English 243/951: Science Fiction and Fantasy (Summer 2019)

UBC Summer 2019 Term 2 (July-August); MW 6-9 p.m. Buchanan D316

Dr. Gisèle M. Baxter

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The Posthuman Prometheus: Frankenstein’s Legacy in the Artificial Humans of Speculative Fiction

“Have you ever retired a human by mistake?” – Rachael to Deckard, Blade Runner

The near-future or alternate-reality landscapes of literary and popular culture are often terrifying places, and have been since Gothic and dystopian impulses intersected in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Shelley’s landmark tale evokes dread in the practical and ethical implications of Victor’s scientific generation of a humanoid Creature; this evocation echoes in the simulacra that haunt recent speculative fiction: clones, androids, artificial intelligences, cyborgs. Such texts conjure questions of gaze (why are these creatures so often attractive young women presented as the object of male desire?), of rights, of research ethics, and of fear, in the realization that these creatures are, ultimately, not human but posthuman. We will consider the perspectives both of the makers, who dread lost control over their creations, and of their offspring, as they discover what they are, in texts that often invite identification with the creature more than the maker, even as they suggest that humans’ time may well be ending.

Tentative Core Text List:

  • Grace L. Dillon, ed. Hive of Dreams: Contemporary Science Fiction from the Pacific Northwest
  • Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818 edition)
  • Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
  • Blade Runner, dir. Ridley Scott (Final Cut edition)

1-2 other texts will be added, possibly including a graphic novel.

A list of supplementary recommended texts will be supplied (from The Island of Dr. Moreau and Brave New World to Ex Machina and Blade Runner 2049, and beyond) on the course’s Canvas site. As well, material (as much as possible full text online) will be put on Library Reserve.

Keep checking this post for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements.

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