Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (available via the IC bookstore and online booksellers)
Additional Texts and Websites from Earlier Editions of the Course Taught by Other Instructors:
Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia
Gregory Claeys and Lyman Tower Sargent, editors, The Utopia Reader
Warren Wagar, A Short History of the Future
Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano
Regarding the rest of the reading materials:
1. Those readings that appear on the syllabus in hypertext blue are on websites. All links are working as of the class start date; I’ll provide workarounds should we encounter any dead links during the semester, so please be sure to let me know if you have any difficulties accessing a site or a Sakai document.
2. Those readings that appear on the syllabus in plain (non-hypertext) font are found in the “Resources” folder located within our class’s Sakai website.
Expectations Regarding Course Work:
The class has six graded elements. Here is what to expect regarding each of them.
1. Discussions: The course involves a good deal of discussion during each meeting. Students must come to class prepared to talk about the readings and respond to the comments of others. I will call on random students during each discussion, so please be current with all reading assignments. Writing down at least three or four questions or observations per text prior to our meetings is a great way to be prepared for the discussions.
2. Exam: I’ll administer a foundation examination on October 2. The exam will take the entire class period and will concern all readings up to and including those assigned for the exam date. Students will write their answers in blue books.
3. Quiz: There will an in-class quiz regarding Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) on November 13. Note that this is a change (as of 8/31) from the original quiz date. Please be sure to watch the film prior to the quiz date. I’ve put a copy of the 2010 restoration print of Metropolis on reserve at the Ithaca College Library. It is a long movie (2:34), so be sure to provide yourself ample time to watch it. If scheduling library time is difficult for you, consider ordering a copy of the movie from Amazon.com. Thanks to our students, I’ve learned that Cornell Cinema is showing Metropolis on Friday, November 9 at 7 pm at the Willard Straight Hall theatre. A live orchestra will accompany the film. The student admission price is $10. Ticket sales start on Nov. 5; here’s the link to the Cornell Cinema site for more information.
4. Oryx and Crake Book Review: On November 27 students will submit to our Sakai drop box a three-page book review of Atwood’s novel. When writing the review, relate the novel’s plot and explain Atwood’s vision of the future. Discuss the book’s strengths and weaknesses and compare and contrast it to similar texts that we read in class.
5. Group Project: During the third week of class I will create randomly-chosen, four-person groups. Each group will develop a fifteen-minute presentation concerning one of the nineteen topic headings (assigned to the groups at random) covered in class. The presentation must investigate and explain a thematically-related text of the students’ choosing. The chosen text must be one other than those used for that particular topic in the class. Group presentations will take place during the last week of the course, on December 11 and 13. All members of the group must contribute to the project, although each group can choose which of its members will speak at the presentation—any number of speakers is acceptable to me. All members of a group receive the same grade.
6. Theme Paper: Each student will write a three-to-five-page paper concerning a future-oriented short story collection or novel of their choosing. Future-focused essay collections or scholarly attempts to predict the future (similar to the Ian Morris book that we discuss in class on October 25) are also acceptable choices.
The book cannot appear on the course reading list.
When writing the theme paper, explain the book’s vision of the future and the author’s means of relating this vision. Discuss the book’s strengths and weaknesses and compare and contrast it to thematically similar texts that we discussed in class.
The paper is due by noon on Wednesday, December 19 (during Finals Week) and must be submitted to the course Sakai drop box.
Course Schedule and Reading, Listening, and Viewing Assignments:
Aug. 30: Introduction—Personal introductions, overview of the course. View and discuss in class: Reynold Reynolds, “The History of the Future” (1996); Crasstalk.com, “5 Onion Articles That Predicted the Future” (2011).
Sept 4: The Future of the Ancients—Ovid, “The Golden Age”; L. Michael White, “Understanding the Book of Revelation”; “The Antichrist Legend”; “The Apocalyptic Worldview.”
