English 173 - Winter, 2016

Science Fiction

Class Information

Instructor: Shershow, Scott
CRN: 22762
Time: TR 9:00-10:20
Location: 6 Olson


    In this seminar, we will not try to reconstruct the history of science fiction.
    Rather, we will structure our approach to science fiction in terms of a four
    sided diagram intended to denote the quadruple boundaries of human being. This
    diagram thus takes the shape of a kind of “compass rose,” whose poles broadly
    correspond to what Martin Heidegger famously calls “the fourfold.” To dwell on
    the earth, Heidegger suggests, is always also to be “under the sky;” and for
    human beings to “initiate their own essential being” as mortals capable of
    death, is always also to “await the divinities” as “beckoning messengers” of an
    unforeseeable future.

    We will use this diagram to map the relation of four of the most common themes
    of science fiction: understanding “sky” as the realm of the extraterrestrial and
    the space alien, “earth” as the realm of the animal, “mortality” as our
    inescapable relation to the dead and the past, and “divinities” as the infinite
    possibilities of what might be called, for lack of a more specific name, the
    future, the utopian or the “post-human”. When one draws this as a compass rose,
    one finds the space alien is above us, the animal below, the dead behind, and
    the post-human before or beyond.

    In the class, we will read a wide assortment of science fiction texts ranging
    from H. G. Wells in the early 20th century to the present day. In order to put
    as many things before us as possible, we will read only a few full-length novels
    and otherwise concentrate on short stories and novellas.


    Short paper 20%, Midterm 20%, Longer Paper 25%, Final exam 25%, participation 10%.


    Ubik , Phillip K. Dick
    Dawn, Octavia Butler
    The Island of Doctor Moreau, H.G. Wells
    Solaris, Stanislaw Lem
    Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein
    And other texts on electronic reserve