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Future Perfect: Science Fiction and the Politics of Imagination

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

Are we doomed to repeat history, or can we change ourselves for the better? The Politics of Science Fiction explores the ways in which this imaginative genre helps us to rethink our present lives, our relationship to the past, and the possibilities available to us in the future. By looking at authors’ hopes, fears, and fascinations with their own imagined futures, we open a window onto their societies’ ways of thinking about biology, technology, communication, nature, and human history.

Students are introduced to the genre's canonical authors, including Ursula K. Le Guin, Karel ńĆapek, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Octavia E. Butler, Gene Wolfe, Eileen Gunn, Harlan Ellison, Robert A. Heinlein, and William Gibson. Placing works in their historical contexts, the class encourages participation in contemporary debates, such as the privatization of space flight, the ethics of bio-engineering, and how the internet is changing our sense of personal identity and privacy. Students not only lay the groundwork for independent exploration of the science fiction genre, but also learn standard methods of literary analysis, which will give them an advantage in any high-school or undergraduate humanities course.

This course emphasizes critical reading and writing skills, while encouraging students to develop their creative abilities. Students are given the option of writing critical essays or short works of speculative fiction. One final project from last year's (2013) class was awarded an honorable mention in the prestigious Writers of the Future competition.

John Mulligan is an advanced PhD candidate in English Literature at Brown, where he writes on the intersections between literature and science, and digital culture. You can see some of his digital projects on his blog,