Science Fiction and American Culture
SF and American Culture.pdf
Context: This is an intro. level cultural studies or English literature course that traces the history of American culture in the 20th century, especially the meanings of American identities and belonging, by studying the developments in concurrent science fictional literature, film, television, comics, and even radio dramas. SF and American Culture was originally designed as a hybrid online/F2F course for MSU’s interdisciplinary humanities department for a compressed, seven-week summer session. It fits with that department’s 207 course, titled Literatures, Culture, Identities; my particular iteration of the course emphasizes SF as an identity-mediating storytelling mode. This course can be easily adapted to higher level courses, to F2F-only courses, to online-only course, and to a normal semester length course.
Course description: In this course we will study science fiction as a multi- and transmedia storytelling technology used for expressing our hopes for and fears about the future, and, perhaps more crucially, our concerns about the present. While science fiction’s imaginative power arguably lies in “thinking” the future, our understandings of what the future might bring (and how we get there) are influenced by how we think about the contemporary state of politics, society, economy, technology, and the environment. Science fiction, then, is a unique tool for exploring the history of American culture in the twentieth century; its production has been central to literary, televisual, filmic, radio, video game, and even musical entertainment of the past 100+ years. Throughout its life, science fiction has reinforced, challenged, or otherwise completely re-envisioned American conceptualizations of race, gender, sexuality, class, and national belonging. In this course we will study the history of science fiction’s complex relationship with American culture, attending to multiple forms of science fiction narratives—especially the SF novel, short story, and film—and paying specific attention to the ways in which science fiction helps us question who (and what) we are throughout the course of twentieth-century American history.
Fantasy / Feminism / Science Fiction
Fantasy / Feminism / Science Fiction.pdf
Context: Fantasy / Feminism / Science Fiction is the first course I ever designed, which I did while a student at UMass Boston, and which was meant to be taught in the Tufts University Experimental College. (The course was not selected, however, because it was deemed too specific) This course is meant to be an intro. level cultural studies or English literature course that analyzes the intertwined histories of feminism as a social justice movement and brand of theory on the one hand and SF&F literatures and media on the other. The emphasis of the course is on understanding the multiple modes of feminist inquiry as they have developed in the 20th century, and doing so by considering how SF&F, as both popular culture and “highbrow” art, offers a way to understand ideas about gender, sex, sexuality, and their intersections with race.
Course description: This course follows the history of science fiction and fantasy (SF/F) as artistic genres and focuses on their potential for poignant social critique and for the imagining of alternative social, political, and economic circumstances, especially for women. Becoming familiar with multiple modes of feminist critique will frame our readings and discussions, allowing us—as readers, consumers, critics—to better define the roles of gender, sexuality, and race in our world. Attendant to both literature and popular culture, we will explore ways in which gender identities have been constructed, received, interpreted, challenged, and revolutionized throughout the course of American history. Texts include Herland (1915), Wonder Woman (1941), The Female Man (1975), Alien (1979) Xena (1995), Buffy (1997), The Hunger Games (2008), Ms. Marvel (2014), and more.