Sept. 6: Apocalyptic Thinking to 1900—Bernard McGinn, “Who Was Joachim di Fiore?”; Ralph Glaber “On the First Millennium” (Eleventh Century); Michael Wigglesworth “The Day of Doom” Stanzas 1-25 (1662); “Uriah Smith [Preface, Chapters One, Six, Seven] “The United States in the Light of Prophesy” (1874).
Sept. 11: The Belief in Progress—I.F. Clarke, “Prologue” and “To the Last Syllable of Recorded Time” from The Pattern of Expectation, 1-12, 35-61; Sir Francis Bacon from Novum Organum; Antoine-Nicolas de Condorcet from Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind (ca. 1790).
Sept. 13: Nineteenth Century Technological Utopias—Denison Olmsted, “On the Democratic Tendencies of Science” (1855); R.H. Thurston, “The Borderland of Science” (1890); Philippe Willems, “A Stereoscopic Vision of the Future: Albert Robida’s Twentieth Century” (1999); The Onion, “Long-Lost Jules Verne Short Story ‘The Camera Phone’ Found” (2004).
Sept. 18: Inequality in an Age of Progress—Charles Fourier “Theory of Social Organization” [selections] (1820); Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto [pages 67-75] (1848); Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward [Chapters 11 and 12] (1888); H.G. Wells, The Time Machine “Epilogue” (1895).
Sept. 20: Questioning Technology and Secular Despair—“T” (Henry David Thoreau), “Paradise to Be Regained” (1843); Thoreau, Walden [“Where I Lived, and What I Lived For,”] (1854); Mary Shelley, The Last Man [Volume III, Chapter 1] (1826); H.G. Wells, The Time Machine [Chapters 4 and 5] (1895).
Sept. 25: Doubts about the Future of the West—Paul Valery “On European Civilization and the European Mind” [selections] (1919); Oswald Spengler, “The Decline of the West” (1922) [selections] Sigmund Freud, “Civilization and Its Discontents” (Chapter III) (1919); Bertrand Russell, “Icarus; or, The Future of Science” (1924).
Sept. 27: Robots—Karel Capek, R.U.R. (1921); Hans Moravec, The Universal Robot (1991); Matt Novak, “Robot History: The Rise of the Drone” (2012); John Markoff, “Skilled Work, Without the Worker” (2012).
Oct. 2: *In-Class Exam on all class content up to and including the readings for today’s class* The Singularity—Transhumanism; Vernor Vinge, What is the Singularity? (1993); Jamais Cascio, Open to the Future (2004).
Oct. 4: Ethnicity and the Future—Jack London, “The Unparalleled Invasion (1910); W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Comet” (1920); Philip Nolan and Dick Calkins, Buck Rogers (Monday, February 4, 1929 to Tuesday, April 9, 1929); Sam Moskowitz, “Anti-Semitism: The Day of the Messiah (from Strange Horizons, 1976).
Oct. 9: The Future and the Natural World —Robert Frost, “Fire and Ice” (1920); Robinson Jeffers, “The Purse-Seine” (1937); Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (selections, 1962); Begin Viewing: Soylent Green (1:37) (1973).
Oct. 11: Finish watching Soylent Green and discuss the film.
Oct. 16, 18: No Class—My trip to NYC, Fall Break.
Oct 23: Apocalyptic Thinking Since 1900—William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming” (1919); Daniel Clowes, A Preview of the Coming Apocalypse (1989) and The Future (ca. 1990); Paul Boyer, “The Atomic Bomb and Nuclear War” (from When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, 1994); View and discuss in class: selections from The Rapture and Left Behind.
Oct. 25: Who Will Rule the Future?—Alex Toth, The Invaders (1952); Philip K. Dick, “The Defenders” (1953); Jack Kirby, Kamandi #4 (excerpt, 1973); Ian Morris, “For Now” (from Why the West Rules– For Now, 2011); View and discuss in class: Charles M. Jones, “Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century” (1953); Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek, excerpts from “Space Hippies” episode.
