Division of Arts and Humanities
ENGL 216: Science Fiction
Section 1: Thompson E-120, MWF 12-12:50
Section 2: Thompson E-120, MWF 1-1:50
Office: Fenton 240; MWF 2-3, T 10-2, and by appointment; 673-3859
Web Page: www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/
About the Course Web Site
This web site is designed to help you get as much out of this course as possible--you can use it to find out how you will be graded, how to join and use the course listserv, what reading and writing assignments are due and when, what books are on reserve for your use in Reed Library, and how to use the world-wide web for research. Please take the time over the weekend after the first week of classes to read this page carefully and to familiarize yourself with the other pages for this course. Please get in the habit of checking back to this web site to keep track of changes to the tentative schedule (see below) and to find advice on papers and projects, as well as to surf the ever-expanding list of links to interesting web pages related to the course. And please contact me any time (see above for my coordinates) if you have ideas about how to improve these pages or the course as a whole. I hope you enjoy taking this course as much as I enjoy teaching it!
I. Course Description
Historical and generic survey of science fiction through representative works and major authors; examination of its relationships with other types of literature. These sections introduce students to major problematics, movements, texts, and authors in science fiction, and through them, to approaches to disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary inquiry in English, the humanities, and beyond. Divided into four units--on the significance of interstellar/interspecies war; the politics of space exploration/colonization; visions of pasts/futures; and reworkings of myth/literature--these sections feature novels from different decades and movements within post-W.W.-II-era U.S. science fiction. This structure allows us, within each unit, to compare different authors' narrative strategies, themes, and visions (formalist criticism), consider developments in the genre (intertextual criticism), explore relations between the novels and their time periods (historicist criticism), and relate the novels to contemporary social/political issues (cultural criticism). Further, it allows us to practice going beyond disciplinary (science fiction as a specialization within English studies) and even interdisciplinary (science fiction studies as an interdisciplinary field combining literature and history, literature and sociology, literature and the sciences, and so on) inquiry and working toward a transdisciplinary approach to examining the stakes of science fiction.
This course is an elective in the English and English Adolescence Education majors; for non-majors who entered Fredonia before Fall 2001, it satisfies Part IIIA of the General College Program (GCP) and, for all students who entered Fredonia in Fall 2001 or after, it satisfies Part V of the College Core
In ENGL 216, as in most courses offered by the English Department, students from a range of majors, minors, and concentrations interact, and the goals of the professional programs are integrated with specific course and general education goals. Achieving these goals (described in Section IV below) will require us to foster academic skills and intellectual habits of reading closely and carefully, thinking critically and creatively, listening actively and attentively, speaking thoughtfully and concisely, and writing clearly and analytically--skills and habits useful to everyone, but of particular importance to future teachers.
III. Textbooks. The textbooks adopted for this course are:
IV. Course Objectives and Outcomes.
This course has been approved for Part IIIA of the GCP. As such, it provides students with the opportunity to develop their ability to read and respond to primary sources with understanding; an awareness of the historical context of the given subject matter; an understanding of contemporary civilization, refined through attention to the contemporary implications or ramifications of the given subject matter; a critical or analytical approach to the subject matter; an understanding of values and/or assumptions; an ability to integrate knowledge from different sources; and the curiosity to explore further. As a course fulfilling Part V of the CCC, it is simultaneously designed to present general ideas and ethical principles basic to the humanities and to foster critical thinking and critical literacy. This section of ENGL 216 sets out to reach these goals by helping students (1) to appreciate and understand a variety of narratives and narrative strategies in science fiction, (2) to appreciate and understand a variety of modes of analysis of science fiction, and (3) to appreciate and understand the development of science fiction from the Cold War to the present. To achieve these goals, students will
V. Instructional Methods and Activities
The methods used in the classroom will include lecture, in-class writing, guided discovery, open discussion, cooperative group work, and other discussion-oriented activities.
VI. Evaluation and Grade Assignment
Attendance/Preparation/Participation (10%). Regular attendance and thoughtful participation are crucial to your enjoyment of and success in this course. If there is absolutely no way for you to avoid missing a class, you must contact me ahead of time or soon after your absence, preferably by email. Even more important than showing up on time, of course, is coming to class prepared and focused. I expect you to read what has been assigned for a given date at least once by the time we begin to discuss it in class. This is a discussion rather than a lecture course, after all; although I will provide some context and background for our reading, the bulk of class time will be spent in small- or large-group discussions and activities. Since it's difficult to make good contributions to discussions about a literary work if you haven't read it carefully or thought about it extensively, how well you budget your time outside of class will to a large degree determine how well you do in this class in general and how well you do on this portion of your course grade in particular.
Your grade for this segment of the course will be based on a combination of your attendance, the quality of your participation in class and on the class listserv (described below), and your preparation, effort, and improvement over the course of the semester. As there is no final exam in this course, think of my evaluation of your preparation/participation as a different but equally important method of assessing your overall performance in the course. Due to the importance of attendance and participation, more than two unexcused absences will hurt your preparation/participation grade and each non-emergency absence after the fourth will lower your final course grade by a full grade (e.g., with five absences a B+ will become a C+; with seven, it will become an E). Please see Section VIIIB, below, for definitions of excused and emergency absences.
