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Sci. Fict. & Postmodern Culture

ENGL 260.910
instructor(s):
TR 6-8:40

Often dismissed by academic critics as low-brow pulp, science fiction is nonetheless a rich, dynamic literary genre which deserves our attention. What accounts for its enduring popularity? Why are so many scholars threatened by the genre? And how can we explain the newest strain of science fiction, affectionately known as cyberpunk, which simultaneously exemplifies postmodern style and critiques postmodernity by offering a dystopian vision of the future (and in many cases, a jaded version of the present). In this course we will examine science fiction novels, short stories, music, and film that question the global commodification of culture, the fetishization of technology, and the dominant ideologies that structure race, gender, and class relations. Drawing upon texts from North America, Europe, and Asia, we will ultimately challenge what counts as "human" in our increasingly inhuman world. Works studied may include William Gibson's Neuromancer, Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang, short stories by Pat Cadigan and Octavia Butler, and Japanese anime like Ghost in the Shell and Megazone 23. All texts and discussions will be in English.