office hours: MWF 10:20-11:20, 3-4,
and other times by appointment
This course fulfills the Interpreting Texts MOI requirement. As such, it will help you develop your skills in analyzing and understanding textual representations of human experience. We will consider the relationship between texts discussed and particular forms of culture they may express or help constitute. We will consider the form - for example, the various styles or genres - of textual communication; study various interpretive strategies and problems; examine dynamic relations among author, reader, and text; and explore whether - and if so, in what ways - texts embody cultural values.
To these ends, we will focus on works described as science fiction or speculative fiction. These works ask What if? What if a man could build a sentient creature in a laboratory? What if it were possible to travel back and forward in time? What if the Axis Powers had won World War II? What if contemporary socioeconomic trends continue?
Our discussions will explore questions of genre and interpretation. What are the constitutive or distinguishing features of the genre? How do readers recognize and engage with these works? What kinds of social visions have writers of speculative fiction constructed? On what hopes and fears are these imaginary worlds built?
two five-page papers (on or before 3/7 and 5/2) or one ten-page paper (on or before 5/2): 50%
group oral report on critical or theoretical essay 20%
individual reports on background or text 10%
attendance, participation 20%
If you have a documented disability for which I can make accommodation, please speak with me individually.
See below for more information on requirements.
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novels (on order at WU Bookstore)
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein 1831
HG Wells, The Time Machine 1895
Yevgeny Zamyatin, We 1920/1924
Stanislaw Lem, The Futurological Congress 1971
Philip K Dick, The Man in the High Castle 1964
Joanna Russ, The Female Man 1975
Octavia Butler, The Parable of the Sower 1993
essays (subjects of group reports, on
Samuel Delany, "About Five Thousand Seven Hundred and Fifty Words"
Yevgeny Zamyatin on Wells
Stanislaw Lem, "Science Fiction: A Hopeless Case-With Exceptions"
Kim Stanley Robinson, "The Leap Up" from The Novels of Philip K Dick (on The Man in the High Castle)
Marge Piercy, "Love and Sex in the Year 3000"
short stories (on
Robert Heinlein, "The Roads Must Roll" 1940
C.L. Moore,"No Woman Born" 1944
Ray Bradbury,"Mars is Heaven!" 1948
Tom Godwin, "The Cold Equations" 1954
Ursula LeGuin, "The New Atlantis" 1975
William Gibson, "The Gernsback Continuum" 1981
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Some links of interest
On Writing about Literature
Getting an A on an English paper
Online Writing Resouces
The Elements of Style
Brief MLA Style Guide
On Plagiarism and how to avoid it
SFS list of websites
Center for the Study of Science Fiction
Science Fiction Weekly
Some definitions of SF
Individual Authors and Works
Mathematics and Zamyatin's We
Stanislaw Lem official page; and see Vitrifax; and see Scriptorium
Robert Heinlein Society
Philip K Dick and see Philip K Dick (en francais)
On Joanna Russ: a Study Guide and a Review of The Female Man
Ursula LeGuin and see Study questions on "The New Atlantis"
William Gibson: Study questions on "The Gernsback Continuum"
Octavia Butler page at Voices From the Gaps
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M Jan 17 Introductions
W Jan 19 Frankenstein, through Chapter IV (v-34)
F Jan 21 Frankenstein, Chapters V-X (34-70)
M Jan 24 Frankenstein, Chapters XI-XVI (70-104)
W Jan 26 Frankenstein, Chapters XVII-XXI (104-136)
F Jan 28 Frankenstein, Chapters XXII-end (136-166)
M Jan 31 Samuel Delany, "About Five Thousand Seven Hundred and
W Feb 2 The Time Machine, Chapters 1-4 (3-28)
F Feb 4 The Time Machine, Chapters 5-7 (28-53)
M Feb 7 The Time Machine, Chapters 8-end (53-76)
W Feb 9 Zamyatin on Wells
F Feb 11 We, Entries 1-7 (1-38)
M Feb 14 We, Entries 8-16 (39-91)
W Feb 16 We, Entries 17-23 (92-134)
F Feb 18 We, Entries 24-31 (135-186)
M Feb 21 We, Entries 32-40 (187-232)
W Feb 23 Lem, "Science Fiction: A Hopeless Case-With Exceptions"
F Feb 25 Heinlein, "The Roads Must Roll," "They"
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M Feb 28 Asimov,"Nightfall"; Bradbury,"Mars is Heaven!"
W Mar 2 Moore,"No Woman Born"; Godwin, "The Cold Equations"
F Mar 4 Robinson, "The Leap Up"
M Mar 7 The Man in the High Castle, Chapters 1-4 (3-60)
; first 5-page paper due
W Mar 9 The Man in the High Castle, Chapters 5-6 (61-102)
F Mar 11 The Man in the High Castle, Chapters 7-9 (103-149)
M Mar 14 The Man in the High Castle, Chapters 10-12
W Mar 16 The Man in the High Castle, Chapters 13-end (202-259)
F Mar 18 Marge Piercy,"Love and Sex in the Year 3000"
Mar 21-25 Spring Vacation
M Mar 28 The Futurological Congress, 1-36
W Mar 30 The Futurological Congress, 36-95
F Apr 1 The Futurological Congress, 95-149
M Apr 4 The Female Man, Parts 1-3 (0-56)
W Apr 6 The Female Man, Parts 4-5 (57-104)
F Apr 8 The Female Man, Parts 6-7 (105-155)
M Apr 11 The Female Man, Parts 8-9 (157-214)
W Apr 13 Ursula LeGuin, "The New Atlantis"; William Gibson, "The Gernsback Continuum"
F Apr 15 Parable of the Sower, 1-53
M Apr 18 Parable of the Sower, 53-102
W Apr 20 SSRD
F Apr 22 Parable of the Sower, 103-148
M Apr 25 Parable of the Sower, 149-201
W Apr 27 Parable of the Sower, 202-250
F Apr 29 Parable of the Sower, 251-295
M May 2 continued discussion
M May 9 10-page paper or second 5-page paper due by 11 am (Eaton 107 or 204)
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Attendance and Participation (20%)
Attendance counts because you must, of course, be physically as well as mentally present in order to participate in class. I take attendance at the beginning of each class period; if you are late, your presence may not be recorded. Good class discussion depends on your preparation, thoughtfulness, and consideration for others. Good participation includes listening to each other, asking questions, and offering your insights and responses.
