ENG 237F (L0101): SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO,
- Instructor: Professor Ian Lancashire
- Office: Room 122, Wetmore Hall, New College
- Phone: 978-8279
- Office Hours: Wednesday 12-2
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Course URL: www.chass.utoronto.ca:8080/~ian/237f2000.html
sf or speculative fiction consists of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
When sf imaginatively extends the hard (technology-based), social and human
(medical, psychological) sciences, it can be called science fiction. This
extrapolates from late 20th-century knowledge or takes a mythic perspective on
scientific issues. sf that favours an animate, mysterious or supernatural universe can be called fantasy when it ends in escape and joy, and horror
when it ends in entrapment. We will read different forms of post-WW2,
largely North American sf originally published from 1949 to 1995 for a
mass audience. Most writers discussed in this course are alive and active in publishing. They include half a dozen winners of the field's prestigious Nebula and Hugo awards. Canadian writers have a high profile among speculative
fiction writers internationally (e.g., Gibson and Green).
Some works on this course realize themes of traditional sf: AI (Adams, Gibson), space and time travel (Adams, Herbert, Niven, Piercy), feminist utopias (Russ, Piercy, Butler), the end of the world (Adams), alternate history (Dick), and new species and worlds (Adams, Card, Herbert). Recent themes include ecological disaster and holocaust (Amis, Butler) and chaos theory (Herbert, Simmons). In these ways, sf addresses our century's hopes for intelligent machines, new knowledge, increased powers for the human mind and body, freedom, and worlds better than our own. sf is a literary forum both for optimists convinced that the lot of humanity can be improved (e.g., Butler, Card, Piercy, and Russ) and for pessimists who disagree (e.g., Dick and Herbert).
The defining work of postwar fantasy and horror, the counterweight to science fiction, is Tolkien's 3-volume Lord of the Rings. Typical themes of fantasy and horror include the world of "faerie" (Tolkien, Card), time distortions (Amis, Green), and ESP (King). Three striking attempts to fuse the three forms, science fiction, fantasy, and horror, are Frank Herbert's Dune (faster-than-light travel, a classical Greek setting, and religious fanaticism), Larry Niven's Ringworld (Dyson spheres, the Wizard of Oz, and racial enslavement by aliens), and Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (AI, intelligent creatures, and holocaust).
The fiction (all paperback) is available at the university's textbook store. It will also have Understanding SF, a collection of my essays on which course lectures are based.
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
- Martin Amis, Time's Arrow (1991)
- Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (1994)
- Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game (1985)
- Philip K. Dick, Man in the High Castle (1962)
- William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)
- Terence M. Green, Shadow of Ashland (1996)
- Frank Herbert, Dune (1965)
- Stephen King, The Shining (1977)
- Larry Niven, Ringworld (1970)
- Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976)
- Joanna Russ, The Female Man (1975)
- Dan Simmons, The Hollow Man (1993)
- J. J. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers (1954)
After week 1, lectures will normally be on Mondays and Wednesdays, and tutorials
normally on Fridays. The following schedule is subject to change at short notice.
- Week 1: Sept. 11, 13, 15.
- Lectures: Introduction (Monday); Larry Niven's Ringworld (1970; Wednesday, Friday)
- Week 2: Sept. 18, 20, 22.
- Lectures (Monday, Wednesday): J. R. R. Tolkien's The Two Towers (1954)
- Friday tutorial: Tolkien.
- Week 3: Sept. 25, 27, 29.
- Lectures (Monday, Wednesday): William Gibson's Neuromancer (1984)
- Friday tutorial: Gibson.
- Week 4: Oct. 2, 4, 6.
- Monday: TERM TEST
- Lectures (Wednesday, Friday): Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle (1962)
- Week 5: Oct. 9 (Thanksgiving / no class), 11, 13.
- Lectures (Wednesday and Friday): Joanna Russ's The Female Man (1975)
- Week 6: Oct. 16, 18, 20.
- Lectures: Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time (1976)
- Friday tutorial: Dick, Russ, and Piercy.
- Week 7: Oct. 23, 25, 27.
- Lectures: Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower (1994; Wednesday and Friday)
- Friday tutorial: Butler.
- Week 8: Oct. 30, Nov. 1, 3.
- Lectures (Monday, Wednesday): Frank Herbert's Dune (1965)
- Friday tutorial: Herbert.
- Week 9: Nov. 6, 8, 10.
- Lectures (Monday, Wednesday): Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (1985)
- Friday tutorial: Card.
- Week 10: Nov. 13, 15, 17.
