2015’s Jurassic World ranks among the most financially successful films ever made, but is it science fiction? Reviews label it a “pure fantasy” “effects-driven” “spectacle”, but the original Jurassic Park – the New York Times bestseller written in 1989 by former Harvard medical student Michael Crichton – was praised for its terse, journalistic narrative and science-driven plot. This class will pose the question of its title – what is science fiction? – as a problem of genre, and will ask: where is the line between fantasy and reality in science fiction, when everything represented either on screen or on the page is speculative, fictional, or, in some cases, impossible? How can we realistically narrate or represent what isn’t real?
To answer these questions we will examine famous and influential short stories, novels, and films of the Russian, British, and American science fiction traditions, including some texts concerning the theory of realism in both fiction and cinema. Students will be encouraged to develop a final research project based on a line of inquiry that interests them.
As this course fulfills the second half of the Reading and Composition requirement, and must be taken for a letter grade to fulfill this requirement for graduation, our goal will be to develop and improve students’ ability to read critically and write clear, well-reasoned, articulate and persuasive research papers. Over the course of the semester, students will learn how to move from an interesting question, to a compelling argument, to a successful paper. To that end students will write several progressively longer essays, revising them in drafts, culminating in a final research paper (of 7-10 pages) that, chosen from a list of offered themes, thoughtfully and concisely examines a given concept in relation to the reading assignments.
For purchase (at the student book store, but also available elsewhere – please ensure you buy the right edition/translation):
• Yevgeny Zamyatin, We. Trans. Mirra Ginsburg. Eos: New York, 1999. ISBN: 978-0380633135.
The following texts or films will also be required reading or viewing, but will be made available by the instructor either in class or on the bCourse site:
• The Time Machine (H.G. Wells)
• “All you zombies” (Robert A. Heinlein)
• “Pkhentz” (Andrei Siniavksy / Abram Terts)
• “Hermit and Sixfinger” (Victor Pelevin)
• “Time Enough at Last” (Lynn Venable)
• “The Sentinel” (Arthur C. Clarke)
• “The Red Star Pioneer Troop Voyages to Wonderland” (Innokenty Zhukov)
• “Bloodchild” (Octavia Butler)
• “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” (Rod Serling)
• Planet of the Apes (1968, dir. Franklin J Schaffner, Jr.)
• 2001: a Space Odyssey (1968, dir. Stanley Kubrick)
• Primer (2004, dir. Shane Carruth)
• Alien (1979, dir. Ridley Scott)
• Jurassic Park (1993, dir. Steven Spielberg)
• A Clockwork Orange (1971, dir. Stanley Kubrick)
o Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton)
o 2001: a Space Odyssey (Arthur C. Clarke)
o Planet of the Apes as American Myth: race and politics in the films and television series (Eric Greene)
o The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing (Michael Harvey)
o Stanley Kubrick: A Narrative Analysis (Mario Falsetto)
o “The Symposium on Alien”
o “Pandora’s Box” (Robert A. Heinlein)
All Reading and 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.
Prerequisites: 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.
Instructor pending appointment.