SYLLABUS: SCIENCE FICTION FILM (SPRING SEMESTER 2021)

ENGLISH 3283/4933

Note that the midterm and final exams for this course will be administered on-line on Blackboard. The midterm will be administered on March 8, covering all material through March 1. Other details to be provided as they become available.

Instructor:

Prof. M. Keith Booker

234 Kimpel Hall, 575-7248

e-mail: m.keith.booker@gmail.com

Textbooks Required:

On-line textbook supplied free of charge.

Description:

The purpose of this course will be to provide a broad introduction to science fiction film, with an emphasis on American science fiction film. We will examine a number of important individual films and discuss the ways in which they relate to larger trends within science fiction film, including surveys of specific subgenres.

Course Resources for Remote Delivery

Online video lectures: Available on YouTube, linked to the schedule below.

Online textbook: Linked to the schedule below.

Facebook Group for Class Discussions: Click here.

Individual films: Available for inexpensive rental on Amazon Prime Video, as well as other platforms.

Essays, exams, and other major requirements:

Students will write one critical essay (4-5 pages, double-spaced) and have an on-line mid-term exam and an on-line final exam, both delivered via Blackboard. Prompts for the critical essay are included at the end of this syllabus.

There will also be a class Facebook page where students may participate in discussions, ask questions, post relevant information, and so on. For each class for which you post or comment, on this page, you will be awarded 1-3 points, depending on the quality and substance of the post, up to a possible total of 15 points for the semester. Any crucial information posted by the instructor on the Facebook page will also be made available via this syllabus.

All students should check this syllabus daily for announcements and updates and to make sure you understand the schedule. All students will be responsible for being aware of any information or announcements presented in this syllabus.

Note on participation in discussions on Facebook: To avoid spoilers, you should not discuss the material for a given class before the date of that class. In general, responses to a given film should be posted as comments on a post on that film provided by the instructor as a prompt.

Grades and Grading

            Facebook Discussions: 15%

            Mid-term exam: 25%

            Final exam: 25%

            Critical essay: 35%

Course Schedule:

***Alien Invasions***

Monday, January 11, 2021

Introduction to the Course.

View the brief lecture Introductory Overview of Science Fiction Film.

Read the on-line assignment.

TODAY’S FILM: The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951, 92 min)

Image result for the day the earth stood still

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for The Day the Earth Stood Still.

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Monday, January 18

Note: This day is the university’s Martin Luther King holiday. Accordingly, there will be no synchronous discussion on this day.

TODAY’S FILM: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956, 80 min)

Image result for invasion of the body snatchers

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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Monday, January 25

Synchronous discussion of The Day the Earth Stood Still and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Film viewing: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977, 138 min)

Image result for close encounters of the third kind

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

____________________________________________________________

Monday, February 1

Synchronous discussion of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and District 9.

TODAY’S FILM: District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009, 112 min)

Image result for district 9

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for District 9.

____________________________________________________________

Monday, February 8

From this class forward, each Monday evening synchronous discussion will focus on the film assigned for that day.

TODAY’S FILM: Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016, 116 min)

Image result for arrival film

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for Arrival.

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***Adventures in Space***

Monday, February 15

TODAY’S FILM: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968, 149 min)

Image result for 2001 a space odyssey

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

____________________________________________________________

Monday, February 22

No class: spring break.

Monday, March 1

TODAY’S FILM: Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979, 117 min)

Image result for alien 1979

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for Alien.

____________________________________________________________

Monday, March 8

TODAY’S FILM: Serenity (Joss Whedon, 2005, 119 min)

Related image

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for Serenity.

Midterm exam on Blackboard, covering all material through the class of March 1. The exam will be open book. You may consult the lectures, on-line reading assignments, or other recorded sources. Do not, however, consult other people. The exam will go live on Blackboard at 5:15 pm. You will have thirty minutes to complete the exam once you start, though it will remain live until 6:00, in case some people get started late. Our synchronous on-line discussion of Serenity will begin at 6 pm.

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Monday, March 15

TODAY’S FILM: Europa Report (2013, Sebastián Cordero, 90 min)

Image result for europa report

As we enter the second half of the semester, now might be a good time to start thinking seriously about your critical essay. You might find this video helpful for that project.

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for Europa Report.

____________________________________________________________

***Exploring the Posthuman***

Monday, March 22

TODAY’S FILM: Blade Runner (Original 1982 theatrical cut, Ridley Scott, 1982, 117 min)

Blade Runner' future is now and you are old

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for Blade Runner

____________________________________________________________

Monday, March 29

TODAY’S FILM: Terminator (James Cameron, 1984, 107 min)

Image result for the terminator 1984

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for Terminator.

____________________________________________________________

Monday, April 5

TODAY’S FILM: Robocop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987, 102 min)

Image result for robocop

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for Robocop.

Monday, April 12

TODAY’S FILM: Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2014, 108 min)

Image result for ex machina

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for

____________________________________________________________

***Science Fiction as Satire***

Monday, April 19

Film viewing: They Live (John Carpenter, 1988, 94 min)

Image result for they live

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for

____________________________________________________________

Monday, April 26

TODAY’S FILM: Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018, 112 min)

Review: Sorry to Bother You - Slant Magazine

View the brief introductory lecture.

Watch the film (Amazon).

Read the on-line assignment for

____________________________________________________________

Critical essays due for all students by midnight on this date. Essays should be submitted to the instructor by e-mail as a Word-compatible attachment.

____________________________________________________________

Final exam schedule to be announced.

ESSAY PROMPTS

The following suggested topics are intended to give students an idea of the kinds of topics that are likely to make successful critical essays. These topics my be used directly, or they may simply be used as guidance for students who wish to develop their own topics.

  1. Using examples from the films we have seen in class, discuss some of the ways in which the representation of aliens in science fiction can be used to comment on real-world social and political issues.
  2. Using examples from the films we have seen in class, discuss the ways in which science fiction can contain energies that suggest that the world need not be the way it currently is.
  3. Choosing any two films on the syllabus, compare and contrast these two films in terms of a specific issue, such as treatment of race and racism, representation of women, critique of capitalism, environmentalism, etc.
  4. Choosing any two films on the syllabus, discuss the ways in which this film uses the mode of science fiction to achieve goals that could not have been achieved in a more realistic film.
  5. Using examples from the films we have seen in class, discuss the ways in which science fiction film explores the ways in which technological advances can change fundamental social ideas.