LTMO-115 — SCIENCE FICTION, THEORY & PRACTICE
Your T.A. will announce a drop-off location for your section.
You have two options for your final project.
Take-home exam (3-hour writing time)
A baby almost killed me as I walked to work one morning. By passing beneath a bus shelter’s roof at the ordained moment I lived to tell my tale. With strangers surrounding me I looked at what remained. Laughter from heaven made us life our eyes skyward. The baby’s mother lowered her arms and leaned out her window. Without applause her audience drifted off, seeking crumbs in the gutters of this city of God. Xerox shingles covered the shelter’s remaining glass pane, and the largest read:
Want to be crucified. Have own nails.
Leave message on machine.
The fringe of numbers along the ad’s hem had been stripped away. My shoes crunched glass underfoot; my skirt clung to my legs as I continued down the street. November dawn’s seventy-degree bath made my hair lose its set. Mother above appeared ready to take her own bow; I too, as ever, flew on alone. COLOR>
Jack Womack Heathern
Choose two topics from the list of options. For each topic, plot
out an essay response and do any necessary re-reading (to refresh your
memory, gather textual support for your argument, take notes, etc.). Then,
sit down and write your responses (1 1/2 hours for each, and yes of course
you can take a break in between). After you have written your responses,
take some time to proofread, type (if you didn’t typewrite it in the first
place), and add any necessary references.
1. Do a critical comparative reading of the representation (or
non-representation) of racial difference in any two sf texts we’ve read
this quarter. How do these texts elaborate (or erase, or both) a critical
dialogue on race and identity?
2. The following is a passage from Theodor Adorno, written in 1944:
Technology is making gestures precise and brutal, and with them men [sic].
It expels from movements all hesitation, deliberation, civility. It
subjects them to the implacable, as it were ahistorical demands of objects.
Thus the ability is lost, for example, to close a door quietly and
discreetly, yet firmly. Those of cars and refrigerators have to be
slammed, others have a tendency to snap shut by themselves, imposing on
those entering the bad manners of not looking behind them, not shielding
the interior of the house which receives them. The new human type cannot
be properly understood without awareness of what he is continuously exposed
to from the world of things about him, even in his most secret
innervations. What does it mean for the subject that there are no more
casement windows to open, but only sliding frames to shove, no gentle
latches but turnable handles, no forecourt, no doorstep before the street,
no wall around the garden? And which driver is not tempted, merely by the
power of his engine, to wipe out the vermin in the street, pedestrians,
children and cyclists? The movements machines demand of their users
already have the violent, hard-hitting, unresting jerkiness of Fascist
maltreatment. Not least to blame for the withering of experience is the
fact that things, under the law of pure functionality, assume a form that
limits contact with them to mere operation, and tolerates no surplus either
in freedom of conduct or in autonomy of things, which would survive as the
core of experience, because it is not consumed by the moment of action.
(*Minima Moralia*>, 19)
Adorno’s question — „what does it mean for the subject…?“ — structures
many of the sf texts we’ve read this quarter. Choose two texts (one of
which should be a novel) and analyze their representation of the subject
and technology (one could say the subject of technology, or also the
subject to technology). Keep in mind not only the ‚generic‘ sense of
technology (as in Adorno’s use of the word), but also the Foucauldian
concept of technology or ‚apparatus.‘ Also keep in mind technology’s
relation to capital (Russ, „SF and Technology as Mystification,“
particularly 34-39; you might also want to look at Fredric Jameson,
*Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism*, 35-38).
3. This topic is adjacent/subset to the topic on the subject and/of/to
technology: IF YOU RESPOND TO #2 DO NOT RESPOND TO #3. Analyze sf
representations of technological (i.e. biotech, electronic, mechanical,
virtual, etc.) personhood. How do such representations contribute to or
inflect the critcal project of displacing the hegemonic subject (see
../~ltmo115/guide1.htm & http://www.slip.net/~ejackson/subsign.html). As
with other topics, your response must be comparative (include at least two
texts from the syllabus).
