Chemical Engineering 24, Section 1

Whose Science, Whose Fiction? Exploring America's Scientific Imagination


Monday 4:00-6:00PM SEE CALENDAR!!

100 Hildebrand Library

Course Description
What do we learn about ourselves, our society, and the natural world through science fiction? Discover with Professor Reimer how space exploration and technological innovation in the mid-twentieth century spawned an explosion of books, movies and television that revealed much about the US psyche. Technological triumphalism, cultural hegemony, libertarian politics, the nature of God, sexual identity, and "war as a force that gives us meaning" are just a few of the topics that will reveal themselves in our readings and seminar time together. 

Course context

We will meet on several Mondays throughout the term where there will be two hours viewing and discussion of previously assigned readings and/or viewing of films and television shows. Prof. Reimer will lead discussions and students will be expected to bring epiphanies, extensions, and/or questions about the readings and viewings. The matrix below introduces the themes and readings. For some of these themes students will be expected to identify texts and suggested excerpts for the class to discuss. P/NP grades are based upon class participation and a final essay.

Tentative Schedule (subject to change)…

Session 1 What is SciFi? Usula Le Guin’s definition, and “The Inner Light,” STNG. An exploration of the greater speculative fiction genre, and a focus on how to define “SciFi”

Session 2 politics #1 - Readings from “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and watching “Colonial Day” from BSG. Heinlein’s libertarian politics, how are they like the USA today? How does BSG’s political structure resemble today’s liberal democracies? Or not?

Session 3 politics #2 - “The Day the Earth Stood Still” movie (1951) plus discussion. How do we see the various forms of power in this movie? Intellectual? Political? Physical? Sexual? Cultural?

Session 4 Time Travel #1 - immutable time, plastic time, and parallel universes; what do these mean? Can you give examples from books, short stories, film or TV of each? Discuss Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” and watch/discuss “Blink” from the Dr. Who TV series.

Session 5 Time Travel #2 - watch “The Girl Who Leaped Through Time (2006)” thus discuss; is this immutable time travel?

Session 6- Review student selection of books, short stories, film TV- how do these selections overlay religion and science fiction? Pantheism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam? How about atheism as a religion? Watch “Kobol’s Last Gleaming Part 1”

Session 7- Watch “Kobol’s Last Gleaming Part 2;” and discover themes of Judaism, monotheism and polytheism.  Student survey: what are your favorite robots? A walk through sci fi favorites.

Session 8: Wall-E movie and discussion; does Wall-E pass the Turing test? How do the robot gender stereotypes play out in this film?

Session 9: “Ex Machina” at California Theater, then dinner and discussion. Misogyny? Genius? Gender? Politics?

STNG = Star Trek Next Generation

STOS = Star Trek Original Series

BSG = Battlestar Galactica 2004 TV Series