"What If…?" Speculative Fiction in Search of More Just Futures
Full course description
To a certain extent, all literature and art is speculative in that they imagine possible worlds separate from the reality we live in. Speculative fiction – encompassing fantasy, science fiction, magic realism, horror, utopia and dystopia –, however, is the genre that does so quintessentially.
In this course, we will study the affordances of speculative fiction to critically reflect on the past and the present to give shape to futures that are more socially just – futures that depart from Orwell’s classic dystopian image of “a boot stamping on a human face.” We focus largely (albeit not exclusively) on literary works, cinema, and television that engage with “what if…” questions about pressing societal transformations that relate to, for instance, reproductivity, care, global pandemics, climate change, and decolonization.
In the tutorials and lectures, you will be introduced to the genre of speculative fiction and the ways in which its artistic form can be studied in connection to its ideological signification. Theoretical insights will be paired with critical readings of primary works in an archive of speculative fiction (mostly from the 21st century) that we develop together. Exploring this archive will result in two writing exercises: 1) a creative one (non-graded) in which you are invited to use your imagination to rewrite an episode of one of the primary texts under study, and 2) a professional review (graded) of contemporary work of speculative fiction (literature, film, or TV series) in which you will assess the alternative social and political aspirations articulated in it.
At the end of this course, you will
have learned what is characteristic of the genre of speculative fiction,
understand the relation between speculative fiction and social justice issues,
be able to develop appropriate theoretical and methodological approaches to interpret works of speculative fiction with a focus on social justice,
be able to critically assess a work of speculative fiction in the format of review for a professional audience.
Allan, K. (Ed.). (2013). Disability in science fiction. Palgrave.
Carrington, A. M. (2016). Speculative blackness: The future of race in science fiction. University of Minnesota Press.
Gill, R. B. (2013). The uses of genre and the classification of speculative fiction. Mosaic: An
Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, 46(2), 71–85.
Lothian, A. (2018). Old futures: Speculative fiction and queer possibility. New York University Press.