English | American Literature 1950-Present
L656 | 25924 | Kilgore

L656  25924 KILGORE (#5)
American Literature 1950-Present

4:00p – 5:15p TR


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 and 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, space
travel, nuclear power, computing, robotics and other technosciences
that are indivisible from our perception of modern life.  Thus the
genre's persistent (often unexamined) determination of social as
well as technological change is worth exploration.
This seminar will recover science fiction's professional maturation
in the intellectual and cultural ferment that marked the last half
of the twentieth century.  We will trace the genre’s social and
aesthetic trajectory in its American and British registers,
following a transatlantic conversation containing points of
unanimity and difference.  We will consider the reformation of the
genre in the 1950s as a significant site of cold war thought and
feeling; the counterpoint enacted between the genre’s public role as
the voice of the Space Age and the “inner-space” experiments of its
radical “New Wave” in the 1960s; the tremendous impact of second-
wave feminism during the 1970s as hard science fiction is
articulated as a generic core; and the rise of cyberpunk in the
1980s, its fostering of a new information-based, computer-mediated
paradigm.  We will also be concerned both with how the gender and
race-based exclusions that shape the genre's dominant traditions
have been resisted by those minority and women writers who otherwise
work within the referential system of genre conventions.  What is at
stake, finally, 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 seminar also engages current scholarship that examines the
interchange between science and literature and their
cultural/political relevance.  Carl Freedman, Robert Scholes, Vivian
Sobchak, Darko Suvin, Marleen Barr, and Samuel R. Delany are among
the critics and scholars who will provide critical context and
theoretical perspective for our work during the semester.  Authors
to be considered may include James Blish, Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel
R. Delany, Joanna Russ, William Gibson, Octavia E. Butler, and Kim
Stanley Robinson.