English | American Literature & Culture 1900-1945
L655 | 26020 | Kilgore
L655 26020 KILGORE (#5)
American Literature & Culture 1900-1945
4:00p – 5:15p TR
TOPIC: FROM SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE TO SCIENCE FICTION: EARLY MOVEMENTS IN
MODERN LITERARY SPECULATION
Science fiction, as a cultural form and a set of literary protocols,
is the paradigmatic model for how fiction can change social
perception and influence the interpretation of physical knowledge.
In its evolution the genre has not only engaged the burgeoning power
of technoscience; it has also become, as Brooks Landon and others
have argued, a cultural force in its own right. As such it is a
significant measure of our response to Darwinian evolutionism,
eugenics, space travel, nuclear power and other advances that have
changed the tenor of modern life. Thus the genre's engagement with
social as well as technological change is worth examining.
This seminar will recover science fiction's formation in the
intellectual and cultural ferment that existed in the first half of
the twentieth century. We will trace its social and aesthetic
trajectory in its British and American registers, following a
transatlantic conversation containing points of unanimity and
difference. In so doing we will examine the genre's imbrication in
the imperialist adventure narratives of the late nineteenth century
and its sometimes successful representation of alterities that
strain the political boundaries of white male adventure. We will
explore how race and gender have shaped and constrained a genre
often thought to be unmarked and unbounded. We will be concerned
both with the social exclusions that shape the genre's dominant
traditions and their use by minority writers who resist the settled
order of things. What is at stake here is a recovery of the genre's
satiric edge, the liberatory potential that empowered the political
and literary experiments of the 1960s and the feminist and anti-
racist formulations that followed.
This course also engages contemporary scholarship in science fiction
and science and literature. Carl Freedman, Robert Scholes, Darko
Suvin, Katherine Hayles, Samuel R. Delany and Gillian Beer are among
the critics and scholars who will provide critical context and
theoretical perspective for our reading, research and discussion
during the semester. Primary authors will include H. G. Wells, C.
L. Moore, Arthur Conan Doyle, George S. Schuyler, and Leigh Brackett.