Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Science and Literature

ENGL 075.910
instructor(s):
MWF 5-6:45 pm
Sector III: Arts & Letters of the College's General Education Curriculum

This course examines the roots of science fiction in the nineteenth century, decades before “SF” emerged as a distinct genre with recognizable conventions. During a century that witnessed increasing formalization of scientific specialties, literary fiction navigated the tensions between the orthodox and heterodox, empirical and esoteric, concrete and speculative. In this class, we will consider the manifold ways in which early texts of sciencefiction simultaneously portrayed and actively contributed to the ongoing scientific debates of their time. What is the impact of fiction on cultural knowledge about science and popular attitudes towards it? Can fiction anticipate the future by thinking through the implications of new and imagined inventions and technologies? How do fictional ideas influence real scientific breakthroughs and developments? In what ways do scientific methodologies inform literary techniques? Through careful consideration of these and other questions, we will deliberate on the impact of our own writing practices.