In this course we will read and discuss works of science fiction from some Slavic countries. Science fiction in central and Eastern Europe has been an important means of discussing the nature and limitations of social engineering and of imagining the future as well as critiquing the present. We will join these writers in a dialogue on what we can know about ourselves, our present, and our possible futures. We will also view two science fiction films by a Russian director who has often been called one of the best film artists of the twentieth century.
Karel Capek, Toward the Radical Center
Capek, War with the Newts
Stanislaw Lem, Cyberiad
Lem, The Futurological Congress
Lem, The Star Diaries
Andrei Platonov, The Foundation Pit
Strugatsky Brothers, Roadside Picnic
Evegeny Zamyatin, We
Class participation and Oral Work
The course will be run as a seminar with close discussion of texts. Two students will be responsible for starting off the discussion for each class. You are required to attend class and to participate. In addition, there will be several days set aside for student presentations on your own papers. I will also have my own prepared material to cover for each class.
There will be two types of written assignments in the course: three short papers (4-5 pages) on assigned topics and a long paper (10-12 pages) on a topic of your choice. You may rewrite all of these assignments. The rough due dates for the assignments are given below. More specific due dates will be announced when the assignments are given.
Students in 304 will have a different set of assignments which we will determine at our first meeting. We will also meet an additional two times to discuss the texts in Russian. We will only read segments of the works in Russian.
Class Participation 25%
Short Papers 45%
Long Paper 30%
The final date for withdrawing from the course is the last day of class. Please familiarize yourself with the College's policy on academic dishonesty.
Schedule of Class Meetings
Part One Science Fiction and the Russian Revolution
Week 1 Russian Utopian and Revolutionary Thought
Week 2 and 3 Zamyatin's We
Week 4 and 5 Platonov's Foundation Pit
The first short paper will be due at the end of this section.
Part Two A Czech View of Mid-century Europe: Fascism and Anarchism
Week 6,7,8 Karel Capek
The second short paper will be due at the end of this section.
Part Three A Polish View of Postwar Culture
Week 9, 10, 11 Stanislaw Lem, the probabilities of knowledge, and social satire
Cyberiad, Futurological Congress, Star Diaries
Week 12 and 13 The science fiction films of Andrei Tarkovsky and the novels
of the Strugatsky Brothers
The third short paper will be due at the end of this section.
Week 14,15 Student presentations
The final draft of your long paper will be due on the scheduled final exam day.