The Critical Essay: Science Fiction

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The Critical Essay: Science Fiction
Writing Course
Course CodeWR4D
Years of Operation2006-2008
Sites OfferedCAR, LOS, LOU, SAR
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Course Description

From the CTY Course Catalog (2006):

The Martian tripods that strode forth to divide and conquer in H.G. Wells’s 1897 War of the Worlds were not only monsters in a “scientific romance” but also a means of illustrating the real-life brutality of British imperialism. Science fiction, in fact, has always engaged pressing political and cultural concerns. Genre pioneers from Harlan Ellison to Ursula K. Le Guin have examined such issues as genetic engineering, class oppression, gender politics, and environmental sustainability.

Beginning with early texts like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and concluding with current classics such as Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, students in this writing course explore major works of science fiction in their historical and cultural contexts. Through lectures, critical reading, and discussion, they consider how authors not only react to scientific or technological advancements, but also challenge our assumptions about society and ourselves. How, for instance, is Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles a critique of Cold War America amidst the uncertainties of the Atomic Age? What does Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower illustrate about contemporary racial tensions and urban decay?

Students supplement their literary study with analysis of selected films and television shows, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Minority Report, and The Twilight Zone. They produce four to six major essays, developing their skills through an intense process of drafting, critiquing in workshops, and revising.