ENG 90 / GSWS 90: Our Cyborgs, Our Selves
Through a range of genres and media spanning eight hundred years, including film, television, zines, novels, music, and critical theory, this class will explore how the themes proper to speculative fiction – time, technology, monstrosity, alien life – come into contact with problems of gender and embodiment. How does speculative fiction transform or reinforce dominant or conventional understandings of gender, sexuality, reproduction, even the boundaries of the body itself? We will explore these concerns through the guiding question of the genre: the speculative what if? that gives these stories their imaginative and political power. Films and readings will include Fritz Lang’s Metropolis; selections from the Star Trek franchise; Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” and Alison Kafer’s disability-oriented critique of it in Feminist, Queer, Crip; Mary Shelley’s genre-defining Frankenstein; a selection of feminist utopias and dystopias including Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World, Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; and two very different critiques of empire, Paolo Bacigalupi’s eco-apocalyptic The Wind-up Girl and Ann Leckie’s AI anti-romance Ancillary Justice. Assignments will include two short analytical essays, two ten-minute presentations, and a final creative project of your own design, as well as regular participation in class discussions.