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C LIT 240 G: Writing in Comparative Literature

Meeting Time: 
TWThF 9:30am - 12:00pm
SAV 130
Photo of Cynthia Steele
Cynthia Steele

Syllabus Description:

C LIT 240 Out of This World:

Writing about Science Fiction

Early Fall Start 2019

TWTHF 9:30-12:00

Savery 130

5 credits, W Credit

Prof. Cynthia Steele

Padelford C502

TTh 12:30-1:30 by appointment

206-503-4374 (cell)

W Credit

Tutor: Amanda McCourt

Padelford B36

by appointment

What does it mean to be human, and where is the dividing line between the human and inhuman (animal, machine, artificial intelligence, alien, clone, etc.)? How do fictional worlds help us to imagine the range of future possibilities, while critiquing our present societies? What sorts of dialogues have science fiction writers engaged in with each other, over the decades? For each class we will read a science fiction short story that demonstrates how artists at different points of history have imagined worlds challenging our own; for instance, post-apocalyptic landscapes, alien sexuality, ecological crisis and survival, rethinking human history, 50s sci fi noir vs. 80s cyberpunk, and the spectacular stylists of the New Wave. Students will write a daily reading and film viewing journal, as well as two five-page essays, each comparing a pivotal issue in two or three science fiction texts. We will also compare five of these short stories to their film adaptations and watch one additional science fiction film (all but one outside of class), and we will visit the Museum of Pop Culture in the Seattle Center together. By taking this course during Early Fall Start, you can satisfy the UW Composition requirement.

Canvas Link:


All fifteen short stories are posted in pdf or Word form to our Canvas site under ‘Files.’ Please either bring your laptop to class or print out the story for that day and bring a hard copy to class for the discussion. We will discuss the stories and films on the date given on the calendar, so you need to do the reading and/or watch the film on your own before that date. In addition, please read the following free Ebook:

Sherryl Vint, Science Fiction: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury Academic, 2014. ISBN 978-1441194602.,contains,science%20fiction:%20a%20guide%20to%20the%20perplexed


 Rent on Amazon Video or Watch in the Library, Outside of Class:

 Film 1. The Thing. (1982) dir. John Carpenter. 1 hr. 49 min.


Film 2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). dir. Stanley Kubrick. 2 hrs 29 min.


Film 3. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001). Dir. Steven Spielberg. 146 min.


Film 4. Total Recall (1990). Dir. Paul Verhoeven, 113 min:


Film 5. Arrival (2016). Dir. Denis Villaeuve. 116 min. Rent on Amazon.


 Distribution of Grades:

Journal One                    20%

Journal Two                   20%

Essay One                      20%

Essay Two                     20%

Class Participation           20%


You will write personal responses to each of the readings and films this term and will turn in your journal in two segments. Please write each segment (Journal One and Journal Two) as a single, double-spaced Word document with 10-point Times New Roman font. Write your name and ‘Journal One’ at the top of the first page and number the pages. Write between one and two pages of analysis on each of the items listed on the assignment sheet; number them and include them in the order given. In your discussion of the short stories and films, please avoid plot summary and analyze one or two specific issues. I will not consider formal issues like grammar and punctuation in grading the journal; your main objectives here should be clarity and originality.


You will write two five-page comparative essays on two or three of the short stories and/or films that we have studied, double-spaced in 10-point Times New Roman fond. For specifics please see the assignments that I will upload to Canvas. Please number your pages and write your name at the top of the document. For these two essays I will grade you on how well focused your essay topic is, how well you organize, develop, and express your ideas, and how well you follow formal conventions, including the basic structure and development of an analytical essay, conventions of grammar, spelling and punctuation, and the MLA Formatting and Style Guide.

Please utilize the services of the writing tutor for this class, Amanda McCourt, or of the writing tutors at the Odegaard Writing and Research Center at various stages in the writing process. You can make appointments with Amanda by email and with the Writing Center online:

 Also please consult the online handouts that the Writing Center provide:

For additional information, see the sheet on ‘Writing Resources,’ posted on Canvas under ‘Files.’

 Academic Honesty

You are responsible for understanding and observing the UW guidelines regarding academic honesty. All your written work will be submitted through Canvas, which utilizes VeriCite to detect and provide a detailed report on any instances of plagiarism. Please let me know if you have any questions about this.

Students with Disabilities

To request accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 ((V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating that you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss such accommodations.


Week 1

Tuesday, August 27


Wednesday, August 28

Sherryl Vint, Science Fiction: A Guide for the Perplexed, Ch 1, pp 1-15

Short Story 1. H.G. Wells, “The Star” (1897), 5 pp

Thursday, August 29

Vint, Ch. 2, “Technologically Saturated Societies / The Golden Age,” pp. 17-35

S2. Stanley Grauman Weinbaum, “A Martian Odyssey” (1934), 17 pp

Friday, August 30

S3. JohnW. Campbell, “Who Goes There?” (1938), 40 pp

Film 1. John Carpenter, The Thing (1982)

Week 2

Tuesday, September 3

S4. Arthur C. Clark, “The Sentinel” (1951), 6 pp

Film 2: Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Wednesday, September 4

S5. Judith Merril, “That Only a Mother” (1948), 7 pp

S6. Pamela Zoline, “The Heat Death of the Universe” (1972), 9 pp

Thursday, September 5

Vint, Ch. 4: “The Megatext,” pp. 55-72

S7. Brian Aldiss, “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” (1969), 7 pp

Film 3: A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Friday, September 6

Critique Introduction of Essay One (bring 6 hard copies to class)

Week 3

Tuesday, September 10

S8. Philip K. Dick, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” (1966), 19 pp

Film 4: Total Recall (1990)

7 pm: Essay One Due to Canvas

Wednesday, September 11

Vint, Ch. 5: “Speculative Fiction,” pp. 73-91

S9. J.G. Ballard, “The Cage of Sand” (1962), 17 pp

S10. Frederick Pohl, “Day Million” (1966), 3 pp

7 pm: Journal One Due to Canvas

Thursday, September 12

Vint, Ch. 6: “Communities of Practice / Cyberpunk,” pp. 93-111

S11. William Gibson, “Burning Chrome” (1982), 25 pp

Friday, September 13

Vint, Ch. 7: “The Literature of Ideas,” pp. 113-134

S12. Samuel Delaney, “Ay, and Gomorrah” (1967), 11 pp

S13. Ursula Le Guin, “Nine Lives” (1969), 20 pp.

Critique Introduction to Essay Two (bring 6 hard copies to class)

Week 4

Tuesday, September 17

Vint, Ch. 8: “The Literature of Change,” pp. 135-157

S14. Ted Chiang, “Story of Your Life” (1998), 39 pp (first half)

Wednesday, September 18

S14. Ted Chiang, “Story of Your Life” (1998), 39 pp (second half)

Film 5: Arrival (2016)

Thursday, September 19

Vint, Ch. 9: “Science Fictionality,” pp. 159-171

S15. Ken Liu, “The Algorithms of Love” (2004), 12 pp

7 pm: Essay Two Due to Canvas

Friday, September 20


7 pm: Journal Two Due to Canvas

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: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:12pm