4. Analyze the politics of authorship in the field(s) of sf. There are
several possible ways to approach this topic. Your reading could be a
theoretical investigation, drawing on Samuel Delany’s discussions of this
problem in *Silent Interviews* (see also ../~ltmo115/delany1.htm) and
connecting his thinking to: a) other theoretical considerations of the
question (such as in Foucault and Barthes); and/or b) one of the sf texts
we’ve read in the course. Or, you may choose to investigate sf’s textual
production of the author — for example, a reading of ‚authorship‘ in
Trouble on Triton might require analysis of the Spike’s microtheater, the
status of the ice opera, the game of vlet, Bron’s narration of his self,
etc. You might also consider, for example, the historically vexed
relations of gender and genre in sf.
5. Do a critical comparative reading of the representation of women and
technology (use at least two texts). Here, you might want to take the time
to look back at some of the optional reading, such as John Varley’s
„Phantom of Kansas.“ You should also read Donna Haraway’s „A Manifesto for
Cyborgs.“ This essay appeared in the *Socialist Review * 16.2 (March/April
1985); the ‚final‘ version can be found in Haraway’s *Cyborgs, Simian, and
Women* (NY: Routledge, 1991). An early version is also available on line
Another important resource: Ann Balsamo, *Technologies of the Gendered
Body * (optional text for this course).
6. What was the significance of the Bulgarians‚ role in Elivissey? And the function of that quirk in Scott Davis’s lecture on March 4, 1997? This is not actually a question, but a belated proleptic gloss (too early, too late) on Peggy Lee’s 1957 live recording of „Fever,“ perhaps itself an oblique attempt toward a saudade for the „original“ (there is no original) recording, completed in the year that *Kiss Me, Deadly* was released. I hope this is perfectly clear. Any attempt to answer this question will result in failure of the course. (See Hysteria and PARANOIA).
7. Explain clearly and usefully what Teresa de Lauretis means by „technology“ in her essay, „Technology of Gender.“ Dialogue this essay (while elaborating through this dialogue your understanding of de Lauretis’s argument and its implications) with your reading of either The Female Man (and that would be plenty); or with any two of the following: „No Woman Born;“ „The Girl Who Was Plugged In;“ „The View from Venus“; „Planet of the Rapes;“ „When it Changed“; or „A Short in the Chest“.
8. We have discussed SF as a radically object-oriented textual practice. Yet Greg Egan’s characters and narrators seem obsessed with the Self, and its „truth,“ perdurability, its unquestioned right to survive even the heat death of the universe. Take any two of Greg Egan’s short stories (or any of his novels, if you’ve read them), and delineate how the very attention to the „self“ is only apparent belief in such a self and how each narrative actually undermines (and literalizes) the impossibility/untenability of the self as a principle/concept within the technosocial environments of Egan’s worlds.
an Internet Exercise minor trick here is – find the stories.
9. Let us assume, for the sake of the larger argument, that Russ’s The Female Man is a „utopian“ fiction. Define utopian fiction and its strategies (using The Female Man as the exemplum of your model). Now let us assume that Womack’s novels of the Dryco world are „dystopian“ novels. (This is easier, but for the sake of symmetry and clarity, define „dystopian fiction“ too.) Now articulate the differences in strategies of thematic and conceptual presentation (and, if you like, even things like „characterization“) between the „utopian“ Russ novel and either of the two Womack novels we did as as dystopian novel. This contrastive comparision should be framed within an explicitly articulated definition of the paraliterary novel’s dialogic relationship with given world. Cite Delany. . .
10. Explain Delany’s theory of the advantage in the paraliterary status of
science fiction in terms of the critical dialogue achieved in any two of
the following: „Aye, and Gomorrah…“; The Female Man , Elvissey.
11. Discuss the politics of the subject and analyze its anti-Cartesian subversion Russ’s The Female Man and Pat Cadigan’s Fools (you may
also make reference to other texts, but focus your discussion on these novels).
A final project of your own choosing, developed in consultation with
and approved by your T.A.
This option allows you to propose and develop your own final
project. In order to pursue this option, YOU MUST SUBMIT YOUR PROPOSAL TO
YOUR T.A. AS SOON AS POSSIBLE — no later than Tuesday, March 11. Some
proposals may require an accompanying explanatory essay (this will be up to
your T.A.). Possibilities include, but are not limited to:
- * write a conventional final essay on a topic of your choosing;
- * write an sf short story, along with a brief explanatory essay;
- * develop a web site (depending on your proposal, this may also
- require an explanatory essay);
- * assemble/produce a multimedia or visual culture project (such as
- film/video, drawing/painting, photography).