BA History with Film Studies options
Final Year, Component 03
Film option(s) from list
Possible Worlds: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, and Alternate History
Possible Worlds is a module on speculative fiction in its many guises. Encompassing science fiction, apocalyptic fiction, graphic novels, and alternate histories, the literature and cinema of possible worlds is concerned with the precarious routes leading to and from our own present, and is characterised by an acute sense of the volatility and contingency of history.
These novels and films typically take as their starting point a hypothetical alteration in the course of events or a change in social or technological dynamics. From there, they extrapolate lines of development leading towards one or more possible worlds. In doing so, they serve to estrange us from the world as we find it and reawaken us to the variability and open-endedness of the human situation.
After an introductory session on the history of science fiction, we will go on to look at nine major examples of the literature and cinema of possible worlds, drawing on a diverse group of modern and contemporary writers and filmmakers: from the pioneering work of H. G. Wells at the end of the Victorian period through the work of key twentieth-century figures such as Philip K. Dick and Ursula Le Guin to recent science fiction cinema. Topics and themes addressed on the module include, but are not limited to: time travel, alien encounters, evolution, alternate histories, superheroes, science fiction as philosophy, feminist science fiction, utopias and dystopias, and speculative treatments of race, gender, and sexuality.
How powerful is Hollywood? How do directors construct an image of the USA? Examine how directors have created America in the popular imagination. Study Hollywood auteurs (such as Chaplin, Hawks, Hitchcock, Welles and Ford) alongside others (such as Scorsese, Allen and Lee) while covering the breadth of US film history.
Cyborgs, Clones and the Rise of the Robots: Science Fiction
Science fiction has experimented with speculation about other worlds by means of time travels in time and space and other ways of living and being by crossing boundaries of different kinds including species and the human/machine. Some science fiction has imagined oppressive regimes, hierarchical societies characterised by brutality and enslavement.
Other science fiction has used the speculative aspects of the genre to create radically new, imagined transformations of body and society brought about by scientific and technological inventions. This diversity of treatment in science fiction makes it a versatile genre which has appealed to feminist, postcolonial and Afrofuturist as much as to conservative approaches.
The module focuses on a specific theme--what it means to be human--by exploring the robot, the cyborg and clone as well as the automaton and the vampire. The fears and desires are intense in the treatment of the human/animal/machine and when associated with reproduction and the figure of the alien in the world of the science fiction novel.
Investigate the myths surrounding the founding of the United States. Crossing disciplines of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and cinematic and theatrical texts, you compare the classic Western against a range of counter-narratives from black, Hispanic, latino, and aboriginal storytellers. This module interrogates the concept of a 'national literature', explores the relationship between folklore and contemporary society, and investigates the relationship between the Western as a narrative form, and the history of colonialism in the U.S.A.
How have writers, filmmakers, and artists imagined ecological disaster and the end of the world? What are our images of lost worlds and our stories of extinction, including our own as a species? In what ways have representations of apocalypse changed over the last 200 years?
The module starts with fossil finds of extinct animals and severe weather in the nineteenth century, both of which led to a sense of impending doom, before addressing twentieth-century concerns about human fertility, pandemics, machine takeover, and environmental pollution. In our own age, biodiversity loss and reports of climate change make extinction an issue more pressing than ever before, leading scientists to suggest that ours is the Anthropocene – the sixth age of mass extinction and the first geological epoch for which homo sapiens is responsible. By exploring how natural and man-made disasters have variously been conceptualised in fiction, poetry, painting, photography and film, and across disciplinary boundaries from geology to philosophy to cultural studies, this module addresses some of our deepest fears about the future of the planet and about ourselves as a species, including our complex relations to non-humans and non-living materials.
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