Upper Division Literature: Science Fiction (Undergrad)

This course was offered as a summer school class in 2006.

Syllabus

English 192 Science Fiction
Summer (A) 2006

“The Future is Now

                           – Nam June Paik

Catalog No. 5504
Meets: MTWR 3:30 – 4:35.
Location: ARTS 1241

Instructor: Kim Knight
Office Hours: M, T 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. and by appointment in Transcriptions Lab (SH 2509)

Course Website
Course Wiki

In the age of networked culture and spectacular media, the line between science fiction and “real life” becomes increasingly difficult to define. In this version of English 192 we will explore the development of cyberpunk, a genre of science fiction that typically features a hacker-figure in the context of cyberspace and is typically set against larger institutions. Born of the 1980’s, this particular strand of science fiction has anticipated the future in uncanny ways. Our goal will be to examine the literature and film of this genre to determine whether, in fact, “the future is now.”

We will begin with Frankenstein, the earliest example of science fiction and then trace the development of the genre through cyberpunk-precursors such as Philip K. Dick and James Tiptree Jr. We will then work extensively with cyberpunk texts and film, including its many subgenres, to address questions of spirituality, the un/human, and the role of the individual in society. Finally, we will end the course with a look at “real life” iterations of cyberpunk (hypertext literature, hacker art, etc) in order to assess the relevance of this genre to contemporary information culture.

Prerequisite: Writing 2 or 50 or 109; English 10; or upper-division standing.
Satisfies a GE Area G and a Writing Requirement.

Required Texts and Materials
The texts for the class are listed below, in the order that we will be reading them:

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. (Norton Critical Edition)
Cadigan, Pat, ed. The Ultimate Cyberpunk.
Gibson, William. Neuromancer.
Cadigan, Pat. Mindplayers.
Stephenson, Neal. The Diamond Age.
Jackson, Shelley. Patchwork Girl. CD-Rom.

Unfortunately, the two Cadigan texts are out of print. You can find copies through Alibris, Amazon or Powells. Alternatively, the UCSB bookstore is working to procure the rights to reprint them for our class.

Assignments

Participation, including attendance and critical response assignments 20%
Wiki Assignment 1, ongoing due dates 10%
Mid-term Exam, Mon 7/17 25%
Wiki Assignment 2, due  Thu 7/27 10%
5 – 7 page Critical Paper*, due Thu, 8/3 35%

*For the final project, students may write a shorter paper (4 – 5 pages) as part of a web publication.  This option is required for those who wish to receive LCI credit for the course.  A web-publishing workshop will be held prior to the project’s due date.

Details of each assignment will be posted on the class website.

Course Policies

Attendance:

The most valuable insights will come out of our class discussions and your participation is necessary for our success. It is important that you come to every class prepared and on time. To be “prepared” means that you have thoughtfully engaged with the reading, completed the critical response assignment, are prepared to discuss it and that you are equipped with the supplies necessary to participate in class (books, paper, writing instruments, etc.)

Because your presence in class is important, two or more absences will impact your final grade. In most circumstances, four absences will result in failure. Two instances of tardiness will equal one absence.

Cell phones and pagers are to be turned off and kept out of my sight. If your phone or pager rings during class, or if I see you checking your messages / pages during class, you will be marked absent. No exceptions.

Email Policy:

Please be aware that I respond to most email messages within 24 hours Monday – Friday. If you send me an email and I do not respond during this timeframe, chances are that I did not receive it. It is your responsibility to re-send the email or to contact me another way.

Online Etiquette:

As we will undoubtedly discover in class, the finer points of online communication can be tricky. Emotions are difficult to express and read. Our many online assignments will require vigilance to ensure that we are always preserving an atmosphere of mutual respect. Disagreements may arise and consensus may not be possible. We can, however, respect each person’s right to an opinion. Name-calling or menacing behavior will not be tolerated.

Academic Honesty:

From the UCSB General Catalog: “Materials submitted to fulfill academic requirements must represent a student’s own efforts. Any act of academic dishonesty, such as plagiarism or other forms of cheating, is unacceptable and will be met with disciplinary action.”

Plagiarism will result in a failing grade on the plagiarized assignment and possible disciplinary action by the university. We will review the proper way to use outside sources in order to avoid plagiarism; however, I encourage you to meet with me if you are at all uncertain about whether your writing could be misconstrued as plagiarism.

Late Work:

All late work will be given a failing grade.  No exceptions.

Schedule

Schedule

Check the course website for the most up-to-date schedule information.

A Critical Response is due each class period unless otherwise noted.

Week One: Introduction and Early SF

Mon, 6/26 Course Overview
Tue, 6/27 Frankenstein Preface, Volume I, and Introduction to the 3rd Edition (pages 169 – 173 of the Norton Critical Edition)
Wed, 6.28 Frankenstein Volume II (pages 59 – 101)
Thu, 6/29 Frankenstein Volume III (pages 102 – 156)

Week Two: Precursors to Cyberpunk

Mon, 7/3 Philip K. Dick “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale” and “The Minority Report”
Tue, 7/4 – July 4th Holiday, No Class
Wed, 7/5 James Tiptree Jr. “The Girl Who Was Plugged In”
Film Screening: Blade Runner
Thu, 7/6 Blade Runner. Dan O’Bannon “The Long Tomorrow” online version.

