Instructor:  Jake Jakaitis

Meeting Time:  9:30--10:45 Tu Th

Office:  RO A-209

Classroom:  Root Hall A-274

Office Hours:  11-12 Tu & Th, 2-3 F, and by appointment

E-mail:  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 liberal arts majors and a Foundational Studies Program Upper-Division Integrative Elective requirement. 


(Years in parentheses indicate dates of original publication.)

Asimov, Isaac. The Caves of Steel (1954) Bantam, 1991. ISBN 0-553-29340-0
Dick, Philip K  Blade Runner (1968) Del Rey, 2007.  ISBN 978-0-345-35047-3.
Russell, Mary Doria. The Sparrow (1996) Ballantine, 2008. ISBN 978-0-449-91255-3
Steele, Allen.  Coyote:  A Novel of Interstellar Exploration. Ace SF, 2003.  ISBN 0-441-01116-0.
Wells, H.G. The Island of Dr. Moreau. (1896) Dover Thrift Edition, 1996.  ISBN 0-486-29027-1
Wells, H.G. The Time Machine. (1895) Dover Thrift Edition, 1995. ISBN 0-486-28472-7.
Professor’s Pack [Available at Big Picture Printing, Northwest Corner of Spruce and 13th Streets. Telephone: 812-235-0202.  Do not call Big Picture until I announce that the professor’s pack is ready.]


  • To provide an historical overview of the development of science fiction while emphasizing science fiction's tendency to enact cultural and political critique.
  • To connect the works studied to cultural and historical contexts through interpretive analysis and discussion of narrative structure, displacement, and the common themes and emphases of science fiction.
  • To develop and refine close reading and analytical skills through student interpretations of literary works communicated both through class discussions and in written assignments. 
  • To encourage critical sophistication and lifelong interest in literature by deepening students’ awareness and understanding of the aesthetic and cultural dimensions of literary, artistic, and philosophical studies


Because this is a 300-level English class, the reading and class preparation load will be rather intense at times.  While at times we will be reading only a single short work [story or novella] for a single class meeting, 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 or revise previously posted study questions 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 in 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 6 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.
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 my estimation of their cumulative performance. 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 examinations.  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.  A semester goes by rather quickly; please see me immediately if you begin having difficulty with any of the course materials.

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/link1-code/.

2.   Quizzes (20%)
Class meetings will often open with a quiz.  Some quizzes will ask you to provide brief, factual responses to a series of questions about the assigned readings or to answer multiple choice questions that you will access as a timed quiz through Blackboard. To complete these quizzes, you must bring a laptop [preferred] or smart phone to each class meeting. More substantive quizzes will require short essay responses that analyze and interpret assigned readings.  These 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

Scoring Charts: 4 Point 5 Point20 Point

3.  Essay (15%)
You will write an extended analysis (4-5 typewritten pages:  1,300 to 1,600 words) of one of the novels covered in the second half of the course.  Your analysis will be supported by quotations from the novel functioning as evidence to support your claims and will conform to MLA documentation style. Plagiarism—the intentional presentation of work that is not your own—will result in failure on the assignment. In more severe cases of plagiarism, the result will be failure in the course and notice of the offense will be sent to Student Judicial. The essay will be submitted by e-mail attachment and will be returned in the same manner. Due dates and more specific instructions for documentations procedures and essay submission will appear in the assignment. 

4.  Two Examinations (30%)
You will write two examinations including short answer questions and an extended response to an essay question.  Each examination will be worth 15% of the course grade. The short answer component will include a matching section asking you to link quotations from the stories to the appropriate story titles. Regular attendance and note taking will be crucial to your success on this portion of these examinations.

5.  Final Examination (25%)
You will complete a final examination covering material assigned from week ten through the end of the semester.  Like the first two examinations, the final will include both short answer and essay components.  However, the essay components of the examination will cover a higher percentage of the exam because we will read fewer short stories and more novels in the final third of the class. The final will be written during our final examination class meeting at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, December 8, in Root Hall 274.

Attendance/Participation (10%)
100 Points
Quizzes (20%)
200 Points
Essay (15%)
150 Points
Exam #1 (15%)
150 Points
Exam #2 (15%)
150 Points
Final Examination Essay (25%)
250 Points
1,000 Points

Final Grade Scale:  A = 920 points; A- = 900; B+ = 850; B = 820; B- = 800; C+ = 750; C = 720; C- = 700; D+ = 650; D = 620;  D = 600; 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 82% 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—specifically about The Foundational Studies Program, academic freedom, and the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities—consult the following links: Foundational Studies website: at www.indstate.edu/fs, and Student Handbook.


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: http://isu.indstate.edu/jakaitis/.  Please check the web site regularly, as additional supporting materials will regularly be added to the site.


