English | Recent Writing
L381 | 30417 | De Witt Kilgore


L381 Recent Writing
De Witt Kilgore

30417 - 1:00p-2:15p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H

TOPIC:  "Black, Brown, Metal and Tentacled:  Race and Alterity in
Postwar American Science Fiction"

In a 1984 article Thulani Davis surveyed the landscape of American
science fiction and found that the "Future May Be Bleak but It's Not
Black." Davis correctly points out that over the past seventy years
science fiction's most durable social conventions encourage
political scenarios dominated by Euro-Americans.  However, following
the Second World War, North American science fiction's future
history narratives have allowed for far more than that.  The social
and political upheavals of the 1950's and 1960's were mirrored in
within genre.  New writers came into the field, articulating
political positions challenging the racial status quo; older writers
responded by opening up their own notions of human social futures.
A great variety of racial narratives appeared as a result; from
futures in which racial difference is either tolerated or harmonized
out of existence to ones in which it is only a small plurality
within a galactic club including extraterrestrial beings.

This course examines the work of science fiction writers who have
created narratives in which human racial variety is represented and
challenged within the genre’s future visions.  The first half of the
course will explore Euro-American tales that both replicate and
challenge dominant stereotypes of minority identity and socio-
political position. African and Asian American science fiction
writers will take center stage in the course’s second half.  The
class will trace how minority writers have both worked within the
conventions of the genre and challenged its erstwhile exclusionary
tendencies.  Along the way we will also explore tradition genre
concerns such as space travel, alien contact, robotics,
technological utopianism, and human evolution.

Authors will likely include Samuel R. Delany, Ursula Le Guin, Robert
A.  Heinlein, Octavia E. Butler, Michael Moorcock, Ray Bradbury, and
Nalo Hopkinson.  A selection of scholarly readings will help us
frame our reading, thinking, and discussion.

This course requires two papers (3-5 typewritten pages, double-
spaced), two exams, one research team project, active and informed
classroom participation and attendance.