English 491B (002): Feminist SF/ Feminist Science Studies

Instructor: Margery Fee
Section: 002

Term: 2
Meets: Tues 2:00-4:00pm

Science studies has begun to examine Western science from a variety of disciplinary and theoretical perspectives including the postcolonial (is Western science the only science?). the rhetorical and literary (embedded metaphors are invisible to scientists as they talk about “gold standards” and “Holy Grails”), the historical and feminist (founded in 1660, the Royal Society admitted women first in 1945), and the anthropological (how does ‘laboratory life’ produce knowledge?).  Sense is made of such entities as frozen embryos, cloned animals, transgenic plants, and DNA databases through popular culture:  computer games, movies, television shows, news stories, and science fiction.  The course will examine the ways in which feminists have used SF (which stands variously for science fiction or fantasy, or speculative fiction) to theorize about gender differences, and ways in which this popular genre has been held at a distance until recently from both science (this isn’t science fiction!), literature and even feminist science studies.  Susan Merrill Squier and others have argued that, in fact, the disciplines of science and literature were forged as binaries after the Enlightenment in ways that account for the masculinization of science and the feminization of literature, as well as the centrality of biology in debates around “life,” “God,” the “Human,” and the “natural” in the 21st century.

Readings (subject to revision):
Margaret Cavendish (sel. from Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader), Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818 ed. Broadview), Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915), Rokeya Hussain, Sultana’s Dream (1905), Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake, Larissa Lai, “Rachel,” C.L. Moore, “No Woman Born,” James Tiptree, Jr. “Your Haploid Heart,” Ursula Leguin, “Nine Lives,” Joanna Russ, The Female Man, and stories TBA by Judith Merril and Octavia Butler; essays by Donna Haraway, Evelyn Fox Keller, Anne Fausto-Sterling.

Course Assignments/Requirements:
Course will require one presentation, several summaries and other short writing pieces (paper proposal, draft paper, assessment of other students’ drafts), and a final research essay.