Slavic R5B, Section 1: Session C (June 19-August 11): Jurassic World vs Jurassic Park: What is Science Fiction?

TuWTh 2-4, 235 Dwinelle. Instructor: Thomas Dyne.

Units: 4

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.

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 short stories and novels of the Russian, British, and American science fiction traditions, including selections from Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton), The Martian (Andy Weir), A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess), We (Yevgeny Zamyatin), and “Bloodchild” (Octavia Butler), as well as the films 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick), Alien (Ridley Scott), and the television series The Twilight Zone (Rod Serling). We will also read some texts concerning the theory of realism in both fiction and cinema.

In addition to discussing weekly readings, our goal will be to develop and improve students’ ability to read critically and write clear, well-reasoned, articulate and persuasive 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. Students will be encouraged to develop a final research project based on a theoretical line of inquiry that interests them.

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.