Still from  2001


Eric Rabkin W 09

001 TTh 4:10-5:30 Aud C Angell Hall


TWTh 3:10-4:00 & by appt   3243 Angell Hall & 764-2553

Alistair Chetwynd §002 F 10:10-11:00 3448 Mason Hall
  §003 F 11:10-12:00 2330 Mason Hall


M 4:30-5:30 & F 12:30-1:303157   Tisch Hall



Written Work

Online Resources


One-Page Papers

Supplementary Materials

Disability Accommodations

Longer Papers

Course Grade
Robot Thinker
: The march of science and technology has shaped—or deformed?—humanity since the inception of stone tools and language, and does so now more rapidly than ever. Science fiction, the art most responsive to the human implications of changes in science and technology is arguably the most important modern popular genre.  This course will examine both the history and the diversity of science fiction prose by reading some of the best examples written since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Generally, we will approach each primary text in three ways: through a consideration of its backgrounds (scientific, mythic, and so forth), through specific questions the text raises (moral questions, questions of plausibility, and so forth), and through the traditional discipline of criticism (what is science fiction? what is the relationship of character to theme? and so forth). Underclasspersons may register for the course, but it is intended primarily for upperclasspersons. Although the class is large, I encourage your participation both in the lecture hall and in open office hours. The written work for the course, to be discussed in section meetings, will proceed on a contract-like basis as described below. That work will revolve around weekly, short papers and two longer papers. Except as noted by the word "selections," each book is to be read in its entirety by the date noted in the calendar.
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Th 1/7



T 1/12


Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Oxford World's Classics, M. K. Joseph, ed. (1818)

T 1/19


Edgar Allan Poe (d. 1849), The Portable Poe, Penguin, selections &
Nathaniel Hawthorne (d.1864), Selected Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Fawcett,

T 1/26


H. G. Wells, The Time Machine & The War of the Worlds, Fawcett(1895 & 1898)

T 2/2


Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, HarperCollins (1920)

T 2/9


Karel Capek, War with the Newts, Northwestern U Pr (1936)

T 2/16


Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker, Dover (1937)

T 2/23


Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles, Bantam (1946-1950)
Last day when Longer Paper 1 Proposal may be approved

T 3/9


Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End, Ballantine (1953)
Deadline for Longer Paper 1 (4:10 p.m.)

T 3/16


Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz, Bantam (1959)

T 3/23


Philip K. Dick, Ubik, Vintage/Random House (1969)

T 3/30


Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness, Ace (1969)

T 4/6


Stanislaw Lem, The Futurological Congress, Harcourt Brace (1971)
Last day when Longer Paper 2 Proposal may be approved

T 4/13


William Gibson, Neuromancer, Ace (1984)

F 4/16
Last section day: section summary
T 4/20

Last lecture day: course summary
Deadline for Longer Paper 2 (4:10 p.m.)

F 4/23

No final exam. To retrieve uncollected papers, either see your discussion leader or leave a stamped, self-addressed envelope in your discussion leader's mailbox by this date at 10:00 a.m.

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English 342 Written Work W 10

There are thirteen possible One-Page Papers and two Longer (three-to-four page) Papers in this course. Most students will write at least nine One-Page Papers and both Longer Papers. Every student is required to write at least four One-Page Papers and at least one Longer Paper. All papers should conform to the format requirements below and employ simple, clear citation whenever citation is appropriate. (See also: Some Questions for Active Reading. Five Ways of Looking at a Thesis. Writing Samples for Use of Evidence. Expanded discussion of paper formats and notes. A Note on the Forms of Literary Argument.)
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ONE-PAGE PAPERS: Each paper should aim to enrich the reading of an intelligent senior in the class. This means that you should read the books with care, annotating as you go, and looking for matters that particularly interest you. When you finish this first reading, review the text and your annotations, seeking a better understanding of some aspect of the text. This might be the significance of an image, the nature of a given character, the structure of the narration, the revelation of theme, the importance of some feature of style, or any other literary matter that you believe is worthy of your extra attention. Generate a hypothesis concerning this matter. Test it against the text in order to confirm it, modify it, or discard it as necessary. Once you have a hypothesis you believe would be valuable to a classmate who had also read the book but had happened to be working on another aspect of it, draft your paper so as to present that hypothesis clearly and persuasively. Where appropriate, paraphrase and/or quote from the text. Use page references in parentheses. Do not, however, make your paper mere summary. The intelligent senior already knows what happened in the book; you are trying to add to this knowledge by revealing the significance and/or subtlety of the book's meaning or technique. Reread your draft with the eyes of a potentially dissenting reader and revise to meet any legitimate objections. The resulting second (or third?) draft will not only capture part of your own understanding of the book but will bring you to class well prepared to participate in discussion and to understand the full significance of what others say. The discipline of this type of assignment will not only help you get the most from the books but will greatly sharpen your reading and writing skills.

