World-Making Through Science Fiction

Professor: Stacey Balkan
Institution: Florida Atlantic University
Course Number: LIT2010.018

Course Description: LIT 2010 is designed as an introduction to the close reading and analysis of
fiction in which dual emphasis is placed on critical thinking and writing. Focusing on the short story
and the novel, the course will provide students with the tools to read, analyze, critically think, and
write about fiction, and to communicate their insights in both formal and informal written
assignments. We will use the methods and language of literary criticism to explore fundamental
elements of the works under study.

This summer we will examine works that fall within the broad category of speculative, or science
fiction. More specifically, we will read science fiction texts that ask us to consider alternative futures
in which environmental collapse presages not merely ruin, but new ways of being in the world. We
will read Rachel Carson, Octavia Butler, and Ursula LeGuin (among others) as we investigate the
concept of “world-making” in the context of climate disaster.

Artists have long provided a means through which to experience the affective substrate of
modernity—an era made possible by our disastrous reliance on fossil fuels, along with other finite
resources like groundwater. While some provide catharsis, others issue a prescient warning: consider
the villain in Mad Max: Fury Road siphoning water from the local aquifer. If we are to engage
substantively and sufficiently with the climate crisis, it may be in the realm of imagination where we
ought to begin. Thus, we begin our class with a fable from Rachel Carson: “there was once a town
in America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings”; and we end with stories
that ask us to consider the possibility of life beyond environmental ruin—that is, the possibility of
cultivating “love in the Anthropocene.”

ASLE_Syllabi_Balkan_SciFi (PDF)