English 243/001: Science Fiction and Fantasy/Speculative Fiction (September 2019)

Science Fiction and Fantasy/Speculative Fiction – Term 1 MWF 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. – 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 and 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 implications of Victor’s generation of a humanoid Creature; this dread echoes in the creatures haunting 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?), rights, research ethics, and fear, in the realization that these creatures are, ultimately, not human but posthuman, yet often more sympathetic than their makers. You will write two short essays, a term paper requiring secondary research, and a final examination, and will contribute to in-class and online discussion.

Core texts tentatively include Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the Wachowskis’ The Matrix: The Shooting Script, Madeline Ashby’s Vn, and either Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott, Final Cut edition) or Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve); another core text or film may be added. A list of supplementary recommended texts will be supplied (from The Island of Dr. Moreau to Ex Machina and beyond), and online readings will be put in Library Course Reserves.

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

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