Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Syllabus: Science Fiction in the Summertime

with 4 comments

I find teaching in the summer very agreeable in some ways and very difficult in others: I really feel as though a “life during wartime” spirit of camaraderie develops in the classroom, which is nice, but at the same time it can be difficult to cover the amount of material I’d normally cover in a semester (especially since it’s so hard to assign the usual amount of either reading or writing). This summer in particular I’ve really had to accept that summer classes are just different — my class meets only two days a week, for an impossible 3 1/2 hours at a stretch.

My plan is to break each class period into roughly three one-hour chunks, with two short breaks between each. There’s a lot more in-class stuff than I usually do, and even more little clips and exercises that I have planned that won’t be the major focus of the day and so aren’t listed in the syllabus. No papers — just take-home midterm, take-home final, forum posts, and quizzes.

People who know my classes or my work can probably tell that I’ve chosen texts I know inside and out, including a bunch I’ve written on. This is not an accident.

With all those caveats, here’s the gameplan:

M June 29 INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE

in class: Ted Chiang, “Liking What You See: A Documentary”

in class: excerpts from Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica (2000s), Interstellar, Mass Effect, etc.

W July 1 in class: film, Avatar (2009)
M July 6 Avatar discussion continues: Annalee Newitz, “When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like Avatar?” [web]; Slavoj Žižek, “Return of the Natives” [web]

Kim Stanley Robinson, “The Lucky Strike”

in class: Kim Stanley Robinson, “A Sensitive Dependence on Internal Conditions”

W July 8 Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five (first third)
M July 13 Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five (second third)
W July 15 Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five (whole book)
M July 20 TAKE-HOME MIDTERM DUE TO D2L BY 5:30 PM

James Tiptree, Jr., “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” [ARES]

in class: Ursula K. Le Guin: “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

in class: film, “The Space Traders” (1994)

W July 22 Mark Bould, “The Ships Landed Long Ago” [ARES]

Samuel R. Delany, “The Star Pit” [ARES]

in class: TV, Star Trek: Deep Space 9: “Far Beyond the Stars” (1998)

M July 27 Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (parts one and two)
W July 29 Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (part three)
M August 3 Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (whole book)

in class: excerpt from Octavia E. Butler, Adulthood Rites

W August 5 Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Volumes 1 & 2

in class: zombie film and television, zombie games

LAST DAY OF CLASS

M August 10 TAKE HOME FINAL DUE TO D2L BY 12:00 PM

4 Responses

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  1. looks good! what’s your reasoning behind doing the film stuff up front?

    traxus4420

    May 15, 2015 at 11:19 am

    • AVATAR works really well as a companion to the utopia vs empire stuff I usually situate the genre theory in: it basically wears those two impulses on its sleeve. (Same with the clips from space empire fantasy.) It’s sort of a “case study” approach….

      gerrycanavan

      May 15, 2015 at 11:25 am

  2. ah ok, i wasn’t sure if there was a medium specific reason. makes sense

    traxus4420

    May 15, 2015 at 11:51 am

    • This is an intro-level class, so it’s not that theoretically innovative, unfortunately…

      gerrycanavan

      May 15, 2015 at 12:20 pm


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