ENGLISH 335:  SCIENCE FICTION AS SOCIAL CRITICISM                                                                                                                               FALL 2012  POLICY STATEMENT


Instructor:  Jake Jakaitis

Meeting Time:  10:00-10:50 MWF

Office:  RO A-209

Classroom:  Stalker Hall 301

Office Hours:  11-11:50 F, 1-1:50 M & W, & by appointment

E-mail Address: jake.jakaitis@indstate.edu

Office Telephone:  812-237-3269

Home Page:  http://isu.indstate.edu/jakaitis


English 335:  Science Fiction as Social Criticism investigates the genre’s historical tendency to question the relation of individuals to the social and political structures that shape their identities and govern their lives, thereby enacting political and social criticism.  It is not a chronological or historical survey. Instead, we will examine science fictional addresses to technology and progress, conquest and colonization, and the role of the individual in society.  Following Ursula K. Le Guin’s belief that a well-written science fiction is never really predictive, but is always about the author’s present, always a displacement of a concern relevant to the here and the now, our goal will be to expose complex relations among popular texts and social, economic, and political forces in culture, to effect a cultural critique.  To ease our way into this process of complex critical analysis, we will begin with genre definition, then examine how 1940s and 1950s science fictions represent identity issues and social structures before investigating more complicated issues of cultural critique in contemporary science fiction.  Science Fiction as Social Criticism satisfies the Popular Culture requirement for English majors and is an Upper-Division Integrative Elective in the Foundational Studies Program.


(Years in parentheses indicate dates of original publication.)

Asimov, Isaac.  Caves of Steel.  (1952) Bantam, 1991. ISBN 0-533-29340-0.
Dick, Philip K  Blade Runner (1968) Del Rey, 2007.  ISBN 978-0-345-35047-3.
Le Guin, Ursula. The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) Ace, 2000. ISBN 0-441-00731-7
Russell, Mary Doria. The Sparrow (1996) Ballantine, 2004. ISBN 0-449-92155-8
Steele, Allen.  Coyote:  A Novel of Interstellar Exploration. (2002) Ace SF, 2003.  ISBN 0-441-01116-0.
Wells, H.G.  The Island of Dr. Moreau.  (1896)  Dover Thrift Edition.  ISBN 0-486-29027-1.
Wells, H.G.  The Time Machine.  (1895) Dover Thrift Edition. ISBN 0-486-28472-7.
Professor’s Pack [Available at Goetz Printing, 16 S. 9th Street. Telephone:  232-6504]. 

Professor’s Pack [Available at Goetz Printing, 16 S. 9th Street. Telephone:  232-6504]; DO NOT CONTACT GOETZ UNTIL I LET YOU KNOW THAT THE PROFESSOR'S PACK IS READY



Because this is a literature and life general education class, the reading and class preparation load will be rather intense at times.  Sometimes we will be reading only a single short work [story or novella] for a single class meeting; however, in some weeks we will be covering a complete novel of 300 or more pages.  You will be expected to read carefully, take notes, and come to class prepared to take an objective test or to write short answer and essay responses to quiz questions about the assigned work.  Study questions to focus your reading will appear as links in the on-line syllabus in advance of the due dates for the assigned readings. It is your responsibility to check our web syllabus regularly, for I will often withhold posting of study questions for later assignments so that I can tailor the questions to address issues and concerns raised in class discussions of the previous works.  The study questions and quizzes will sustain the expectation that you have carefully read and thought about the assigned readings and that you are prepared to participate in meaningful discussion and interpretive analysis of the assigned literary works.  Familiarity with the literature will, of course, prepare you for interpretive analysis and discussion on quizzes, in the mid-term examination, in assigned papers, and on the final examination.  You are responsible for all of the assigned readings, even aspects of them not discussed in class

1.  Attendance and Participation (10%)

 Attendance:  Full attendance is expected.  Because we will open some class sessions with a quiz, punctuality is crucial to your success.  If you arrive late, it will be impossible to give you additional time to complete the assignment and since the class discussion following each quiz will rely on students’ responses to the quizzes, completing the work after class is not an acceptable option.  If you accumulate 9 unexcused absences, you will fail this course.  Of course, all absences, excused or unexcused, affect your grade because each absence reduces your quiz and participation score.  If you have an excused absence for medical or other University approved reasons, it is your responsibility to make up missed work by appointment with me before the next class meeting.  Attendance will account for 5% of your course grade.

