Instructor: Professor Ian Lancashire
Office: Room 122, Wetmore Hall, New College
Phone: 978-8279
E-mail: ian@chass.utoronto.ca
Course URL: http://www.chass.utoronto.ca:8080/~ian/258y9920.html


General Description

This course introduces you to works of imaginative literature (poetry, plays, short stories, and science fiction) with scientific topics, and works of science (the treatise, popular science reporting, travel diary, essay, and the autobiography) with purposes more than utilitarian. We will read and discuss these texts, in chronological order, from 1800 to the present. Topics include artificial life and artificial intelligence (Mary Shelley, Gibson and Sterling, and Weizenbaum), geology, evolution, and extinction (Darwin, Tennyson, Huxley, Wells, Adams and Carwardine), entropy (Pynchon), quantum and chaos theory (Amis, Simmons, Stoppard), space travel (Niven), genetics (James D. Watson), and linguistic anthropology (Ian Watson). Important threads will be the relations of literary imagination and scientific creativity (Percy Shelley, Arnold, James Watson), and the mutual criticism each of these two cultures, science and literature, makes of one another.

The course anthology is John Carey's Faber Book of Science. This excerpts dozens of finely-written essays and books, mainly by scientists, and offers valuable insights into the intellectual currents of science culture for the past two centuries. We will also read complete works by five scientists, Darwin, Thomas Huxley, James D. Watson, Weizenbaum, and Carwardine (with Douglas Adams). The majority of required reading is literary work by poets (Keats, Tennyson, Frost), critics (Percy Shelley and Arnold), science-fiction writers (Mary Shelley, Wells, Niven, Ian Watson, Gibson and Sterling, and Simmons), mainstream novelists (Pynchon and Martin Amis), and one playwright (Stoppard). Additional readings, the subject of the seminar reports, are recommended for everyone but not required.


Texts are available from the Bob Miller Book Room, 180 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ont. M5S 2V6. 416-922-3557. All texts are held together on a separate shelf there.

E-texts are or will be available on-line through the course Web page.

Provisional Course Requirements

The course grade will consist of a first term test, an essay, a seminar paper, seminar participation, and a final examination, as follows:

  1. first-term test: 10% (Dec. 10).
  2. 2,500-word essay: 20% (due March 31).
  3. term seminar paper (2,000 words; written copy to be handed in): 20%.
  4. informed seminar participation: 10%.
  5. 3-hour final examination: 40% (April-May).

Seminar paper (2,000 words). Each week, starting October 25, there will a Friday seminar. You will prepare a seminar paper based on a book or article. The provisional course schedule lists these topics. You should make your choice by October 1 or a topic and date will be assigned for you. Your seminar paper must be handed in by the following Monday class.

First term test. This will consist of passages for identification (author, work) and for comment. It will cover all texts scheduled in the first term.

2,500-word essay To spread your workload, you should do your seminar paper in one term, and your essay in the other term. Students who choose seminar topics in the first term should do their essays in the second term, and vice versa. All essays must be handed into me personally into class or date-stamped at the Porter's Lodge at Wetmore Hall. No e-mail submissions. Late essays will be penalized 5% per day late.

Seminar participation. I will take attendance at Friday seminars and look forward to your intelligent comments and questions.

Final exam. This will be administered by the Faculty, will cover the complete course, and will have both short and essay-style questions.

Provisional Schedule

First Term

Second Term

Provisional List of Essay Topics

Select Bibliography