AMST-381 American Science Fiction and the Twentieth Century
Fall for 2013-2014
AMST–381, American Science Fiction and the Twentieth Century
Monday and Wednesday, 2:40–3:55PM
Monday screening (optional), 7–10PM
Instructor: Garrison LeMasters
Defining the present by speculating on the future, Science Fiction (SF) is more than a pulp lit genre: It is the vocabulary through which 20th Century Americans imagined, contested, and consumed technology. SF ignites the Industrial Revolution; carries out the Cold War; invents the Internet.
In this course, we'll look at SF and the scientist as culture-hero in turn-of-the-century America; the birth of "fan culture" in the 1930's; we'll examine how SF informs the American myth of progress and how it permeates the rhetoric of politics and diplomacy following the Second World War. We'll look at the body and SF, from the Ubermensch to the post-human cyborgs we've already become.
We'll draw from periodicals like Amazing Stories and Popular Mechanics; non-fiction like Boyer's By the Bomb's Early Light (1985) and Davis' City of Quartz (1992); radio drama like War of the Worlds (1938); novels like Delilo's White Noise (1985) and Stephenson's Snow Crash (1992); a variety of short stories from SF's "Golden Age"; television like Star Trek (1966–1969) and The Day After (1983); cinema like Forbidden Planet (1956), Alien (1979), Koyaanisqatsi (1983), Blade Runner (1982/92), and Fog of War (2003); theater like that of Survival Research Labs (1978–2006); and computer games like Space Invaders and Suspended (1983). We'll make use of theoretical perspectives of Susan Sontag, Vivian Sobchack, Scott Bukatman, Langdon Winner, Darko Suvin, David E. Nye, and others.
Using a private web-based wiki, students will regularly contribute brief reflections on SF concepts or themes of their choosing. Students will have the opportunity to write a final research paper or produce a short digital documentary that makes use of SF's richly aural and visual tradition.
The class meets Monday and Wednesday, 2:40–3:55PM. Films will be screened at an optional session in New South on Monday nights from 7–10PM; students may also watch assigned films on their own.
Other academic years
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