Participation:  Much of our time will be spent discussing the assigned readings.  Exemplary performance in these activities will demonstrate that you are effectively preparing and thinking about the material and will significantly increase your attendance/participation score.  After each class meeting, I will assign participation points to students who actively comment on the readings and promote meaningful discussion related to the specified goals of the course. At semester's end, students will receive a letter grade for participation based on their accumulated point total. It is in your best interest to take notes and come to class prepared to ask questions or provoke discussion.  These practices will also prepare you to perform well on the short essays and the final project.  Conferences are not required but are encouraged. If you wish to meet with me but cannot attend my office hours, please arrange a conference with me at a more convenient time.  If you do intend to meet me during one of my office hours, it is best that you let me know in advance so that I can reserve the time for you.  A semester goes by rather quickly; please see me immediately if you begin having difficulty with any of the course materials.  Participation will account for 5% of your course grade.

Professional Courtesy:  You will be expected to behave professionally in this college classroom.  Turn off cell phones before entering the room.  From the moment that you enter the classroom, you should be focused on the materials and assignments in this course.  Reading of newspapers or other material not directly related to work in ENG 335 will not be allowed in the classroom--neither before class has started nor during our formal class session.   If you are interested in reading newspapers or other materials unrelated to this course as you wait for class to begin, do so outside the classroom. Students who behave rudely, or who have to be asked to put down newspapers or other reading materials will lose participation points.  Under extreme circumstances, such students will be removed from the classroom or dropped from this course.  Laptops may be used for note-taking and for review of course materials posted in our on-line syllabus, or for searches during class to support our discussions.  However, this privilege will be revoked for anyone using a laptop for e-mail, instant messaging, or any purpose not directly related to the ongoing class discussion.  If laptop use appears to become a problem, I reserve the right to demand that an individual immediately turn the display toward me for inspection.  Any student viewing material irrelevant to this course will be removed from the class.

The ISU "Code of Conduct" can be found at http://www.indstate.edu/sci/.

2.   Quizzes (10%)

Class meetings will often open with a quiz.  These short examinations will either ask you to respond briefly to a few factual questions [usually 10] about the assigned reading, or require short essay responses that analyze and interpret assigned readings.  These latter responses must begin with topic sentences that directly answer the question and then supply specific story details to support the topic.  [See the "How to Respond Effectively to Quiz Questions" link below.]  Simply quickly reading the assigned stories will not prepare you to score well on these quizzes.  Instead, you must actively consider study questions, literary techniques, plot structures and conflicts, thematic concerns, or the relation of the assigned reading to material presented in lectures and discussions of previously assigned works.   How to Respond Effectively to Quiz Questions

3.   Essay (20%)

You will write an extended analysis (4-5 typewritten pages:  1,200 to 1,600 words) of either Isaac Asimov's Caves of Steel or Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. The essay will be worth 20% of the course grade. The broad assignment identifying topics for each novel will be posted on our web syllabus and discussed as we begin Caves of Steel in week nine. Essays will be submitted by e-mail attachment and will be returned in the same manner.  Specific instructions for essay submissions will appear in the essay assignment.

4.  Two Hour Examinations (30%)

During weeks five and eight, you will write a examinations covering the assigned readings from weeks one to five and five to eight, respectively. The first examination will include an objective portion including matching and a few short answer questions about concepts and terms, and one essay question. The second examination will be entirely essay covering the two novels read and discussed in weeks six and seven. Each examination will be worth 15% of the course grade.

 5.   Final Examination (30%)

You will complete a final examination covering material assigned from week nine through the end of the semester.  The final will include both short answer and essay components.  It will be written during our final examination class meeting at 10 a.m. on Monday, December 10, in SH 301.