- Lectures (Monday, Wednesday): Martin Amis' Time's Arrow (1991).
- Friday tutorial: Amis.
- Week 11: Nov. 20, 22, 24.
- Lectures: Terence M. Green's Shadow of Ashland (1996; Monday, Wednesday); and Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979; Friday)
- Week 12: Nov. 27, 29, Dec. 1.
- Lectures (Monday, Wednesday): Stephen King's The Shining (1977).
ESSAY DEADLINE Friday Dec. 1.
- No Friday tutorial: replaced by make-up in-class exam for those not submitting an essay.
- Week 13: Dec. 4, 6, 8.
- Lectures: Dan Simmons' The Hollow Man (1993; Monday, Wednesday); course summation (Friday)
The course grade will consist of term work and a final exam, divided as
- Term test on Monday October 2 (20%);
- EITHER (a) 2,000-word essay due Friday Dec. 1 by no later than 5 pm OR (b) the optional in-class exam at 11 am that day (40%);
- Final exam in December (40%)
The test on Oct. 2 will cover Niven, Tolkien, and Gibson. It will consist of short-answer questions, such as identifying and commenting on passages from these works. The test will offer choice.
Essay OR Make-up In-class Exam
Students should choose whether they wish -- on December 1 -- to submit an essay or to sit a make-up exam. Students are strongly advised to submit an essay. All students who do not submit an essay by 5 pm on December 1 should have taken the make-up exam at 11 am that day. Its questions will have a difficulty comparable to the essay topics.
Students who neither submit an essay nor sit the December 1 exam will receive a zero for this assignment. All essays must be handed into me personally in class or left for me at the Porter's Lodge at Wetmore Hall, where it will be date-stamped. Essays may not be submitted by e-mail or other means. No essays will be accepted after 5 pm on December 1 (except with a letter from a doctor, etc.).
Choose your essay topic from the list below. Your doublespaced essay should be at least 2,000-words in length and, in addition, append a single-spaced bibliography of books, articles, or Web sites that you have used in preparing it. Essay format, bibliography, and quotations should follow the recommendations of the MLA Handbook. All topics are comparisons. Be sure that you compare the novels, and not just combine two separate mini-essays into one.
- Children's literature as used by Niven's Ringworld and Card's Ender's Game.
- Distortions of time in King's Shining and Amis' Time's Arrow.
- Feminist cyborgs in Russ's Female Man and Gibson's Neuromancer.
- Ghosts in King's Shining and Green's Shadow of Ashland.
- Guilt and redemption in Dick's The Man in the High Castle and Amis's Arrow.
- Hackers in Card's Ender's Game and Gibson's Neuromancer.
- The legend of the golem, Tolkien's Two Towers, and Adams' Guide.
- Multiple worlds in Russ's Female Man and Dick's The Man in the High Castle.
- The nature of addiction in Herbert's Dune and Tolkien's Two Towers.
- Niven's Ringworld, Adams' Guide, and contemporary evolutionary theory.
- Quantum theory in Herbert's Dune and Simmons' Hollow Man.
- Scriptural paradigms in Simmons' Hollow Man and Butler's Parable.
- To what extent do Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time and Butler's Parable reflect the different conditions under which non-white women lived in the USA from 1976 to 1994? Discuss.
- Another topic of your own choice, comparing two or more works. This is subject to approval. Submit the proposed title, a brief bibliography, and
an explanation of why you want to write on it, to me in writing no later than October 30.
Check your paper carefully for writing errors and structural
problems before you submit it (note that the New College Writing Lab can advise
you on how to improve your essays and that there are several good Web
sites locally to assist in writing). Acknowledge carefully, by the use of quotation marks and either footnotes or parenthetical references, any indebtedness to other writers' works, on-line or in print. Students guilty of plagiarism will be subject to strict Arts and Science sanctions.
The compulsary final two-hour exam will be administered by the Faculty and
will cover the complete course. The exam will ask you (1) to identify and discuss passages from the novels and (2) to answer an essay-type question. There will be choice in all parts. Identifications will include all novels discussed in lectures after the term test on October 2. The essay topics will cover the entire course reading list and the lectures.
Tutorials are informal question-and-answer sessions. Students should come with questions; the instructor will then lead discussion of these. Tutorials are not lectures. Typical student questions might involve characterization, plot, thematic elements, style, sources, influences, genre, social context, scientific issues, applications of literary theory, etc. Tutorials are useful for clarifying lecture material, exploring issues not raised in lectures, and developing effective strategies for writing the term essay.