2019 - 2020

  Postcolonial Science Fiction: the Empire Strikes Back  
Yael MaurerRosenberg - Jewish Studies002 Mon1600-1800 Sem  1
University credit hours:  2.0

Course description

Postcolonial Science Fiction:  The Empire Strikes Back

Dr. Yael Maurer

This course explores the intersection of two seemingly unrelated realms: postcolonial literature, specifically the literature produced during and after the British colonization of India by British colonizers and their postcolonial subjects in the former Empire, and science fiction, a fictional mode that explores "Other Worlds". Science fiction can be described as "speculative fiction". It is the story of "what if": What if we had discovered other worlds and inhabited them? What if aliens discovered us?  In postcolonial fiction, the emphasis is on what happened in the past and how that history has left traces on the present.  The questions posed by science fictional narratives reflect the colonial and postcolonial conditions in interesting ways.

What do science fiction and postcolonial fiction have in common? One answer would certainly be the figure of the "alien" and the "Other". As Jessica Langer demonstrates   in her book Postcolonialism and Science Fiction, the "classic oppositional SF tropes of the grotesque bug-eyed alien bent on Earthly domination and the beautiful but empty planet, ripe for colonization" are the "twin myths" of both SF and colonialism.

In other words, SF and postcolonial fiction and theory are both structured around similar tropes. If we look at the genesis of the science fictional mode, we shall see it begins in the late 19th century at the height of the colonial project. As John Rieder points out in Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction, "early science fiction lives and breathes in the atmosphere of colonial history and its discourses".  We shall see how literary works written at the time reflect the fears surrounding the idea of colonial domination and the encounter with the "Other".

 In this course, we'll focus on the links between the British Empire and the "other worlds" envisioned in science fictional texts. We'll begin in colonial times with H.G Wells, one of the "founding fathers" of the science fictional mode who explores the "war of the worlds" at the heart of colonial domination and science fictional imaginings of alien races.  We then move to one of the most famous British science fiction writers, Arthur C. Clarke, to see how his stories from the 1950’s and onward  examine the links between colonial expansion, spaces, and alterity. We end with the postcolonial reimagining of nation in Amitav Ghosh’s 1995 novel about the links between Empire, science, medicine, national identities and science fictional imaginings of alternate dimensions and alternative histories of nation and a 2011 British film which imagines an alien invasion in a housing estate in London.



Attendance, participation and class presentations: 20%

In class midterm: 15%

Final paper (at home):  65%

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