Each of these papers should be between 225 and 275 words in length. No paper will be acceptable if it exceeds 320 words. Papers must fit on one double-spaced typed page maximum. Longer papers will be unacceptable. Papers should have a heading in the upper right-hand corner that includes your name, your discussion section number (e.g., "Section 5"), the paper due date, the reading number from the course calendar (e.g, "Reading 3"), and the word count (e.g, "260 words"). Each paper is due at the beginning of class on the day a given book is to have been read. Late papers usually will be unacceptable and early papers are strongly discouraged because your attendance in class is expected. These weekly papers will be read and commented on and returned at the end of the next lecture so that through them we can all maintain a second sort of interchange from that in class. I meet with the section leaders weekly to discuss the course, review selected papers, and monitor the grading activity. However, there is much more to a course than the grades on the papers. I encourage you not only to take full advantage of the professional help of your section leader but to speak with me freely about the course and your learning in it, be that learning about the reading or the writing, either after lecture each day, during office hours, or via electronic mail.

The majority of the papers in any given week should be acceptable. These written assignments are based on the assumption that intelligent people giving regular, informed, and honest attention to reading and writing will do both these related things progressively better. In addition, as issues, background, and critical frameworks are developed in lecture, the students in the class will become ever more sophisticated. Therefore, as the semester goes on the criteria for acceptability–for enriching the reading of the intelligent senior in the class–will rise.

These papers will not be letter graded but merely marked with a check to indicate acceptable fulfillment of the assignment. Papers not submitted receive no credit. Papers that seem to be seriously attempted but that are judged unacceptable will be taken to have earned three-tenths of a check. These partial checks add to your total One-Page Paper writing score.

Each student will be allowed to rewrite up to two unacceptable One-Page Papers for credit if s/he so wishes and if the section leader agrees. To do so, you must first talk with your section leader about the first, unacceptable version, and then, if your section leader permits, revise on the basis of that discussion, turning in the revision stapled to the earlier version exactly one week after the original paper's return date.

Each student must earn a One-Page Paper writing score of at least four in order to pass the course. Students may submit as many One-Page Papers as they like, up to the full available set of thirteen, one for each week’s assigned reading. However, no student may count more than nine checks earned on One-Page Papers toward the course check total.
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LONGER (THREE-TO-FOUR PAGE) PAPERS: Longer Paper 1 is an essay in contrast and comparison. Longer Paper 2 is an essay in generalization. Like all the One-Page Papers, both Longer Papers should aim to enrich the reading of an intelligent senior in the class. Longer Paper 1 focuses on two readings, one by each of two authors, and need not necessarily mention any other readings. Longer Paper 2 should mention as many readings as its subject requires but must focus on at least two readings, at least one each by at least two authors. Each Longer Paper must focus on at least one reading for which you are not asking credit for discussion on a One-Page Paper or your other Longer Paper. This requirement is intended to enforce writing on a broad sample of our works. In your header, record the calendar week number of the reading you wish us to record as fulfilling this breadth requirement; for example, "Record #3." If you have already written a paper on the reading for week 3, we will withdraw credit earned for that paper and add credit earned for the new Longer Paper. (Expanded discussion of longer-paper credit-recording process and rationale)

