English 187A - Spring, 2020

Topics in Literature & Media

    Topic: Time Travel

Class Information

Instructor: Ziser, Michael
CRN: 84083
Time: TR 12:10-3:00
Location: 248 Voorhies


    What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.

    All questions rely on the present for their solution. Time measures nothing but itself.
    --H. D. Thoreau

    This advanced seminar will explore the slippery subject of time from a wide variety of perspectives in literature, media studies, philosophy, linguistics, and history. Starting with the science fiction of time travel, which gives us some concrete ways to think about the interaction of logic, story, history, biology, and time, we will turn to modern philosophical and literary experiments with duration and memory; attempts in narratology to develop a precise vocabulary for temporal phenomena; linguistic investigations of tense, aspect, and mood; analyses of the way that media technologies shape human experiences of time; questions of temporal scale; and the emergence of our sense of history from the technologically-mediated superimposition of specific moments. Should we stumble across a working prototype of a time machine, we will either split the profits evenly or engage in an epic no-holds-barred, winner-take-all contest across all time and space.

    Seminar participants will be required to read and discuss the main texts each week, screen media materials in and out of class, pursue expertise in one discourse related to time (for the first paper), lead class once, and a develop a time-related analysis of one text of their own choosing (final paper).

    In addition to the readings below, there will be a course reader and screenings of films and playthroughs of videogames including, among others:

    Memento (Nolan, 2000)
    Arrival (Villenueve, 2016)
    Primer (Carruth, 2004)
    Cleo from 5 to 7 (Varda, 1961)
    Russian Ark (Sokurov, 2002)
    Braid (Blow, 2008)


    Weekly Participation: 10%
    Weekly Writing: 15%
    Presentation: 10%
    Literature Review Essay: 25%
    Final Project: 40%


    The Philosophy of Time , Robin Le Poidevin and Murray MacBeath, eds.
    A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time, Adrian Bardon
    Your Brain is a Time Machine , Dean Buonomano
    Time Travel: A History , James Gleick
    Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
    The Man In The High Castle, Philip K. Dick
    Insomniac Dreams , Vladimir Nabokov
    To Be or Not To Be , Ryan North
    The Time Traveler?s Almanac , A. and J. VanderMeer, eds.
    The Time Machine, H. G. Wells
    Time and Narrative, Paul Ricoeur