WHOSE SCIENCE, WHOSE FICTION? EXPLORING AMERICA'S SCIENTIFIC IMAGINATION

SPRING 2019

SYLLABUS

Monday 4:00-6:00PM SEE CALENDAR!!
100 Hildebrand Library

Course Description
What do we learn about ourselves, our society, and the natural world through science fiction? Discover with Professor Reimer how space exploration and technological innovation in the mid-twentieth century spawned an explosion of books, movies and television that revealed much about the US psyche. Technological triumphalism, cultural hegemony, libertarian politics, the nature of God, sexual identity, and "war as a force that gives us meaning" are just a few of the topics that will reveal themselves in our readings and seminar time together. 

Course context

We will meet on several Mondays throughout the term where there will be two hours viewing and discussion of previously assigned readings and/or viewing of films and television shows. Prof. Reimer will lead discussions and students will be expected to bring epiphanies, extensions, and/or questions about the readings and viewings. The matrix below introduces the themes and readings. For some of these themes students will be expected to identify texts and suggested excerpts for the class to discuss. P/NP grades are based upon class participation and a final essay.

WARNING: Some of the course content contains scenes of graphic violence, sexuality, and explicit language (think rated “R”) that might make some uncomfortable. Please let Prof. Reimer know of your concerns.

Tentative Schedule (subject to change)…

Session 1, What is SciFi? January 28: Ursula Le Guin’s definition, and “The Inner Light,” STNG. An exploration of the greater speculative fiction genre, and a focus on how to define “SciFi”

Session 2, clones #1, February 4: “Moon,” 2009 film directed by Duncan Jones. We explore the emotional connection between clones, and the prevalence of clones as tools of techno-capitalism.

Session 3, clones #2, February 25: Reading “Nine Lives” by Ursula K. LeGuin and watching Season 1, Episode 3 of “Orphan Black.” Further explorations of de-humanizing, or not, clones.

Session 4, war #1, March 4: Explore Chris Hedge’s book, “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.” We watch “Safe,” Season 2, from the television series “The Expanse,” and further explore Hedge’s themes about war.  What are some of your favorites Sci-Fi war themed movies? “War of the Worlds” (1953 and 2005), “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Independence Day,” “Starship Troopers” (though the book is better!), “Planet of the Apes” (w/ Charlton Heston).

Session 5, war #2, March 11: Two episodes from STOS: “Balance of Terror” and “A Taste of Armageddon;” both of these are from Season 1 of this iconic series broadcast in winter of 1966-67. Themes of bigotry and “collateral damage” perfuse these episodes and provide a sobering backdrop to “a force that gives us meaning.”

Session 6, politics #1 March 18: Chapter 5 from “Caliban’s War,” Book 2 from the Expanse James. S. A. Corey; excerpts from Season 2 of “The Expanse.” Politics as relationships. “Colonial Day,” Battlestar Galactica Season 1, Episode 11 March 18, 2005. Politics as power. 

Session 7, politics #2 April 1: “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” 1951. Cold war politics, Klaatu barada nikto.

Session 8, language #1 April 15: “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness – Part One- what if men broadcast their thoughts so all could hear them..but women did not broadcast? Young adult fiction as sci fi! And “Darmok,” STNG’s (Season 5, episode 3, September 1991) poignant essay on the metaphor in language.

Session 9, language #2 April 22: “Arrival,” Denis Villeneuve, Dir, 2016, part one. Linguistic relativity, Dr. Louise Banks, and the heptapods.

Session 10, time travel April 29: “Arrival,” Denis Villeneuve, Dir, 2016, part two. How writers and time travel mess with the reader/viewer. Dr. Who, “Blink,” Season 3, Episode 11, June 2007. Perhaps the best Dr. Who episode ever.

STNG = Star Trek Next Generation

STOS = Star Trek Original Series

BSG = Battlestar Galactica 2004 TV Series