Special Themes in Literature: History of Science Fiction

Section 01
Noah Heringman
Course Description

This course covers the history of science fiction from the nineteenth century to the present with a special emphasis on the New Wave of more exploratory novels and stories written in the US from the late 1960s through the 1980s. Within this body of work we will focus on the environmental imagination of science fiction writers including Frank Herbert (Dune), Ursula K. Leguin (The Word for World Is Forest), and Octavia Butler (The Parable of the Sower). We will try to gain a historical understanding of this genre, often neglected by literary tastemakers, by harking back to nineteenth-century pioneers such as Edgar Allan Poe and H. G. Wells and tracing three main threads forward through the pulp era, the Golden Age, New Wave, and cyberpunk into the global science fiction scene of the twenty-first century: ecology and environment; exploration, of both outer and inner space; and the encounter with human and nonhuman others. We will finish by reading The Three-Body Problem (2014) by the Chinese writer Cixin Liu. Work for the course includes a reading notebook, occasional reading quizzes, 2-3 short papers, and a choice of either a final exam or a final research paper.