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C LIT 240 B: Writing in Comparative Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm
MEB 245
Mimi Nielsen

Syllabus Description:

Speculative Fiction: Possible Futures and Other Stories

Course Syllabus for C Lit 240B, Fall 2019

T/Th 10:30am-12:20am  MEB 245  


Instructor: Mimi Nielsen        Office: Paddelford B205          Email:                  

Office Hours: Tuesdays 9-10 am and Thursdays 1-2 pm, or by appointment.


Any situation in which some [people] prevent others from

engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence.

                                                                      Paulo Freire 

Course Description:

Speculative fiction renders the familiar unfamiliar and the unfamiliar familiar. Science fiction, one of the sub-genres included under this heading, imaginatively pushes the bounds of biology, technology, and the universe as we understand them, often leading to catastrophic scenarios or fantastical solutions to natural phenomena and human dilemmas. Viewed on a continuum, as escapist fantasy or scientifically grounded imaginative realism, it submerges us in life-altering stories of change, often cataclysmic in scale. 

The course readings will primarily consist of science fiction but may also include other speculative fiction sub-genres. During class discussions, we will parse how the different narratives’ worldbuilding configure value as they address topics such as innovation, the environment (writ large), sociopolitical systems, and more. We will consider the significance of how wonder, love, belonging, loss, alienation, and hope are portrayed. We will discuss what our texts convey about what it means to be human, sentient, or artificial intelligence and the implications for the depicted societies. Questions of ethics and what constitutes ‘right action’ run like a thread through all of our texts.


Finally, we will attend to how these fantastical portrayals affect us as readers. What can we glean from our engagement and how might our responses inform our ideas about particular texts, characters, or situations? We will explore these questions and more, drawing on our discussions to propel and craft thoughtful analysis and textually substantiated writing assignments. 


Course Objectives: The aim of C Lit 240 is to develop critical reading and academic writing skills by acquiring fluency in generating questions and articulating a point of view supported by textual evidence.


Required Texts and Materials: While e-texts are ecological, the absence of in-kind pagination poses a problem during in-class close-readings. If possible, please purchase actual hard copies of our readings. The books are all available at the University Bookstore.


Binti. Nnedi Okorafor. A Book (2015). ISBN 978-0-7653-8525-3

Genesis. Bernard Beckett. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2006). ISBN:978-0-547-22549-4. 

The Windup Girl. Paolo Bacigalupi. Night Shade Books (2014). ISBN: 978-1-59780-4.

The Stories of Ibis. Hiroshi Yamamoto. Vi Media. Paperback (2010). ISBN:13:978-1421534404.

Stories of Your Life and Others. Ted Chiang. Vintage Books (2002). ISBN:978-1-101-97212


Additional texts will be posted on Canvas or emailed via the class list. Please make sure that your email address is up-to-date.



Oblivion (2013); Link for viewing:

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2007); Link for viewing:

Content Warning: Our written and cinematic narratives include graphic depictions of sexual assault and other violence, particularly The Windup Girl.

Outside Resource: The Writing Center at the Odegaard Library

~To sign up for one-to-one sessions:

~To sign up for research consultations:

~Resources for English Language Learners: 

Attendance and Participation: To receive maximum credit for participation you must complete all readings and viewings before their assigned class and arrive on time to participate in the daily group discussions. Please let me know as soon as possible if you cannot make it to class.

Another aspect of the participation rubric is the requirement to bring to each class session two quotes from the day’s readings/viewings as well as two questions or comments. Your quotes, questions, and comments will provide the basis for small group discussions, which will later segue into class discussions.  Please hand in your printed copies at the end of class. 

Student and Instructor Conference: One student and instructor conference is required (20-30 minutes). That said, you are always welcome to come to my office hours. I am very happy to meet with you and discuss our texts, your ideas, questions, and writing, as well as any concerns that you may have. If my hours do not jive with your schedule, please email me and we will figure out a time that does.

Assignments: All assignments will have specific prompts posted on Canvas under the “Assignments” option. Please be sure to read these before you begin to write. Once completed, make sure to upload your assignment onto Canvas by the posted due date.

~Two Response Papers: During the quarter, you will write two 1-2 page (350-500 words) response papers addressing our chosen texts.

Formal Writing Assignments:

~Two theses statements of your choosing. They must include: 1) a question that you are posing regarding your chosen texts (text refers here to both literary and cinematic narratives), 2) a succinct claim based upon your question, 3) a ‘so-what’ statement.

~Two Essays: You will expound your theses into two 5-6 page (1150-1450 words) comparative essays. Your drafts must meet the respective minimum word requirement. Shorter drafts will be docked 10% of the assigned points. They must contain relevant quotes and references, as well as extensive analysis. The aim is to have a comprehensive and cohesive first draft.