6.  Extra Credit.

I award extra credit points for written discussions and analyses that you submit after attending any event on or off campus that addresses issues in science fiction. Extra credit opportunities will be announced over the course of the semester; some of these will involve reading additional stories or novels or discussing a film adaptation of a work of science fiction.  Over the course of the semester, you may earn a total of up to 50 extra credit points for attending events or doing additional reading and film watching, and writing 2 to 3 page, double-spaced, typed analyses that directly relate your experience to science fiction themes and issues raised in this course.  Typically, each extra credit submission can earn a maximum of 10 points.  Occasionally, however, a longer assignment will be designated as offering up to 20 points.  Submissions will be evaluated and partial credit will be awarded based on the quality of the work.  I will announce upcoming events in class and invite all of you to do the same.  Extra credit will be available only for events approved in advance by me.  No extra credit assignments will be accepted after Friday, December 12, and I will accept no more than one extra credit submission from any student in any given week of the semester.  Extra Credit Announcements.


Attendance/Participation [10%] 100 Points
Quizzes [10%] 100 Points
Essay [20%] 200 Points
Hour Exams [30%] 300 Points
Final Examination [30%] 300 Points
Total 1,000 Points

Final Grade Scale:  A=920 points; A- = 900 points; B+=850 points; B=820 points; B- = 800 points; C+=750 points; C=720 points; C- = 700 points; D+=650 points; D=620 points; D- = 600 points; F= less than 600 points.  The same percentage scale applies to each assignment.  For example, if you earn a B on the first short essay, I will assign you somewhere between 80% and 84% of the available points depending on my evaluation of your paper.  The letter grade and specific point score will be noted in my final comments on the paper.
**** Retain all graded assignments until you receive your final grade.  You will have little chance for grade review unless you are able to re-submit your graded work.****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: For information about the Foundational Studies program—specifically the “Sycamore Standard,” academic freedom, and the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities—consult the Foundational Studies website.



This is a tentative syllabus.  It is your responsibility to attend regularly, to be prepared for quizzes on the readings, and to adjust to changes in the reading or assignment schedule.  Any changes will be posted in the syllabus available at my web site:  http://isu.indstate.edu/jakaitis/.  Please check the web site regularly, as additional supporting materials [study questions, background information on the authors and assigned readings, etc...] will regularly be added to the site.  The abbreviation PP means that the assigned reading appears in our Professor's Pack.


WEEK ONE:  Course Introduction

8-22 [W]       Discuss course policies and syllabus; Cover Art

8-24  [F]        Continue Course Introduction; Introduce H.G. Wells and prepare for discussion of The Time Machine; Read William Gibson on The Time Machine

WEEK TWO:  Scientific Romances--Playing with Time

8-27 [M]      The Time Machine [1895] by H. G. Wells. If you have not purchased the Dover Thrift Edition, read this short novel for free by clicking on the MS Word or PDF versions below. 
                    SQ  Notes on Cosmic and Ethical Evolution.    The Time MachineMS Word Version; PDF version.  

8-29 [W]      Continue Discussion of The Time Machine

8-31  [F]       "Twilight" [1934] SQ by John W. Campbell [PP:  24-41]. Campbell & Astounding

WEEK THREE:  Playing God

9-3   [M]                                                    LABOR DAY:  NO CLASS

9-5   [W]       The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells.  SQ Gericault's Raft of the Medusa

9-7   [F]        "Microcosmic God" [1941] by Theodore Sturgeon [PP:  88-113].SQ  Sturgeon Literary Trust

WEEK FOUR:  Science and Religion in SF

9-10 [M]       “Act of God" [2004] by Jack McDevitt [PP:  253-264]. SQ  Nicodem Poplawski    

9-12 [W]       "The Quest for St. Aquin" by Anthony Boucher [PP:  378-393].  SQ

9-14 [F]         "First Commandment" [2004] by Gregory Benford [PP:  53-68]. SQ   Current Geoengineering

WEEK FIVE:  Exam #1/Begin First Contact & Crisis of Faith

9-17 [M]       REVIEW FOR EXAM #1
                      Exam #1 Format; Stories in Assigned Order

9-19 [W]       EXAM #1   45 and 60 Point Assignment Grading Scale   150 Point Assignment Grading Scale

