Seminar in Literary Genres (LSE/CSAP)

Colonialism and Science Fiction

Our main business
in this seminar will be to ask how colonial-imperial history, ideologies, and
discourses are woven into the genre of science fiction. In the first half of
the course we will read a variety of pre-WWII science fiction texts, some of
which exemplify imperial and colonial ideology in a mostly unconscious,
unexamined way, while others set out deliberately to criticize colonial
practices. We will pay attention to the thematic and ideological differences,
but also to the generic continuities in this body of work, asking to what
extent those common features are shaped by the terrain of colonial-imperial
history and ideologies.


The second half of
the course will ask how the genre changed in response to the dissolution of the
colonial-imperial world system (decolonization) and the establishment  of American post WWII hegemony (including
Cold War tensions); and how to articulate these changes with the structural
differences between settler colonialism and colonial/postcolonial
dependency.  As we continue to take note
of  thematic and formal continuities and
developments,  I hope that we will also
be able to ask what the science fiction texts can tell us about post-colonial cultural
theory and contemporary racial ideology.


We’ll pay a lot of
attention throughout the course to problems in genre theory, ranging from the
question of how to define science fiction—which has a direct impact on such
basic scholarly work as the construction of bibliographies—to broad questions
such as what we mean by a literary genre and how the notion of genre affects
the production, distribution, and reception of narrative fiction in general,
and science fiction in particular.




One of the course
goals is to introduce students to the wide range of original research projects
open to them in the field of science fiction and in  relations between popular narrative and
colonial/post-colonial history. In order to suggest some of the extent and
variety of the fictional material, I will ask each student to read a novel (selected
from a list I will provide) not required for the rest of us, and to report on
it to the class.


Students will also

  • a
    short analytical essay early in the semester
  • a
    well-researched critical essay due at the end of the term




Books on order at Revolution Books:

  • Butler,
    Octavia. Dawn.
  • Ĉapek,
    Karel. War with the Newts.
  • Dick,
    Philip K., The Man in the High Castle.
  • Doyle,
    Arthur Conan. The Lost World.
  • Le
    Guin, Ursula. Always Coming Home.
  • Singh,
    Vandana. The Woman Who Thought She Was a
  • Verne,
    Jules. Journey to the Center of the Earth.
  • Wells,
    H. G., The Island of Dr. Moreau.
  • Wells,
    H. G., The War of the Worlds.


Other SF reading selections to be provided (these may


  • George
    Chesney, The Battle of Dorking
  • Jack London,
    “The Unparalleled Invasion”
  • Stanley
    Weinbaum, “Martian Odyssey”
  • Catheriner
    L. Moore, “Shambleau”
  • Edmond
    Hamilton, “The Conquest of Two Worlds”
  • James
    Tiptree, Jr.,  “The Women Men Don’t See”
  • Karen
    Fowler, “What I Didn’t See”
  • Ted
    Chiang, “Story of Your Life”
  • devorah
    major, “Trade Winds”


Theoretical and historical reading (these also may

  • Georges
    Balandier, “The Colonial Situation”
  • Samuel
    R. Delany, “About 5,750 Words”
  • Frantz
    Fanon, from The Wretched of the Earth
  • John
    Frow, from Genre
  • Donna
    Haraway, “Teddy Bear Patriarchy”
  • DeWitt
    Douglas Kilgore, from Astro-Futurism
  • Anne
    McClintock, from Imperial Leather
  • Mary
    Louise Pratt, from Imperial Eyes
  • Roger
    Luckhurst, “The Many Deaths of Science Fiction”
  • John
    Rieder, from Colonialism and the Emergence
    of Science Fiction
  • —.
    “Defining SF, or Not: Science Fiction, Genre Theory, and History”
  • Robert
    Stafford, “Scientific Exploration and Empire;”
  • Darko
    Suvin, “On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre”
  • Lorenzo
    Veracini, from Settler Colonialism
  • Sherryl
    Vint, “Sapien Orientalism”