English R1A

Reading and Composition: Voyage to the Moon

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Spring 2022 Serrano, Joseph
MWF 8-9 122 Wheeler


On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on the moon at 1:17 pm, Pacific Time. The moon landing seemed like the very definition of modernity: using cutting-edge technology to cross the boundary between Earth and outer space. But the idea of visiting the moon long predates the Apollo mission; human beings have been speculating about such visits since antiquity and probably before. This class will focus on one particularly intense moment of moon speculation in the 17th, 18th, and 19thc centuries, embodied in a new genre of fiction: accounts of voyages to the moon.

We will read the work of familiar writers--like Galileo Galilei, Cyrano de Bergerac, Jules Verne, Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, and Edgar Allan Poe--as well as a number of less-well-known figures, such as Bernard le Bovier de Fontanelle, John Wilkins, Frances Godwin. We will also read the work of Margaret Cavendish--whose Blazing World is regarded as one of the earliest works of science fiction--and Aphra Behn, whose farce The Emporer of the Moon drew large audiences in late 17th-century London. The work of these two writers asks us to think about why a voyage to another world might be particularly appealing to women writers, and more broadly, to those who are disenfranchised and/or outsiders. To help answer these and other questions, we will explore the scientific, political, and historical contexts that gave rise to this interest in traveling to the moon, from the Copernican Revolution (the shift from an earth-centered to a sun-centered model of the solar system), to the influence of recent global exploration and the “discovery” of the New World.

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