WEEK ONE:  Course Introduction

8-20 [Th]        Discuss course policies and syllabus; introduce science fiction genre definitions and expectations. Cover Art.

                       Prepare for first assigned reading:  The Time Machine  by H.G. Wells.  Read William Gibson on The Time Machine.

                       Here's   another time travel essay, a review of Michael Swanick's Bones of the Earth.
                        Notes on Cosmic and Ethical Evolution

WEEK TWO:  Scientific Romances--Playing with Time

8-25 [Tu]      The Time Machine [1895] by H. G. Wells. Read this short novel for free by clicking on the MS Word or PDF versions below. SQ  
                     The Time Machine: MS Word Version; PDF version. Wells and Conrad

8-27 [Th]      "Twilight" [1934] by John W. Campbell in PP: 24-41. SQCampbell & Astounding Campbell's Golden Age

                       “Mozart in Mirrorshades”[1985] by Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner in PP: 223-239 SQ

WEEK THREE:  Scientists Playing God

9-1   [Tu]      The Island of Dr. Moreau [1896] by H.G. Wells: Chs. 1-13; pages 1-51. SQ

9-3   [Th]       The Island of Dr. Moreau [1896] by H.G. Wells: Chs. 14-22; pages 51-104.


WEEK FOUR:  Science and Religion in SF

9-8   [Tu]       "Act of God" [2004] by Jack McDevitt in PP: 253-264. SQ
                      "First Commandment" [2004] by Gregory Benford in PP: 53-68. SQ

9-10 [Th]        "The Quest for St. Aquin" [1951] by Anthony Boucher in PP: 378-393. SQ
                       Review for Examination # 1

WEEK FIVE:  Crises of Conscience and Faith

9-15 [Tu]        Examination #1 [150 Points]

9-17 [Th]        Begin The Sparrow [1996] by Mary Doria Russell: Prologue & Chs. 1-5 [3-42] SQ  ESSAY ASSIGNMENT

WEEK SIX:  Crises of Conscience and Faith

9-22  [Tu]       Continue The Sparrow: Chs. 6-15 [43-152] Characters in The Sparrow

9-24  [Th]       Continue The Sparrow: Chs. 16-20 [153-214]

WEEK SEVEN:  Crises of Conscience and Faith

9-29  [Tu]       Continue The Sparrow: Chs. 21-28 [215-330] [Interim Grades Due.]

10-1  [Th]       Finish The Sparrow: Chs. 29-32 [331-405]

WEEK EIGHT:  Simulating Humanity

10-6  [Tu]       "Helen O'Loy" [1938] by Lester Del Rey in PP: 42-52. SQ
                        "The Algorithms for Love" [2004] by Ken Liu in PP: 183-198. SQ

10-8  [Th]       Begin Caves of Steel [1954] by Isaac Asimov: Chs. 1-6 [Pages 1-81] SQ
                       Introduction to Asimov’s Caves of Steel: vii-xvi

WEEK NINE: Humanizing the Robot

10-13 [Tu]      Continue Caves of Steel: Chs. 7-13 [Pages 82-191]

10-15 [Th]      Finish Caves of Steel: Chs. 14-18 [Pages 192-268] Robots Rising
                       Examination #2 Review

WEEK TEN:  Human or Android?

10-20 [Tu]      Examination # 2 [150 Points]

10-22 [Th]      "Second Variety" by Philip K. Dick [PP:  17-61].  Introduction to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. DickSQ

                        Edvard Munch's Puberty &The Scream

WEEK ELEVEN:  Human or Android?

10-27 [Tu]     Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Chs. 1-8 [Pages 1-94] SQ

10-29 [Th]      Continue Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Chs. 9-16 [Pages 95-193]

WEEK TWELVE:  Human or Android?

11-3   [Tu]      Finish Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Chs. 17-22 [Pages 194-242]
                        Last Day to Drop a Class [DF or DF]; Last Day to Withdraw from ISU

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

WEEK THIRTEEN:  Political Space Opera

11-10 [Tu]      Coyote:  A Novel of Interstellar Exploration [2002] by Allen Steele:  Parts One & Two: 1-125] [Be sure to read pages 1-5.] Some Discussion questions  

11-12 [Th]      Coyote:  Part Three: 129-201

WEEK FOURTEEN:  Political Space Opera

11-17 [Tu]      Coyote:  Parts Four & Five: 205-258 Coyote Map

11-19 [Th]      Coyote:  Part Six: 261-329 SQ For Book Two




 12-1 [Tu]       Finish Coyote: Parts Seven and Eight: 333-433

12-3  [Th]       “I Robot” [2005] by Cory Doctorow in PP: 448-493SQ


FINAL EXAMINATIONS:  December 7-11      

[Our examination is on Tuesday, December 8, @ 10:00 in Root Hall A-274.]