Oct 30: Gender Matters I—Samuel R. Delany, “Aye, and Gomorrah. . .” (1967); Sam Moskowitz, “Women’s Liberation: When Women Rule” (from Strange Horizons, 1976); view and discuss excerpts from Gene Roddenberry, Planet Earth (1974), Lizzie Borden, Born in Flames (1983).
Nov. 1: Gender Matters II—Listen to and discuss in class: James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” (56 min.) (Published in 1976, adapted as NPR drama, 1990).
Nov 6: What Can Computers Do For You?—Harlan Ellison, “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” (1967). Listen to and discuss in class: “A Logic Named Joe” (27 min.) (1955 radio broadcast based on a 1946 story by Murray Leinster); Short Videos: Computers Forecast from 1967; 1993 View of the Future by AT&T; Apple’s view of the future from the 1990s. If we have time, we’ll also watch in class and discuss “The Old Man in the Cave,” a Twilight Zone episode from 1963.
Nov. 8: Visions of Nuclear Destruction I—E.U. Condon, “The New Technique of Private War” (from One World or None, 1946); Philip Morrison, “If the Bomb Gets Out of Hand” (from One World or None, 1946); Ray Bradbury and Wallace Wood, “There Will Come Soft Rains” (1950); Listen to and discuss in class: “Rocket from Manhattan” (31 min.) (radio broadcast, 1945).
Nov. 13: *Quiz on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.*Visions of Nuclear Destruction II—Delaware Department of Civil Defense, “If An A-Bomb Falls” (1951); Wallace Wood, “The 10th at Noon” (1952); Atomic Attack #8, “The Island that Disappeared” (1953); Maryland Civil Defense Agency, “The H-Bomb and You” (1954); Moebius, “One of 4,070 Variations” (ca. 1980); Jonathan Schell, The Fate of the Earth (selections, 1982).
Nov. 15: Future War—I.F. Clarke, “Introduction: The Paper Warriors and Their Flights of Fancy” (from The Tale of the Next Great War, 1995); Micah Zenko, Predicting Future War: What H.G. Wells Got Right and Wrong” (2011); Mark Tutton, “The Future of War: Far-Out Battle Tech” (2011); Greg Jaffe, “U.S. Model for a Future War Fans Tensions With China and Inside Pentagon” (2012); Ken Dilanian, “America’s Top Spies Go Up Against A Crowd” (2012); “Big Dog” the Robot.
Nov. 20, 22: No Class—Thanksgiving Break
Nov. 27: *Submit to Sakai drop box Oryx and Crake analysis paper.* Discuss Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.
Nov. 29: Recent European Futures—Retro-Future: To the Stars!; Retro-Future: Glorious Urbanism; Retro-Future: Mind-Boggling Transportation; View in class: Alfonso Cauron, Children of Men (1:45) (2006).
Dec. 4: Daily Life in the Future I—Finish watching Children of Men and discuss the film; PaleoFuture (Skim the site); “Retro-Futurism”; “The Wonder City You May Live to See” (1925); The Public Domain Review, “France in the Year 2000” (1899-1910); Monsanto Magazine, “The Future Won’t Wait” (1960); Joseph J. Corn and Brian Horrigan, Excerpts from Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future (1984).
Dec. 6: Daily Life in the Future II— Stefano Tamburini and Tanino Liberatore, Ranxerox (ca. 1981); David Levine, “How the Future Predicts Science Fiction” (2010); Bob Odenkirk, A Vision of the Future (2012). View and discuss in class: The Twilight Zone, “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” (25 min., 1964); Short Videos: “Clothing in the Year 2000” (ca. 1930); “House of the Future, 1957”; “Britain of the Future as seen in the 1960s”; selection from Futurama.
Dec. 11: *Group presentations.*
Dec. 13: *Group presentations.*
Dec. 19: *Theme paper due in Sakai drop box by noon.*