Week Three: Cyberpunk

Mon, 7/10 Rudy Rucker “The 57thFranz Kafka”; Bruce Sterling “Green Days in Brunei”; Bruce Bethke “Cyberpunk”
Tue, 7/11 William Gibson Neuromancer parts 1 – 3
Wed, 7/12 William Gibson Neuromancer part 4 and Coda
Film Screening: Ghost in the Shell
Thu, 7/13 Ghost in the Shell

Week Four: Cyberpunk II

Mon, 7/17 Midterm Exam
Tue, 7/18 Pat Cadigan Mindplayers 1 – 138
Wed, 7/19 Pat Cadigan Mindplayers 139 – 276 and Afterword
No Film Screening: Arrange to view The Matrix outside of class.
Thu, 7/20 Class cancelled; Write a one page, double-spaced, typed critical response to The Matrix. Post in the class forum by 11:59 p.m. on Thu, 7/20. Get a head start on The Diamond Age.

Week Five : (Post?) Cyberpunk

Mon, 7/24 Cory Doctorow, “I, Robot”; Bruce Sterling “Cyberpunk in the Nineties” (online)
Tue, 7/25 Neal Stephenson The Diamond Age Part The First
Wed, 7/26 Neal Stephenson The Diamond Age Part The Second
Film Screening: Gattaca
Thu, 7/27 Gattaca

Week Six – Cyberfiction / Cyberlife

Mon, 7/31 Shelley Jackson Patchwork Girl; Andrew Plotkin Shade; William Gibson Agrippa (the book of the dead)
Tue, 8/1 0100101110101101.org; wwwwwwwww.jodi.org; anti-capitalist operating system
Wed, 8/2 LambdaMoo and Second Life
Thu, 8/3 Course Wrap Up; Final Paper Due

Assignments

Critical Responses

Critical Responses are due each meeting, before class begins.  You should critically reflect upon the reading for the day and post two discussion questions to the class wiki (http://kimknight.com/engl192/wiki).  Look for the article for the appropriate week and edit it to add your questions.  Be sure to include your name with your questions.  Bring a copy of your questions to class (for your own reference only; these will not be collected)

Completion of critical response questions in a timely manner will count as part of your participation grade.

Wiki Assignment #1 – Secondary Criticism

Due Dates will be assigned on the first day of class.

Each student will select a work of theory or secondary criticism in response to the reading for a week.  The student will then write a 250-word abstract of the article and a 150-word reflection on the article and post them to the class Wiki (http://kimknight.com/engl192/wiki).  The Wiki entry should include the full bibliographical details of the article and links to other pertinent articles, websites, etc.  See the sample entry on the Timothy Leary essay, “The Cyberpunk: The Individual as Reality Pilot” for an example of both content and proper formatting.

In addition, each student will select two words or concepts from the article to define in the class Wiki.  The definition should relate to the context of our class and should be posted as entries separate from the article abstract.  Be sure to write the entry in your own words!

You may not duplicate an article that another student has already posted.  If you are worried about overlap, you may want to “claim” your article by creating a page for it and then adding the content later.

Please use categories in your Wiki entries.  Every wiki entry should include the category “All Pages” and the category for your name.  For instance, if you decide to write about Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” in the week we are reading Frankenstein, then you would place your entry in the following categories: All Pages, Theory, Frankenstein, YourName, etc.  Your terms from this article would be in the categories All Pages, Terminology, Frankenstein, YourName, etc.  See the Wiki Entry guide on the class website for assistance.

On the due date, you will give the class a brief overview of the article and terms.  These Wiki entries will be included on the midterm exam and should be part of your study materials.

Wiki Assignment #2 – Annotated Bibliography

Wiki Assignment #2

Annotated Bibliography

Purpose: In order to help you get started on your paper, our second Wiki assignment will center on preliminary research for your term paper.

Task: Read five scholarly sources (essays / articles / interviews / books / chapters) and compose an annotated bibliography. The bibliography should be posted in the class wiki, with one article per scholarly source.

Due: Friday, July 28  11:59 p.m.

Requirements for scholarly sources: The easiest way to ensure that a source is “scholarly” is that it be from a peer-reviewed journal or published by an academic press.  This is not to say that articles and books from other locations are automatically unacceptable.  You do, however, need to be more weary of the criticism from other sources.  A movie review in Cosmo, for example, does not carry the same scholarly weight as one in The New York Times.

At least two of your sources must be print texts and you may not use Wikipedia.  This is because Wikipedia enforces a strict neutral point-of-view policy.  Therefore, it is unlikely that you will find any articles that actually make an argument, which pretty much renders Wikipedia useless for our purposes.

The MLA online bibliography, accessible via our library, is always a reliable tool for locating scholarly sources. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Research database may also be helpful (http://library.tamu.edu/cushing/sffrd/).  Again, you may not rely entirely on digital / online sources – at least two of your entries must be on print texts.