Five-page interpretive essays (25% each)
first 5-page paper due no later than Monday March 7
second 5-page paper due no later than Monday, May 2
(You are, of course, welcome to turn them in earlier)
Short essays should focus on a single text. Each essay should have a clearly-stated thesis that takes account of both conceptual and stylistic aspects of the text and relates them to each other. The thesis should be supported through quotations from the text and through analytic discussion of quoted words, phrases, and sentences. You do not need to do any outside research for the papers for this course, but you must document all sources on which you draw. More information on how to write an essay can be found in guides to academic writing such as Sheridan Baker's Practical Stylist or the MLA Handbook. The Writing Center has several handbooks and tip sheets on writing. I encourage you to confer with me about your papers.
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Ten-page interpretive essays (50%)
due no later than Monday, May 2
(you are, of course, welcome to turn it in earlier)
Longer essays should focus on one of the critical or theoretical essays we have read as well as on one of the narrative texts. Explain the relations of the two texts so that they illuminate each other. This requires a more complex argument than a short paper does; I do not recommend this option if you are new to textual interpretation.
Group reports on critical/theoretical essays (20%)
These reports should summarize the critical or theoretical essay, presenting the author's main points and how they are supported and developed. Then, reports should draw connections between the essay and our narrative readings. Finally, reports should engage the rest of the class in discussion. I expect these reports to take at least 30 minutes.
Individual reports on backgrounds or texts (10%)
These reports may provide background information on an author or work we are reading, or may present your interpretation of an aspect of the work we are reading. Do not repeat information that has already been presented or discussed in class. Everyone should present at least one individual report; it may be possible to present more than one if time permits. I expect these reports to take about 10 minutes.
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*State your thesis clearly at the end of the first paragraph..
*Make sure each paragraph in the body of the essay has one main point, supported with evidence and analysis.
*Build from less important to more important or more complex points.
*Always revise; never turn in a first draft.
1. Use inclusive language (no generic "he"--try "she or he," or pluralize everything; use "humanity" instead of "mankind").
2. Use active voice ("Sandy hit the ball" instead of "The ball was hit by Sandy").
3. Keep parallel subjects (don't switch from "one" to "he or she").
4. Use present tense for discussing literature (it says the same thing every time you read it).
5. Underline titles of book-length works; put quotations around the titles of shorter works. Use neither for your own title.
6. Avoid repeatedly saying "I think" or "I believe"--it's your paper.
7. Refer to authors by their full names the first time, thereafter by last names.
8. Align the meaning of your sentence with grammatically important words--the main subject and verb should say more than "it is" or "there are."
9. If you are analyzing a text, don't evaluate it. A book review is a different genre.
10. Avoid cliches.
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1. Type or print in black on standard 8 ½ x 11 inch white paper.
2. Use 10- or 12-point font; double-space between lines; leave one-inch margins on top, sides, and bottom.
3. Number each page after the first in the upper right corner. Put your surname on each page below the number. Staple pages in the upper left corner.
4. On the upper left corner of the first page, put your name, the course number, and the date on which you are turning in the paper.
5. Give your essay an informative and interesting title, neither underlined nor put in quotation marks nor put in all capitals. Do not include a separate title page.
6. Quotations should be precise, accurately punctuated, and fully documented; include a list of Works Cited. The MLA Handbook provides further information on format (chapter 3) and documentation.
7. Proofread. Make necessary corrections neatly in ink.
8. Keep a copy. Hard copy is safer than disc.
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A An excellent essay typically includes an outstanding thesis, thoughtful consideration of concepts and perceptive analysis of text, as well as detailed reading and cogent and graceful argument. Excellent papers typically use vivid, sophisticated, and graceful prose.
B A good essay typically includes a strong thesis and coherent argument, good attention to the text, and generally fine and clear prose with only occasional lapses in grammar. The difference between an excellent paper and a good one lies less in what is wrong with the good paper than in what is right with the excellent one.
C A satisfactory essay typically includes a thesis that is too general or simplistic, and vague readings of the text. Satisfactory papers typically use competent prose but are marred by consistent grammatical or organizational errors.
D A below standard essay typically has an ill-defined or ill-supported main idea, together with serious flaws in grammar, logic, or argumentation.
F A failing paper is typically one marred by plagiarism. It may also be a paper that reveals no knowledge of the text and that is written in unidiomatic English.
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Individual consultations/office hours/other questions and suggestions
My regular office hours are listed at the beginning of this syllabus. Some weeks, I may need to reschedule some hours because of committee meetings or other faculty business. I will post temporary changes on my office door. Most weeks, I will have a sign-up sheet on my office door for scheduling appointments, and I will make this sign-up sheet available in class about a week before papers are due. I will be happy to meet with you individually to go over drafts or discuss your ideas for a paper. If you cannot meet with me at any of the scheduled times, contact me after class or by phone or email to set up an appointment at another time.
When you have questions about materials or assignments, please raise them in class--others may have the same questions. When you have questions or concerns about your work, or suggestions for improving the class, please come see me as soon as possible. I can answer questions, resolve problems, and make use of suggestions only if I know about them.
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