The topics for these papers should be developed with the help of your section leader and/or with my help. For each Longer Paper, write a Longer Paper proposal indicating both (a) the question you intend to explore or the thesis you hope to test and (b) the texts on which you expect to focus. Feel free to add further details to these proposals if you wish, such as your motivation for choosing a particular topic or text or the particular aspects of the texts that you intend to examine with extra care or even a tentative outline. These proposals should serve as the basis for one—and often more than one—discussion with your instructor(s). Once your section leader feels that you have proposed a study that offers good likelihood of success, s/he will sign your proposal. The signed proposal should be attached to the finished essay when it is submitted.

For the purposes of this course, three-to-four pages means 675 to 900 words typed double-spaced on three or four pages. Papers outside these limits will be unacceptable. Longer Papers should have a heading in the upper right-hand corner that includes your name, your discussion section number, the paper submission date (not the due date), the reading number for credit, and the word count. Subsequent pages should have a running head with your name on the left and the date and page number on the right.

Longer Paper 1, an essay in contrast and comparison, may take up any topic that can be fruitfully illuminated by putting two works side by side. You can explore any of the matters that would be fit for a One-Page Paper but here you can begin to see how those matters take on special significance in special contexts. This should not be simply two One-Page Papers strung together. Also, the paper should not be mere contrast-and-comparison. A well achieved essay will always, of course, have a clear thesis.

Longer Paper 2, an essay in generalization, may take up any topic that can be fruitfully illuminated by considering whole classes of literary works. Although these papers should focus on at least two works in the course by at least two different authors, they are not mere contrast/comparison exercises; rather, they are attempts to discover and convey more or less general literary laws. Examples of such laws will be presented in class and you are encouraged to raise general speculations in class for open discussion. Although in this paper you may choose to focus on only two works, your paper must recognize that the intelligent senior may be aware of other works in the course relevant to your thesis. Thus, a successful essay here will not only have a clear thesis but will explore that thesis with the knowledge that its readers may be questioning it in light of diverse texts. For this reason, it is especially important that the Longer Paper proposal development process be given adequate lead time for this paper.

Deadlines for the Longer Paper proposals to be accepted and signed are on the course calendar as are the deadlines for submitting the Longer Papers. Longer Papers may be submitted early if your section leader agrees. Late submissions will be acceptable only in extraordinary circumstances and with acceptable documentation of those circumstances.

Each Longer Paper, if judged acceptable in enriching the reading of an intelligent senior in the class, will receive three checks. Papers not submitted receive no credit. Papers that seem to be seriously attempted but that are judged unacceptable will be taken to have earned one check. Longer Paper 1 may be revised only with the prior permission of your section leader. Longer Paper 2 may not be revised. In addition to discussing the required Longer Paper proposals, you are encouraged to discuss early outlines and drafts of both Longer Papers with me and/or with your section leader.