~Peer-Review: Please bring three hard copies of your first draft to class for peer review on the assigned day Attendance is mandatory to receive credit for your first revised draft. With the feedback from the peer reviews, you will write and submit a revised draft, which I will then review. In my review process, I will consider the first draft, the peer-review rapports, and your revised draft, noting how you have integrated your peers' feedback. If you choose to not use particular feedback, you must explain your reasoning in an addendum.

~For the first essay, I will comment extensively on your revision, after which you will write a final polished version. In other words, the first essay is comprised of six phases: a thesis statement, a first draft, peer-reviews, a first revision, instructor feedback, and to cap it off, a final revision. 

~For the second essay your post-peer-review revision will comprise your final paper.

Each draft must be uploaded onto Canvas by the appointed time. Please adhere to the following formatting guidelines:

       ~ 12pt Times or Times New Roman font

       ~ one (1) inch margins all around

       ~ double spacing

       ~ page numbers (upper right corner)

       ~ standard MLA header (see Purdue OWL MLA guide)

~ to maintain fairness, no late work is accepted unless cleared with me in advance. Work is due as scheduled despite absences. 

Accommodations: Students requesting accommodations for this class are encouraged to see me during my office hours to discuss their needs. You can also contact Disability Resources for Students: 11 Mary Gates Hall; (206) 543-8924;

Plagiarism: Plagiarism, or academic dishonesty, includes presenting someone else's ideas or writing as your own. If you use another’s ideas you must cite the source. If I have any concern that a student has plagiarized, I will immediately submit the writing in question to the College of Arts and Sciences for review. For further information, please see the academic misconduct statute.

Class Participation: 25%

Response Papers: 15% 

Student and instructor conference accounts for 5%

Theses 10% (5% each. Requires participation in thesis writing workshops.)

Essays: 45% (First 20%, Second 25%) Use Writing Center for extra credit (2 extra pts per essay for a total of 4pts.)



Week 1:

Sept 26: Introductory Class 

Week 2:

Oct 1: Nnedi Okorafor’s young adult novella Binti (2015)


TED Talk:

Oct 3: Bernard Beckett’s young adult novella Genesis (3-55 or through “Second Hour”), “Othering 101”

Optional readings:

“Will AI Surpass Us?”

"Plato Unmasked excerpt" See "files" for pdf.

Week 3:                    

Oct 8: Finish Genesis. Response Paper #1. Upload by 9am today.

Oct 9: W-Grade Registration Deadline

Oct 10: Oblivion (2013) Available to stream:

Read after seeing the film: “Oblivion: A Spoiler-Filled Exploration” Oblivion Review

Thesis Statement #1. Upload by 9am today. Bring 3 hard copies.

Week 4:

Oct 15: First Essay, Draft #1. Upload by 9am today. Bring 3 hard copies to the peer-review workshop.

Oct 17: Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2007). Available to stream:

First Revised Draft. Upload by 10pm Sunday, Oct 20

Week 5:

Oct 22: Paola Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (1-65 or through chapter 5)

Some brief and fun viewing apropos female robots:

Oct 24: The Windup Girl (66-116 or through chapter 10)

For your entertainment, Provoking paranoia, some robotic mishaps:10 Scariest A.I. Robot Moments

 (Instructor feedback on essays available by 10 pm Sunday, Oct 27)

Week 6:

Oct 29: The Windup Girl (117-182 or through chapter 18)   

Oct 31: The Windup Girl (183-250 or through chapter 28)

Week 7:

Nov 5: The Windup Girl (251-303 or though chapter 37)     

Nov 7: The Windup Girl (304- 359 or until the end, including the “Epilogue”)

Final Draft. Upload by 10pm Saturday, Nov 9

Worth reading once you're done with the novel:

Week 8:

Nov 12: Hiroshi Yamamoto’s “The Universe on My Hands” (27-54)

Second Response Paper. Upload by 9am today

Nov 14: Hiroshi Yamamoto’s “Black Hole Diver”

Thesis Statement #2. Upload by 9am today. Bring 3 hard copies.         

Week 9:

Nov 19: Second Essay, Draft #1. Upload by 9am today. Bring 3 hard copies to the peer-review workshop.

Nov 21: Hiroshi Yamamoto’s “AI’s Story” (301-350)

Week 10:

Nov 26: “AI’s Story” (350-398)

Thursday Thanksgiving Holiday

Week 11:

Dec 3: Ted Chiang’s “Understand” and “Evolution of Human Science” PDF on file.

Dec 5: Last Day of Class Ted Chiang’s “Liking What You See: A Documentary”

PDF on file.

Final Draft. Upload by 10pm Friday, Dec 6           

Week 12: Exams Week

Grades Posted Dec 18th




Catalog Description: 
Comparative approach to literature and a workshop in writing comparative papers in English. Emphasis on cross-cultural comparison of literary works. Readings in English with an option to read selected texts in the original languages Offered: AWSp.
GE Requirements Met: 
English Composition (C)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
September 19, 2019 - 9:11pm