English 166

Special Topics: Speculative Fictions, Possible Futures

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Summer 2018 O'Brien, Geoffrey G.
TuWTh 4-6:30 Hearst Mining 310 Novel
Special Topics

Book List

Butler, Octavia: Kindred; Card, Orson Scott: Ender's Game; Delany, Samuel: Dhalgren; Le Guin, Ursula K.: The Left Hand of Darkness; Mieville, China: Embassytown

Other Readings and Media

a Course Reader (short stories by Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Connie Willis, and others, as well as critical essays by Hazel Carby, Fredric Jameson, and others)


This course will present the genre of speculative fiction and its historical commitment to imagining plausible and implausible alternatives to the present. We will begin by looking at the Golden Age of the science fiction short story, the 1950s and 60s, and then proceed to treat some representative novels from the 1970s to the contemporary. Along the way, we’ll consider some of the crucial topics and concepts that form the imaginary of this genre, from advanced technology and what it affords and subtracts from the human (artificial intelligence, the end of work, extended longevity, interstellar travel and contact with other entities, etc.), to the hyper-urban, as well as questions of race, class, gender, capitalism, war, and colonialization as they encounter and acquire new and estranging contexts. We’ll also attempt to theorize some of the modes and tropes by which such fictions explore these questions: apocalypse, futurity, new bodies and forms of communication, the hivemind, virtuality, and so on, as well as the traditional narrative conventions enlisted to support these representations.

This course will be taught in Session D, from July 3 to August 9.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Spring, 2019
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Gothic Duncan, Ian
166/2 Special Topics: Marxism and Literature Gonzalez, Marcial
166/4 Special Topics: Poetry and Prose of Race and Social Class Giscombe, Cecil S.
166/5 Special Topics: Asian American Literature - World, Nation, Locality Leong, Andrew Way
166/6 Special Topics: Realism, Then and Now Cordes Selbin, Jesse
166/7 Special Topics: Anton Chekhov Muza, Anna
Fall, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/2 Special Topics: Alfred Hitchcock Bader, Julia
166/3 Special Topics: Journeys: British World-Building, c. 700-1700 Miller, Jasmin
166/4 Special Topics: "this morning's minion": Sonic Mysticism in Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson Stancek, Claire Marie
166/5 Special Topics Le, Serena
Spring, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Comedy & Violence Flynn, Catherine
166/2 Special Topics: Romantic Science Goldstein, Amanda Jo
166/3 Special Topics: Classical & Renaissance Drama Knapp, Jeffrey
166/4 Special Topics: Marxism & Literature Lye, Colleen
166/5 Special Topics: Emily Dickinson Shoptaw, John
166/6 Special Topics: Speculative Fiction Jones, Donna V.
Summer, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/2 Special Topics: Games of Thrones, Medieval to Modern Strub, Spencer
Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/3 Special Topics: Black Science Fiction Serpell, C. Namwali
166/4 Special Topics: Writing Poetry and Nonfiction, Writing as Social Practice Giscombe, Cecil S.
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Marxism and Literature Lye, Colleen
166/2 Special Topics: Studies in Literature and Environment (Shelter and Weather) Francois, Anne-Lise
166/3 Special Topics: Slavery and Conspiracy Wagner, Bryan
166/4 Special Topics: Literature in the Century of Film Goble, Mark
166/5 Special Topics: Modern Irish Literature Falci, Eric

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