English R1B

Reading and Composition: Speculative (Non)Humans: Science Fiction and Its Lively (Im)Possibilities

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
16 Spring 2020 Tomasula y Garcia, Alba
TTh 5-6:30 262 Dwinelle

Book List

Joy Fowler, Karen: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; LaValle, Victor: Destroyer; Okorafor, Nnedi: Lagoon; VanderMeer, Jeff: Annihilation; Wells, H.G. : The Island of Dr. Moreau

Other Readings and Media

All other readings will be posted to bCourses. 


As the sometimes all-too-plastic forms that influence and are influenced by the social and technological systems around them, living beings—in their human, animal, plant, and other manifestations—remain a source of great fascination, celebration, and frustration for both administrations of power and for each other. This course will critically examine but a few of literature’s fleshy, speculative progeny—in pieces from Victorian novels to American comic books, and starring every being from suffering human-animal hybrids to marine biologists with alien-granted superpowers to signing chimpanzees—to not only provide a few prime examples of how the potentials of (non)human life have been utilized in literature, but to also analyze how science fiction concerned with life’s potentials has had an important hand in making clear—and even in influencing—what we find intriguing, alarming, and even possible within the living world. As we read, we will consider multiple aspects of how speculative life has been utilized in science fiction: what literary and rhetorical devices are used to represent the possible outcomes of mediation between the technological and the living; how the social/material constructions of class, race, and gender get embedded into the technology and therefore the flesh of science fiction’s protagonists, antagonists, and secondary characters; what sorts of social pressures may be at work when it comes to determining what may be imagined, or permitted, as possible for a living being. In addition to our main texts, we will also broaden our understandings of speculative (non)humans and the writings that influence them by reading materials from a range of disciplines, including material feminism, critical race studies, history of science, and biopolitics.

With the goal of developing your critical reading, research, and writing skills, we will primarily devote class time to discussing the course reading through a combination of lecture material, question and answer, and group discussion. Students will also be given writing assignments throughout the semester that will break down the process of writing a final research paper into a series of steps, including topic proposals, drafting, revision, and peer feedback.

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