As with the first wiki assignment, you may not duplicate a source that another student has already used.  If you want to “claim” certain sources for your own, I suggest you create articles for them right away.

If you do not already have a firm idea for your paper, your five sources needn’t all address the same text.  In addition, feel free to use theoretical texts that may address particular themes of our course, but do not directly analyze the course texts.  See below for examples.

Requirements for the annotations: Each annotation should be a minimum of 150 words and should give the reader an overview of the source.  No reflection is required for this assignment.

Requirements for Wiki entries

  • One article should be created per scholarly source.
  • Article titles should be the source title.
  • Sections should include bibliographic information, annotation, and links, if applicable.
  • Each article should have categories: your name, the relevant text, secondary criticism / theory / etc.

This assignment is worth 10 points, i.e. 10 percent of your final grade.

Examples of theoretical texts that address themes of our course:

  • “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Walter Benjamin
  • “A Cyborg Manifesto” from Simians, Cyborgs, and Women by Donna Haraway
  • “What is Postdmodernism” from The Postmodern Condition by Jean Francois Lyotard
  • “Precession of Simulacra” from Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard
  • “Method” from The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault
  • Various chapters from Terminal Identity by Scott Bukatman
  • Various chapters from How We Became Posthuman by N. Katherine Hayles
  • Various chapters from Protocol by Alexander Galloway
  • Various chapters from Grammar of the Multitude by Paolo Virno
  • Various chapters from The Language of New Media by Lev Manovich
  • And many, many more…

Final Project

English 192 Summer 2006

Final Project

Purpose:

  • To formulate a thesis based upon close textual analysis.
  • To provide development and support for your ideas.
  • To effectively utilize outside sources as part of your argument.
  • To demonstrate your ability to structure a clear and effective essay.

Task: You have two options for completing the final project:

Option #1: Write a 5 – 7 page paper, plus Works Cited.  MLA Format: double-spaced, 12-point Times font; 1-inch margins all the way around.

Option #2: Write a 4 – 5 page paper, plus works cited as part of a web project.  MLA Format: double-spaced, 12-point Times font, 1-inch margins all the way around.  This option is required for those who wish to receive LCI credit for the course.

Topics:  You will produce your best writing if you can identify a topic that really interests you.  With that in mind, I would like each of you to propose your own paper topic (see timeline below).  If you are having trouble coming up with ideas, please email me or come see me!  After the topic proposals are due, I will provide, upon request, a sampling of prompts for those who are dissatisfied with their own ideas.

If you would like to write about a text that is not on our syllabus, you may do so only if you’ve cleared it with me.  Requests to write on alternate texts should be emailed to me no later than Friday, July 21st.  I will respond via email.

Outside Sources:  You should utilize a minimum of 2 – 3 outside sources to support your argument and add scholarly weight to your paper.  The second wiki assignment is intended to help you in this area; however, the outside sources utilized need not be the same ones submitted as part of your annotated bibliography.  Sources should be cited within the paper and listed in a Works Cited section according to MLA format

Web Project Additional Guidelines: The web project should be more than simply posting your paper online.  You should use the medium of the Internet to help extend the concepts you’ve developed in your paper.  Web projects should include multiple pages, multimedia components (pictures, music, etc.) and links, both internal and external.

I will offer an Introduction to Dreamweaver workshop (see the timeline below).  This software is available for your use in the Transcriptions lab.  Additionally, Macromedia offers a free, fully functional 30-day trial version of Dreamweaver.  Available here: http://www.adobe.com/downloads/#webdesdev

Timeline & Due Dates

Friday, July 21: Alternate text requests due via email.

Monday, July 24: Topic Proposal

  • Write a short paragraph (~250 words) outlining your proposed topic and the texts you intend to analyze.
  • Due in the class wiki by 11:59 p.m.
  • Don’t forget to add your category to the article!

Thursday, July 27: Two Dreamweaver Workshops

  • 2pm – 3pm and 5pm – 6pm  in SH 2509
  • Bring your Umail i.d. and password

[Friday, July 28: Annotated Bibliography due; separate assignment]

Sunday, August 6th: Final Projects Due

  • Post the paper and the web url in the class wiki by 11:59 p.m.
  • Don’t forget to add your category to the article!

Grading Breakdown – 35 points possible

Option #1:

Topic Proposal: 5 points
Paper: 30 points

Option #2

Topic Proposal: 5 points
Paper: 20 points
Web Component: 10 points

Grading Criteria:

Papers will be evaluated according to the originality of the thinking, effectiveness of the thesis, response to the assignment, quality of the support, effectiveness of the style and organizational strategy.  Grammar and mechanics, including MLA formatting, will also be a minor part of the grading criteria.  See the paper grading rubric .pdf file below for a full explanation of these criteria.

Web projects will be evaluated according to how well they extend the argument developed in the paper, as well as effectiveness of the style and organizational strategy.  See the website grading rubric .pdf file below for a full explanation of these criteria.

Late Projects will not be accepted.

 

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