Group Teaching Project (20%). Students will choose one of eight teaching groups to join at the beginning of the semester; each group will be responsible for designing and teaching a 50-minute lesson on either the second or third novel in a unit, in which they guide the class through a consideration of the relation between that novel and the first in the unit. Each member of the group will write an individual reflection on what they contributed to the teaching project and how well the group worked together; together, the group must write an assessment of the relation between their plans and performance during the session. For detailed information and advice on the group teaching project, go to http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/engl216s05/gtp.htm.
Your grade for this segment of the course will be based on my overall assessment of your group's lesson plan, teaching effectiveness, and commitment to working collaboratively; the quality of the group-authored assessment of your planning and teaching; the honesty and thoughtfulness of your own self-reflection; and my overall assessment of your individual contributions to the group's efforts and success.
Reflective Essays (20%). Detailed instructions for subscribing to and using your section's listserv (email@example.com where x is your section number) are given below (see Section VIII), will be discussed in class, and are available on the course web site, along with a troubleshooting guide, at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/engl216s05/listserv.htm. This listserv will be your space; I will keep my own input to a bare minimum. Although you may use the listserv in any number of ways, you must use it in the following way: after each group teaching project is completed, you will have the opportunity of writing a brief informal essay (roughly 2-3 pages) responding to the ideas in the lesson and/or developing your own comparisons between the writer/novel the group focused on and the first novel in the unit, which must be posted to your section's listserv no later than the Monday following the lesson. (No more than one reflective essay per group teaching project will receive full credit, although you are free to write more for extra credit). Further requirements and advice on generating reflective essays can be found elsewhere on the course web site at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/engl216s05/re.htm.
Your grade for this segment of the course will be determined by the number of on-time, passing reflective essays you post to the course listserv. As there will be eight teaching presentations during the semester, 6 or more reflective essays=A; 5=B+; 4=B; 3=C+; 2=C, 1=D; 0=E. The quality of your reflective essays will be factored into your preparation/participation grade (see above).
Critical Essay (20%). You are required to write one 5-to-8-page critical essay. For detailed information and advice on the critical essay, go to http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/engl216s05/ce.htm.
Your grade for this segment of the course will be determined by the coherence and validity of the paper's arguments, the effectiveness of the paper's structure in conveying your ideas and convincing your audience, and the quality of the paper's prose (including grammar, syntax, and punctuation).
Final Research Project (30%). Students will either do a Group Research Project or an Individual Research Project, as follows:
B. Grading. All work during the semester will be graded on a letter basis (A=outstanding, B=good, C=average, D=bad, E=awful) and converted into a number for purposes of calculating final grades. I use the following conversion system (the number in parentheses is the "typical" or "normal" conversion, but any number in the range may be assigned to a given letter grade):
A+=97-100 (98); A=93-96.99 (95); A-=90-92.99 (91); B+=87-89.99 (88); B=83-86.99 (85); B-=80-82.99 (81); C+=77-79.99 (78); C=73-76.99 (75); C-=70-72.99 (71); D+=67-69.99 (68); D=63-66.99 (65); D-=60-62.99 (61); E=0-59.99 (55)
Your final grade is determined by converting the weighted numerical average of the above assignments into a letter grade, according to the above scale.
C. Portfolio. English and English Adolescence Education majors should be aware of the English department's guidelines for ongoing portfolio submissions.
VII. Bibliography. Reed Library has an extensive collection of science fiction criticism and science fiction studies; I've listed here mostly works we don't yet have, but which I've ordered for our course reserves (click here for the reserves list):
A. Contemporary References
B. Classic References
C. Key Journals
VIII. Course Schedule and Policies
A. Tentative Course Schedule. The following course schedule is subject to revision--please refer here regularly for updates to this schedule, notes on the texts, and suggestions for further reading. (Note: page numbers are keyed to the editions listed in Section III; if you have another edition, go by the chapter identifiers.)
