English | Projects in Reading & Writing: Richly Informative or Infinitely Empty?
W170 | 12227 | Lewis

TOPIC: 	Richly Informative or Infinitely Empty? Representing Outer
Space from Earth
INSTRUCTOR:	Michael Lewis

12227		TR		4:00P - 5:15P		WH 006

Over the centuries - from Copernicus to H.G. Wells, Neil Armstrong
to Stephen Hawking - the way humans have pictured the universe has
changed significantly. Along the way, the arrangement and movement
of celestial bodies and the nature of the space they inhabit have
provided fodder for scientific research, religious prophecy, and
philosophical inquiry. Depicted as both positive and negative - as
the "final frontier" and the "great abyss" - space has been used as
a symbol for a variety of ideals and fears. Briefly retracing
historical representations of the universe, but focusing on
depictions of space from the 20th and 21st centuries, this course
will investigate the ways in which the concept of space is used to
convey a wide range of unique, sometimes even opposing ideas.
Through an analysis of essays, paintings, articles, short stories,
cartoons, and films (such as 2001, Close Encounters of the Third
Kind, and Serenity) we will interpret how texts differently depict
the universe, why given depictions arise, and how these diverse
representations of what is beyond Earth differently affect what
occurs on Earth. Does space represent an escape from responsibility
or a potential solution to Earthly problems, such as overpopulation?
How do various depictions of space shape how we think of our
personal, social, or human identity? Are certain kinds of humans,
based on race, sex, gender, ideology, or nationality, excluded from
both fictional and real accounts of space? As we review
representations of space, we will be practicing our ability to read
and write analytically, focusing no on finally determining how space
ought to be read, but how texts represent the universe, how those
representations affect one another, and how we - in our own texts -
can comment on those versions in fair, complex, and compelling ways.

This course fulfills the English Composition requirement.