Each student must earn a Longer Paper writing score of at least two in order to pass the course.
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PLAGIARISM: I endorse the standard definitions of plagiarism: "submitting a piece of work (for example an essay, research paper, assignment, laboratory report) which in part or in whole is not entirely the student's own work without attributing those same portions to their correct source" (LSA Bulletin, 1993-1994, p. 44); "the appropriation or imitation of the language, ideas, and thoughts of another author, and representation of them as one's original work" (Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged edition, 1966). With the exception of knowledge which is demonstrably common (for example, 2 + 2 = 4) or whose source is demonstrably well known (for example, "To be or not to be"), material submitted without citation is normally presumed to have originated with the submitter. Therefore, work or parts of a work submitted without citation will be construed as having been submitted as originating with the submitter. If it appears that uncited work did not originate with the submitter, the work will be turned over to the appropriate College authorities for their determination as to whether or not plagiarism has occurred. LSA exacts diverse penalties for plagiarism, up to and including permanent expulsion from the University. Plagiarism, then, is a deeply serious matter. It strikes at the core values of an institution designed to promote individual achievement in large part through the free and honest exchange of ideas among us all. I welcome all efforts you may make to learn. It is quite normal, for example, to talk with colleagues about one's ideas and to consult such secondary sources as language dictionaries, symbol dictionaries, bibliographies, biographies, concordances, and so on. It is less usual among undergraduates to consult secondary sources such as critical articles, but such consultation is certainly legitimate. However, remember that the aims of the writing assignments are (a) to prepare you for class; (b) to make you a better reader; (c) to make you a better writer; and (d) to make your own contribution to the education of the intelligent senior in the class. In order to achieve those aims, you must do original work. (English Department Plagiarism Policy)
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PARTICIPATION: Your attendance at section meetings is important and expected, just as it is in lectures. Section meetings give you individually a chance to engage questions about our common texts and about both writing criticism and the critical thinking that underlies such writing. Section meetings give you the chance to sharpen your own critical intelligence in conversation with others, give others the chance to reconsider their own ideas in response to you, and give everyone a chance to review and refine their understanding of the major critical, historical, and theoretical issues discussed in the lectures. If your section leader judges your participation for the semester to be acceptable, s/he will award you a check. If your section leader judges your participation for the semester to be truly outstanding, s/he may award you two checks. One cannot participate if one does not attend. Students with two unexcused absences from section will be awarded no participation checks. Students with three or more unexcused absences will be docked at least one check. Your section leader will ask you to document any excuses you may offer. (Policies on Excused Absences; A Note on Irregular Submission of Work)
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COURSE GRADE: The final grade is calculated as a direct translation of the course check total, which is the sum of the One-Page Paper total, the Longer Paper total, and the Participation grade. As noted above, a failure to earn a minimum of at least four One-Page Paper checks or two Longer Paper checks will result in automatic failure. A student with that 6 check minimum will receive a D- in the course. Beyond that, the course grade reflects the course check total: 7 = D, 8 = D+, 9 = C-, 10 = C, 11 = C+, 12 = B-, 13 = B, 14 = B+, 15 = A-, 16 = A, 17 = A+. A student in this course may choose to earn any grade s/he wishes. No one will be penalized for a failure to submit more papers than those necessary to earn the minimum number of checks required to pass the course. A disciplined student who submits nine acceptable One-Page Papers and two acceptable Longer Papers and has acceptable Participation will earn an A. A student taking the course pass/fail could, if s/he wished, earn a C- and thus pass the course by earning a check on each of five One-Page Papers, three checks on one Longer Paper, and earning a check for acceptable participation. Your engagement with this course, like your education as a whole, is at your discretion: the more you put in, the more you get out. This contract-like system is designed to acknowledge your right to choose and to reward with high grades those who demonstrate the most substantial mastery of the skills and materials we have come together to study and enjoy. (A note on rounding)
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Internet Speculative Fiction Database
U-M Fantasy and Science Fiction Web Site
U-M Fantasy and Science Fiction Web Site Dictionary of Symbolism
U-M Library Search Tools (may require login):
   GaleNet (authors & literary criticism)
   Humanities Text Initiative (searchable texts and text collections)
   Oxford English Dictionary (meanings, etymologies, and quotations)
   Encyclopedia Britannica
   Modern Language Association Bibliography (literary criticism)

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Introductory Notes (including recommended readings)
Frankenstein Background Notes
The Eden Complex
The Fathers of Science Fiction: Verne and Wells
Some Questions for Active Reading of Fiction
Five Ways of Looking At a Thesis
History of Utopian Literature
How To Succeed in Science Fiction (PowerPoint on the Web: view with Internet Explorer, click slides for animation effects)
Let's Talk Robots
Logic and Literary Argument
MLA Citation Style (Format) with Basic Discussion and Examples
MLA Citation Style (Format) with Extended Discussion and Examples
A Note on the Forms of Literary Argument
Plato's Dream
Science (Fiction) in the News: "It's not science fiction anymore."
Secure Materials (restricted to U-M community for instructional and scholarly purposes)
Supergenre of Displacement
SF Pulp Culture
Writing Samples for Use of Evidence
Zamiatin's We
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