Examines the ways that science fiction has expressed and challenged ideas about nature, culture, society, and politics.
ENGL 269: Science Fiction and the Environment
Instructor: Annie Culver
English Department Areas of Specialization:
Science, Medicine & the Environment
Culture & Social Change
What is the “environment?” This course seeks to answer this question by looking to science fiction texts. The connection between “environment” and the future and its science fictional representations will become clear throughout the course of the class as we see the development of environmental thinking as increasing environmental instability threatens the future of the planet. The rise of science fiction as one of the centers for imagining possible futures as well as a massively popular genre is contemporaneous with discussions of chemical pesticide use, oil production, nuclear war, and global warming and climate change. Some of these futures re-inscribe violent narratives of colonialism, racism, imperialism, and the domination of the nonhuman common in popular culture, while others critique and subvert them. This class will seek to distinguish between these threads, see where they emerge and diverge in a single work and in the corpus of science fiction more broadly. We will analyze the way that science fictional texts shape debates in environmental discourse. In this course we will read novels like Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Ursula Le Guin’s Always Coming Home and Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God. We will also view film texts: Alien, Avatar, Children of Men, Dr. Strangelove, and District 9. Additionally, the class will engage with other forms of media like podcasts and cover key texts in environmental theory and philosophy.