Science Fiction Studies
Pasts and Futures
M 3/21-T 3/29 NO CLASSES: Spring Break
W 3/30 1984: William Gibson, Neuromancer, Parts 1-2/Chapters 1-7 (1-98); CRITICAL ESSAY #2 due by 5 pm
F 4/1 1984: William Gibson, Neuromancer, Parts 3-4/Chapters 8-15 (99-186); Group Teaching Project: Angela Bullied, Josh Kopstein, and Joe Picalila (Section 1); Josh Croxton, Jen Meli, and Matt Skillings (Section 2)
M 4/4 1984: William Gibson, Neuromancer, Part 4-Coda/Chapters 16-24 (187-271); Mike Davis, Stealing the Zone (to be distributed before spring break); GUEST LECTURE: Mike Davis, Independent Scholar (in Fall 2005 will be Professor of English at Cameron University)
T 4/5 CAMPUS LECTURE (5 pm, McEwen G-24): "The Science Fiction Heroine: A Reexamination," Mike Davis, Independent Scholar
W 4/6 1992: Maureen McHugh, China Mountain Zhang, "China Mountain"-"Baffin Island" (1-91)
F 4/8 1992: Maureen McHugh, China Mountain Zhang, "Jerusalem Ridge"-"Ghost" (92-183)
M 4/11 1992: Maureen McHugh, China Mountain Zhang, "Homework"-"Rafael" (184-310); Group Teaching Project: James Riley, Carla Siegrist, Craig Thomas, and Matt Young (Section 1); Keri Annable, Milissa Mackey, and Ted Mulholland (Section 2)
Myths and Literature
M 4/18 1989: Dan Simmons, Hyperion, Prologue-Chapter 1 (3-101); 1967: Samuel Delany, The Einstein Intersection
W 4/20 1989: Dan Simmons, Hyperion, Chapters 2-3 (102-233)
F 4/22 1989: Dan Simmons, Hyperion, Chapter 4 (234-311); CRITICAL ESSAY #3 due by 5 pm
M 4/25 1989: Dan Simmons, Hyperion, Chapter 5 (312-411)
W 4/27 1989: Dan Simmons, Hyperion, Chapter 6-Epilogue (412-482); Group Teaching Project: Adam English, Steve Galbo, and Kim Petersdorf (Section 1); Kate Ayotte, Keri Hyde, and Megan McRae (Section 2)
F 4/29 1991: Marge Piercy, He, She and It, Chapters 1-11 (1-96)
M 5/2 1991: Marge Piercy, He, She and It, Chapters 12-26 (97-228)
W 5/4 1991: Marge Piercy, He, She and It, Chapters 27-38 (229-340); course evaluations
F 5/6 1991: Marge Piercy, He, She and It, Chapters 39-49 (340-429); Group Teaching Project: Christine Kilpatrick, George Kneibert, and Sara Lawrence (Section 1); Tom Butler, James Seibert, and Joe Sweeney (Section 2)
M 5/9 unveiling of Science Fiction @ SUNY Fredonia site
F 5/13 GROUP RESEARCH PROJECT (final revisions to Science Fiction @ SUNY Fredonia site completed and activities journal turned in) and INDIVIDUAL RESEARCH PROJECT due no later than 5 pm
B. Class Policies
1. Attendance. As stated in Section VI above, barring emergencies each absence after the fourth will lower your final course grade by a full grade. Be aware that absences due to emergencies are the only absences that will not be counted toward your total for the semester. Emergencies include but are not limited to death in the family, hospitalization or serious illness, and natural disasters; scheduled and unavoidable school-sponsored events (games, meets, performances, etc.) are also counted as emergencies for the purpose of this attendance policy. Besides emergencies, the only other absences that won't affect your participation/preparation grade are excused absences. Please notify the instructor over email, in advance if possible and, if not, as soon after the absence as possible, if you wish an absence to be considered as an emergency or excused absence; the decision will be made at the instructor's discretion.
2. Course Listserv. You are required to subscribe to your section's listserv and to read and think about your peers' observations and discussion questions before each class meeting. To subscribe to your section's listserv, compose an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org, leave the subject line blank, and write this exact command in the body of message: subscribe ENGL2160x Your Name (where x=your section number). Please be sure to delete any signature or other text that may appear in the body of your message, as it will only confuse the very literal-minded machine that handles listserv subscriptions. Very soon after sending this message, you will receive an email from the machine that handles subscriptions asking you to confirm your subscription; please follow the instructions in this email carefully, as you are not subscribed to the listserv until you have done so. Soon after doing this, you will receive another email message from the machine that handles subscriptions informing you that you are indeed subscribed to your section's listserv and laying out basic information about the listserv. Save this message--it's very useful. Once you get this message, you will begin receiving messages from others who are subscribed to the listserv; you also will be authorized to send messages to them by composing a message to the machine that distributes messages to those who are subscribed to the listserv. To do so, simply send an email message to ENGL2160x@listserv.fredonia.edu (where x=your section number). It is highly recommended that you either save a copy of every message you send to the course listserv (many email programs automatically save all messages sent in a "sent mail" folder) or "cc:" yourself whenever you send a message to the listserv, as your listserv participation will be graded both quantitatively and qualitatively (see Section IV, above) and it is possible that technical or human error could result in your messages being lost in transit, accidentally deleted, misfiled, or miscounted. Please familiarize yourself with the college's "Computer and Network Usage Policy" (College Catalog 2003-2005, pp. 241-246) and check with your instructor first before posting something to your section's listserv that is not directly related to the course.
3. Late Assignments. Late critical essays will be accepted and graded but will lose one-third of a grade per day late (e.g., a paper turned in two days past the due date that would have otherwise received an A- would be penalized two-thirds of a grade and thus receive a B). Only students who ask for an extension at least two days before the due date will be granted one.
4. Plagiarism and Academic Honesty. To plagiarize is "to steal and pass off as one's own the ideas or words of another" (Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary). SUNY Fredonia strongly condemns plagiarism and takes severe action against those who plagiarize. Disciplinary action may extend to suspension from privileges or expulsion from college. Please familiarize yourself with the college's "Academic Integrity Policy" (College Catalog 2003-2005, pp. 237-239, see also p. 225) and check with your instructor if you have any questions about it.