Communication and Culture | Current Topics in Communication and Culture
C334 | 1158 | Katrina Boyd


Course Description: Science Fiction has been called "the twentieth
century's most characteristic genre" because it addresses many of the
issues that are central to the concept of "cultural modernity":
utopian/dystopian visions, technological developments/disasters, mass
media/mass culture, rapid social change, cultural clashes, and
encounters with the alien "other" (differentiated by gender, race,
class, etc.). What is interesting about works of science fiction is
not so much what they have to say about an imagined future, but what
they tell us about the culture that created them. In this course we
will think and write critically about key themes from two science
fiction novels (Brave New World and War of the Worlds) and from a
range of science fiction films and television series (such as the
original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, A Clockwork Orange, Blade
Runner, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Star Trek: The Next
Generation) in order to examine how science fiction comments on the
cultural present.

Course Goals: It is not necessary to be a "fan" of science fiction to
be successful in the class.  What is important is a willingness to
take science fiction seriously, to critically investigate how it
functions as a genre, why it is popular, and what it says about our
culture. In looking at both literary and media science fiction we will
be examining many of our basic cultural assumptions. Besides looking
at the "themes" of science fiction (technology, progress, culture,
etc.), we will also be considering the "entertainment" aspect of media
science fiction (what makes it "fun" and engaging or what puts us off
about it). While this course will certainly not be "flicks for kicks,"
we will be interested in questions of pleasure and entertainment. Your
own cultural experiences will be relevant to our discussions as we
attempt to engage the ways in which science fiction "estranges" our
media-saturated present, encouraging us to look differently at our
particular cultural moment. This course will encourage you to develop
visual literacy and close-reading strategies that will assist you in
evaluating the stylistic elements of both literary and media science
fiction.