9-21 [F]        Begin The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell: "Prologue" and Chapters 1-9 [4-80]   Discussion Questions    Reading Notes

WEEK SIX: First Contact & Crisis of Faith

9-24 [M]      Continue The Sparrow: Chapters 10-18 [81-185] 

9-26 [W]      Continue The Sparrow:  Chapters 19-23 [186-264]

9-28 [F]        Continue The Sparrow: Chapters 24-29 [265-349]

WEEK SEVEN: Le Guin's Gender Thought Experiment

10-1 [M]        Finish The Sparrow: Chapters 30-32 [350-405], the Acknowledgments [407-08], and Conversation with Russell [411-416]

10-3 [W]        The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin: "Introduction" [xi-xvi] and Chapters 1-5 [1-70]   Le Guin Issues   Le Guin Characters

10-5  [F]        Continue The Left Hand of Darkness: Chapters 6-10 [71-146]      

WEEK EIGHT: Le Guin's Gender Thought Experiment

10-8   [M]       Continue The Left Hand of Darkness: Chapters 11-15 [147-220]      

10-10 [W]       Finish The Left Hand of Darkness: Chapters 16-20 [221-300]

10-12 [F]         REVIEW FOR EXAM #2Assignment Handout

WEEK NINE:  Exam #2/Technology and Gender

10-15 [M]      

10-18 [W]       "Helen O'Loy" [1938] by Lester Del Rey [PP: 42-52] SQ and "The Algorithms for Love" by Ken Liu in [PP:  183-198]. SQ     Robot Be Good

10-20 [F]        Caves of Steel [1953] SQ by Isaac Asimov:  Chapters 1-6 [1-81] Asimov Foundation Novels Site. ESSAY ASSIGNMENT

WEEK TEN:  Blurred Genres: SF and The Mystery

10-22 [M]       Caves of Steel:  Chapters 7-12 [82-175]

10-23 [Tu]       MID-TERM GRADES DUE

10-24 [W]       Caves of Steel:  Chapters 13-18 [176-270]

10-26 [F]         Introduction to Blade Runner by Philip K. DickStudy Questions.  Edvard Munch's Puberty & The Scream

WEEK ELEVEN:  Simulated Humanity

10-29  [M]       Blade Runner:  Chapters 1-7 [1-81]

10-31  [W]       Blade Runner:  Chapters 8-14 [82-163]

11-2    [F]        Blade Runner:  Chapters 15-22 [164-242]; “Of Blade Runners PKD, and Electric Sheep” by Paul M. Sammon [243-265]

WEEK TWELVE:  The Post-Human

11-5    [M]       "Burning Day" by Glenn Grant [PP:  69-110]. SQ

11-7  [W]       "I Robot" [2005] by Cory Doctorow [PP:  448-493] SQ

11-9   [F]        "Savant Songs" by Brenda Cooper [PP:  479-495]  SQ    PAPER DUE SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11, at 11:59 pm.

WEEK THIRTEEN:  Political Space Opera

11-12 [M]       Coyote:  A Novel of Interstellar Exploration [2002] by Allen Steele:  1-89.   Some Discussion questions

11-14 [W]       Coyote:  A Novel of Interstellar Exploration:  93-201

11-16  [F]        Coyote:  A Novel of Interstellar Exploration:  205-258

WEEK FOURTEEN:  Political Space Opera


WEEK FIFTEEN:  Re-Defining the Genre

11-26 [M]      Coyote:  A Novel of Interstellar Exploration:  261-329

11-28 [W]      Coyote:  A Novel of Interstellar Exploration:  333-363

11-30 [F]       Coyote:  A Novel of Interstellar Exploration: 367-431

STUDY WEEK:  Re-Defining the Genre

12-3   [M]        "Personal Jesus" [2008] by Paul Di Filippo [PP:  115-130] QUIZ

12-5   [W]        “Jesus Christ, Reanimator” by Ken MacLeod [PP:  186-198]

12-7   [F]         “The Art of War” by Nancy Kress [PP:  234-254] Final Examination Review   


FINAL EXAMINATIONS:  12-10 to 12-14 

[Our examination is on Monday, 12-10, at 10 a.m. in SH 301.]