Science Fiction and Its Cultural Significance

Books and Films for the Course:

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Catalog Description:

Science fiction uses various literary, philosophical, psychological, social, and scientific concepts to examine and comment on contemporary society. Students analyze the various ways science fiction engages a range of cultural and social issues, such as the nature of science and scientific exploration, science and ethics, scientific dystopia, technological apocalypse, relationships between faith and science, cybernetics and human identity, medical ethics, and nanotechnology. The course includes a literary research project and an oral presentation.

Course Introduction:

This course examines a selection of science fiction novels, stories, and film.  Note that this is not an historical survey of science fiction; rather, the course approaches science fiction as a culturally significant literature that uses various literary, philosophical, psychological, social, and scientific concepts to examine and comment on its contemporary society. Instead of offering a literary history of science fiction, this course approaches “speculative fiction” from the perspective of cultural analysis.  (“Speculative fiction” is a broader category of literature, including science fiction, which asks “what if” and attempts to posit possible, speculative answers.)  This means we will be studying and discussing the various ways the fiction engages a range of cultural and social issues. This perspective further suggests (and, possibly, assumes) that this culturally aware literature is “visionary” in the sense that it projects contemporary issues onto a fictive vision of the future (or, in some cases, a fictive yet reflective past) to prophetic and reflective ends.  Welcome to the visionary frontier.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the course, students should be able to demonstrate:

  1. knowledge of key elements of science fiction (SF) and how authors use these elements in various media, namely text and film (English Major outcome 1);
  2. ability to read, analyze, and discuss the literature from a critical literary perspective while integrating interdisciplinary perspectives, including a Christian theological worldview, to make informed analyses (English Major outcome 2);
  3. ability to think critically about how SF writers and filmmakers use various aesthetic elements to effect various responses in audiences (English Major outcome 3);
  4. skills in developing a research topic, finding traditional print and online database resources, and integrating these research materials into your own thinking so as to write a focused and clearly supported literary research paper (English Major outcomes 5 & 6);
  5. skills in oral communication and collaborative learning by working in groups to deliver an oral presentation enhanced by a PowerPoint slideshow (English Major outcome 7).