Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Spring 2019 Syllabi! “Classics of Science Fiction” and Game Studies

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I’m teaching three courses this semester: a graduate level course titled “Classics of Science Fiction,” a first-year seminar on game studies, and the second half of our yearlong “methods of inquiry” sequence (also for first-years). You can see the full syllabi in all their glory at my website:

ENGL 6700: Classics of Science Fiction

Main texts: Jack Finney, Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed; Octavia E. Butler, Kindred; William Gibson, Neuromancer; Octavia E. Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories; Kim Stanley Robinson, The Lucky Strike; Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen; Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), 2001, Blade Runner, and Star Trek: The Next Generation; “That Only a Mother,” “The Evitable Conflict,” “All You Zombies,” “The Heat-Death of the Universe”; “Houston, Houston, Do You Read” and “The Screwfly Solution,” “The Gernsback Continuum,” “Game Night at the Fox and Goose”; “The Space Traders”; criticism from Suvin, Sontag, Jameson, Freedman, Delany, Csiscery-Ronay, Rieder, and even Gerry Canavan himself

HONORS 1955H: Game Studies

Main texts: Ian Bogost, How to Do Things with Video Games; Alexander Galloway, Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture; Frans Märyä, An Introduction to Game Studies; The Stanley Parable, Doom, Journey, Bandersnatch, Tetris, Candy Crush, Civilization, SimCity, The King of Kong, Braid, FIFA 19

CORE 1929H: Methods of Inquiry: The Mind

WEEK ONE—HISTORY: George Rousseau, “Depression’s Forgotten Geneaology: Notes Towards a History of Depression”

WEEK TWO—STRUCTURE: Luigi Esposito and Fernando M. Perez, “Neoliberalism and the Commodification of Mental Health”

WEEK THREE—PERSONAL NARRATIVE: Leslie Kendall Dye, “It Isn’t That Shocking”

That last one is a 1.5 credit course that’s mostly devoted to independent research in the second half, but it did allow me the chance to formalize something like a definition of the difference between the physical sciences and the academic humanities as I see them operating, at least at the level of the very extreme generalization, for better or worse:

Last semester we were working at the intersection of the sciences and the humanities, exploring the ways each of these two “cultures” engage questions of knowledge production and dissemination. In contrasting the humanities to the sciences, I suggested that contemporary humanities approaches—speaking of course extremely generally—tend to extend from a few assumptions that are not always shared by the sciences (especially the physical sciences, but also some historically conservative social science disciplines like economics or political science):

1) social causation: the proposition that the best explanations for social phenomena originate in social structures, rather than in individual psychologies, pathologies, or choices;

2) social construction: the proposition that knowledge is embedded within social structures like language, ideology, history, and economics, rather than existing radically apart from social structures in supposedly objective facts or eternal truths;

3) social justice: the proposition that knowledge has a politics, and that we should choose methods of knowledge production and dissemination that help heal the world rather than do harm or simply remain neutral.

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