Interdisciplinary perspectives on science fiction literature

Andrew Lincoln Nelson, “Plantimal 4”, 2016

Date and place : every Thursday at 9h10, room C17, Sociology Department, Charles University (Celetná 13, Praha 1)
Lecturer : Julien Wacquez (CEFRES/EHESS Paris)
Language : English

During the last decades, scholars within the Humanities and social sciences have shown a growing interest in science fiction literature. Unlike most overview studies concerning science fiction literature, in this course we will treat science-fiction not only as an object of investigation (is it possible to embrace the huge diversity of stories published under the label ‘science fiction’ as a whole? Is it possible to grasp it as just a ‘literature’ or should it be considered as a ‘culture,’ a ‘social movement?’ What is its relation to science?) but also as a field to work with, as a tool to produce new concepts which would help us to better understand our reality.

Throughout the semester, and through the lens of science fiction literature, we will explore a vast range of current and urgent themes on which much research in Humanities and social sciences is focused on, such as the Anthropocene, Feminism, Posthumanism, Postcolonialism, Science, and Technology.

For each session, two kinds of readings will be assigned: 1) a text by a scholar (or two) who uses science fiction narratives in her/his theoretical research, and 2) some science-fiction novels that allow to reflect upon a particular theme (animals, gender roles, climate change, etc.) We will observe how this scholar reads the stories, and which place (or function) s/he gives to these stories in her/his work. This method of investigation will enable us to think in two directions:

(i) what can we learn about science fiction literature through its usage by scholars coming from different fields of study?
(ii) what can we learn about academic research through these practices of reading science fiction stories? What does it mean to read science fiction as a scholar working on the Anthropocene, feminism, postcolonialism?

Since one of the aims of this course is also to introduce science fiction to those students who are not familiar with this literary field, we will mostly focus on the classics and the most renowned authors (Karel Čapek, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Olaf Stapledon, H. G. Wells), chosen from among different genres of science fiction (Hard Science, Cyberpunk, Space Opera, Climate Fiction), from the 19th century to today. The course also aims to give students the basic tools to undertake their own research on science fiction, be it in Humanities or social sciences.


– Class participation. Students are strongly encouraged to attend all classes. (20 % of the final grade)
– One short presentation of the assigned readings (10 minutes) for each student. The presentation should provide a summary of the texts, backed up by a critical analysis. (35 % of the final grade)
– Final paper. (50 % of the final grade)