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/237f2001.html
A selection of major works in speculative fiction published from 1954 to
1999 and intended for a mass audience.
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. Most writers discussed in this course are active
in publishing. They include winners of the field's prestigious
Nebula and Hugo awards. Canadian writers have a high profile among
speculative fiction writers internationally.
Some works on this course realize
themes of traditional sf: AI (Adams, Bear, Gibson), space and time travel
(Adams, Herbert), feminist utopias (Russ, Butler), the end of the world
(Adams, Bear, Clarke), alternate history (Dick), and new species and worlds
(Adams, Card, Gotlieb, Herbert). Recent themes include ecological disaster
and holocaust (Amis, Butler), chaos theory (Herbert), and language
(Stephenson). 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,
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), Biblical
themes (Bear, Clarke), and ESP (Gotlieb). 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), and Greg Bear's
The Forge of God and Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide
to the Galaxy (AI, the mass/intelligent creatures, and the end
of the world).
The fiction (all paperback) is available at the university's textbook store. It
will also stock 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)
- Greg Bear, The Forge of God (1987)
- Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (1994)
- Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game (1984)
- Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End (1954)
- Philip K. Dick, Man in the High Castle (1962)
- William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)
- Phyllis Gotlieb, Violent Stars (1999)
- Frank Herbert, Dune (1965)
- Joanna Russ, The Female Man (1975)
- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers (1954)
- Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash (1992)
- Alice ("Turing Test"
at Spielberg/Kubrick AI Web site; 2001).
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. 10, 12, 14.
- Lectures: Introduction (Monday); Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979; Wednesday, Friday)
- Week 2: Sept. 17, 19, 21.
- Lectures (Monday, Wednesday): J. R. R. Tolkien's The Two Towers (1954)
- Friday tutorial: Tolkien.
- Week 3: Sept. 24, 26, 28.
- Lectures (Monday, Wednesday): William Gibson's Neuromancer (1984)
- Friday tutorial: Gibson.
- Week 4: Oct. 1, 3, 5.
- TERM TEST Monday Oct. 1
- Lectures (Wednesday, Friday): Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle (1962)
- Week 5: Oct. 8 (Thanksgiving / university closed), 10, 12.
- Lectures (Wednesday and Friday): Joanna Russ's The Female Man (1975)
- Week 6: Oct. 15, 17, 19.
- Lectures: Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End (Monday and Wednesday; 1954)
- Friday tutorial: Dick, Russ, and Clarke.
- Week 7: Oct. 22, 24, 26.
- Lectures: Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower (1994; Wednesday and Friday)
- Friday tutorial: Butler.
- Week 8: Oct. 29, 31, Nov. 2.
- Lectures (Monday, Wednesday): Frank Herbert's Dune (1965)
- Friday tutorial: Herbert.
- Week 9: Nov. 5, 7, 9.
- Lectures (Monday, Wednesday): Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (1985)
- Friday tutorial: Card.
- Week 10: Nov. 12, 14, 16.
- Lectures (Monday, Wednesday): Martin Amis' Time's Arrow (1991).
- Friday tutorial: Amis.
- Week 11: Nov. 19, 21, 23.
- Lectures: Phyllis Gotlieb's Violent Stars (1999), and Gotlieb
- Week 12: Nov. 26, 28, 30.
- Lectures: Greg Bear's The Forge of God (1987; Monday, Wednesday).
ESSAY DEADLINE Friday Nov. 30.
- No Friday tutorial: replaced by make-up in-class exam for those not submitting an essay.
- Week 13: Dec. 3, 5, 7.
- Lectures: Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash (1992; Monday, Wednesday); course summation (Friday)
The course grade will consist of term work and a final exam, divided as
- Term test on Monday October 1 (20%);
- EITHER (a) 2,000-word essay due Friday Nov. 30 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. 1 will cover Adams, 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 November 30-- 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 November 30
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 November 30 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 November 30 (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
All topics are comparisons. Be sure that you compare the novels, and not just combine
two separate mini-essays into one.
Essay Topics (TBA)
Check your paper carefully for writing errors and structural
problems before you submit it (note that the Writing Labs at New College
and other colleges can advise you on how to improve your
essays and that there are several good Web sites locally to
assist in writing). See
Writing at the University of Toronto. 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 cover all required novels
discussed in lectures after the term test on October 1. 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 intended to be 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.