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Sci-Fi Film and Radical Thought

ENGL 200.307
instructor(s):
TR 12-1:30
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

What does the future look like? Is it a time of freedom and life-changing technology? Or one of disaster and totalitarian control? What happens when these speculations are filmed and made available to the human eye? This course will consider how films have used the genre of science-fiction to try to imagine such futures and how, in the process, they have grappled with the economic realities and political imaginaries of the 20th century.

Science-fiction and radical political thought are both concerned with understanding the present and imagining the future. By considering the two genres together, we will ask questions about the nature of such speculation and its limits. What sort of futures can these texts imagine? What sort of changes or alternatives are they unable to imagine? How do political thinkers utilize the tools of science-fiction to understand realities that might exceed human perception?

In sum, we will query the sort of political work that speculative fiction can do and the sort of speculative work that political theory can do, seeing what tools they offer us to understand contemporary political problems and horizons. We will watch and analyze a diverse array of films, from classics like Solaris and RoboCop to contemporary works like Sorry to Bother You and Sleep Dealer. We will pair these films with political and critical writing by Karl Marx, Donna Haraway, Jackie Wang, Frantz Fanon, and others.

This Junior Research Seminar is designed to introduce students to a variety of critical research skills and academic writing  methods, such as close-reading, visual analysis, and the use of archival materials, culminating in a final research project with critical and/or creative components.