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Reproductive Fictions

ENGL 0531.401
also offered as: GSWS 0531
TR 10:15-11:44


This interdisciplinary seminar focuses on reproduction, aiming to gain sharp critical insight into past and present struggles for bodily autonomy along with broader questions about how identities, structures, and power relations get reproduced. What guarantees the intergenerational inheritance of race, class, and citizenship—some of the decisive forms of social or legal status that hinge on reproductive kinship? What material conditions, scientific and legal theories, and narratives of origin and collective destiny do they rely on? What forms of work (and gender norms) are entailed in gestation and care, and in the reproduction of communities and the infrastructures they need to live and thrive? Approaching reproduction in all its senses not simply as a biological fact but as a social process that depends on and shapes the stories we tell, we will analyze—in part via fiction from Frankenstein to realist novels and from feminist utopias to recent science fiction—what facilitates or prevents the reproduction of certain lives, populations, and social relations. Since stories about new life often imply a projected future, we might ask what versions of the future (and whose future) we are being prompted to imagine as secured or threatened by reproduction. We can discuss longstanding issues surrounding procreation, including the history of sexuality, the intersection of race and gender, the regulation of fertility and demography, contraception and abortion, chattel slavery, eugenics, class and social reproduction, family structures, kinship and citizenship, reproductive labor, the privatization of care, and commodification of genetic material. Readings may include fiction by Mary Shelley, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Octavia Butler, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Torrey Peters, together with scientific writing and recent contributions to gender and sexuality studies, Black feminist theory, bioethics, law, and political theory

English Major Requirements
  • Literature Seminar pre-1900 (AEB9)
  • Sector 1 Theory and Poetics (AETP)
  • Sector 2 Difference and Diaspora (AEDD)
  • Sector 5 19th Century (AE19)
  • Sector 6 20th & 21st Centuries (AE20)
English Concentration Attributes
  • 20th-21st Century Concentration (AE21)
  • Gender/Sexuality Concentration (AEGS)
  • The Novel Concentration (AENV)
College Attributes