Spring 2020 - ENGL 385 D100
Across Time, Across Space (4)
Class Number: 1443
Delivery Method: In Person
Explores influential works of literature with a particular emphasis on how they exist across temporal and/or spatial divides, how they alternately bridge and reinforce differences of time, culture, and place. May be repeated for credit once if different topic is taught.
“If a lion could speak, we could not understand him” — Wittgenstein
In this course we will focus our attention on some imagined meetings — often called “contact” or “first arrival” — between our species and aliens. Because we do not know what we will (eventually?) meet if and when we meet alien life forms, everything we say and think now about those meetings will necessarily be speculative. This is of course downright Kantian, and depressing, because we are talking about something unrepresentable. Of that which we cannot speak, perhaps we should remain silent? But where is the fun in silence? Imaging aliens can be entertaining as well as depressing. Moreover, speculation is also liberating because it is clear that as we imagine aliens, we are to some degree also imagining ourselves and our own forms of life.
The course will proceed via alternating readings and film screenings. We will begin with two novellas: Wells’ influential The War of the Worlds and Ted Chiang’s “Story of your Life” (adapted for the screen as Arrival). We’ll move on to two contact classics by John Wyndham and Arthur C. Clarke, and will screen The Day the Earth Stood Still. Then we will cover The Old Man’s War by John Scalzi and The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. The course will be capped by a study of the Alien film.
Students should be prepared to view a number of films, some in class and some at home.
Regular attendance and enthusiastic participation (20%)
Response papers (4 x 5% = 20%)
First essay 5-7 pages, due midterm (30%)
Second essay 5-7 pages, due end-of-term (30%)
War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells
Any edition, including Kindle or cheap Dover Edition
The Old Man's War, John Scalzi (Tor Science Fiction, 2007)
The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham (Modern Library, 2003)
The Modern Library edition is a great recent paperback, but any edition will work
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu (Tor Books, 2016)
Rendezvouz with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke (Spectra, 1990)
Department Undergraduate Notes:
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