fact, discouraged. While the strictures of academia normally require that students carefully draft and revise their writings, the authors we will be reading this semester demonstrate that no revision is needed in order to craft a piece of writing that is gripping, powerful, action-packed, and ultimately, profoundly moving. I encourage you to adopt the same tactics in writing your two essays for this class.
Weekly "Choose Your Own Adventure" papers 25%
Mid-term paper 25%
Final paper 25%
Model airplane, homemade robot, or chain mail vest 10%
Class participation 15%