Slavic R5B, Section 2: Hard Science Fiction and the Representation of Reality

TuTh 8-9:30, 4 Evans. Instructor: Thomas Dyne.

Units: 4

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

Since first appearing in the 1957 American anthology Astounding Science Fiction, the term “hard science fiction” has been applied to grittily realistic, scientifically and technically accurate fictional portrayals of the future ranging from Ridley Scott’s Alien to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey. But what is hard science fiction, and how do we understand the concept as a genre? Does sci-fi have to be “hard” to be realistic? How can we “realistically” portray something that isn’t real? Can we really call a text realistic if it relies on an alternate history, or on an image of the projected future, or if it contains unexplained or even supernatural moments? What attitude do we take to the text that mixes the natural and the supernatural, or that attempts to realistically narrate the unreal, and what does this do to our sense of what it means to be “realistic”? In this course we will pose these questions and examine them as problems of genre, as we read short stories, two novels, and watch films of the Russian, American, and British “hard sci-fi” tradition of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Required Texts

The following texts will be provided for sale in the student bookstore, but students should feel free to purchase them from alternative sources ensuring they purchase the indicated edition and translation. Check the ISBN to be sure.

Yevgeny Zamiatin, We. Trans. Mirra Ginsburg. Eos: New York, 1999. ISBN: 978-0380633135.
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange. Norton, 1995. ISBN:  978-0393312836
Michael Hackett, The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing. Hackett Publishing Co, 2003. ISBN: 0872205738.

Prerequisite:  Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading & Composition requirement or its equivalent.  Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.