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ENG 181

Spring 2017

ENG 181: Diversity in Science Fiction

Section: <<>>
Instructor: Amy Li

Meeting Time and Place: <<>>

Office Hours: <<>>

Email/Contact: amy.s.li@emory.edu

Course Website: http://amysli.com/eng181/
A writer is very much like the captain on a star ship facing the unknown. When you face the blank page and you have no idea where you're going [...] [i]t can be terrifying, but it can also be the adventure of a lifetime.”

– Michael Piller (writer for Star Trek)

Course Description
­“…to boldly go where no man has gone before…” This Star Trek: The Original Series quote remains iconic, and yet, the line has gone under revision, becoming “…where no one has gone before” in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Why revise? And what does this revision tell us about the importance of diversity in science fiction media and literature?

In this writing-intensive course, we will “explore new worlds” and ways of being in science fiction literature and films. In addition to reading and watching diverse science fiction works, this course will focus on creating your own theory of writing: how do you write? What are the elements of successful college writing? How do you write about literature? How do you write diversely and/or about diversity? Throughout the semester, students will engage with writing concepts such as genre, critical thinking, and conversation, as well as the over-arching theme of diversity. Major assignments for this course include a creative short story with a critical component as well as a final portfolio with a reflective rationale.

Course Learning Outcomes
By the end of this course you will be able to

  • Critically read and engage with literary texts, with an aim toward writing about literature.

  • Draw upon a set of key terms (e.g. genre, critical thinking, & conversation) for writing.

  • Compose texts in multiple genres, including but not limited to creative writing, blog posts, and literary analysis papers.

  • Summarize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the ideas of others as you undertake scholarly inquiry in order produce your own writing.

  • Build to a final result in stages, including stages of pre-writing invention and post-draft revision, understanding writing as an open process entailing later invention & re-writing.

  • Constructively critique and reflect upon your own work.

These outcomes have been adapted for Emory first-year writing courses from a set developed by the Council of Writing Program Administrators.

Required Texts
To Purchase or Rent:

  • The Norton Field Guide to Writing

  • Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818 edition) by Mary Shelley

On Course Reserve (or available for Purchase/Rent):

  • Essay: “Introduction: Women and Writing” by Lisa Yaszek in Practicing Science Fiction: Critical Essays on Writing, Reading and Teaching the Genre (149-153)

  • Film: Ex Machina (2015)

  • Short Story: “Houston, Houston, Do You Read” by James Tiptree, Jr.
  • Film: Alien (1979)

  • Short Story: “The Cosmonaut” by Angel Arango [orig. in Spanish: “El cosmonauta”]

    • Link: (on GoogleBooks) http://tinyurl.com/nooqzcq

  • TV Episode: “Measure of a Man” from Star Trek: The Next Generation

  • Film: District 9 (2009)

  • Essay: “Introduction: Reading Disability in Science Fiction” by Kathryn Allan in Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure ed. Kathryn Allan

On the Internet:

  • Essay: “On the Origins of Genre” by Paul Kincaid

    • Link: http://www.paulkincaid.co.uk/Reviews/origins.htm

  • Short Story: “Aye, and Gomorrah” by Samuel R. Delany

    • Link: http://future-lives.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/delany_

  • Short Story: “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ

    • Link: http://boblyman.net/englt392/texts/When%20It%20Changed.pdf

  • Short Story: “Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler

    • Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/

  • Short Story: “Movement” by Nancy Fulda

    • Link: http://www.nancyfulda.com/movement-a-short-story-about-autism-in-the-future

  • Short Story: “Burning Chrome” by William Gibson

    • Link: http://flawedart.net/courses/articles/Gibson_Burning_Chrome.pdf

Course Policies


Attendance is essential. Aside from documented absences for school-related activities or illnesses, you may miss two classes without incident. For every class you miss after the second, I will lower your grade by one-third of a letter. You will still be held accountable for the work due that day. Meet with me or send me an email at the beginning of the semester if you feel your situation warrants an exception to this rule. Bring or provide appropriate documentation to our meeting or provide it in your email.

Late work

All assignments are due by the time and date specified. I will not accept late work without granting advance permission via email or in writing, and permission is not always guaranteed. Please ask me at least 48 hours in advance if you require an extension. If you fail to secure advance arrangement, late work will cause your grade for the assignment to decrease by one letter for each class period the assignment is late. Meet with or email me if you feel your situation warrants an exception to this rule. Bring appropriate documentation to this meeting.

Domain of One’s Own

This course is part of the Domain of One’s Own project. You will build and maintain a personal blog on WordPress and compose with a variety of digital tools. No prior experience with web design or digital authoring is required for successful completion of course work. Your work will be published to the web and available to audiences beyond the class and university.


Email is the best way to contact me if you have questions or concerns. Generally, I will respond to all student email within 24 hours (although on weekends and holidays, it may take a little longer). Likewise, there may be instances when I will need to contact you by email. It is your responsibility to check your Emory-based email account at least once every 24 hours.

Academic Integrity/Honesty

Each of you is expected to follow the Emory College Honor Code (http://catalog.college.

emory.edu/academic/policy/honor_code.html). I take plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty seriously. Should I suspect that you engage in academic dishonesty in this course, I will refer the case to Emory’s Honor Council. You may also receive an F on the assignment(s) in question.

Safe Space (more info on safe spaces here: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Safe_space)

This class and any of our class-related meetings are intended to create a safe space for all students. Please do not hesitate to talk to me about any situation that causes you discomfort, and let me know if there is any way that I can help you. These may include, but are not limited to, providing trigger warnings, specifying and using non-binaristic gender pronouns, etc.

Course Assessment
Assignments: Grading Breakdown

  • In-Class Writing – 5% (graded on completion)

  • Character Analysis Paper – 5%

  • Proposal Presentation – 5%

  • Participation – 10%

  • Blog Posts – 10% (graded on completion and relevance to prompt)

  • Frankenstein/Ex Machina Comparison Paper – 10%

  • Character Comparison Paper – 15%

  • Creative Short Story (with Critical Component) – 20% (Critical Component counts 5%)

  • Final Portfolio with Reflection Letter – 20% (Reflection Letter counts 10%)

Assignment Descriptions:
In-Class Writing (5%):

  • Because this is a writing-intensive course, you will do some form of writing during each class section. Some of these writing assignments will be collected and given a completion grade. Others will be invention practices or lead-up assignments to at-home blog posts.

Blog Posts (10%):

  • Each student will create and update their own blog, through Domain of One’s Own. Each blog post will answer or engage with a given prompt, and will allow you to engage in multiple genres of writing. Remember to think about audience, since your blog post will be digitally available to the public as well as to me and your classmates.

Frankenstein/Ex Machina Comparison Paper (10%):
  • This short paper (3-5 pages) asks you to put the novel Frankenstein and the film Ex Machina into conversation with one another, paying special attention to gender and marginality, and the language which relates to these themes. You will receive an assignment sheet with more details. Due Date: TBA (Week 5)

Character Analysis Paper (5%):

  • This short paper (2-3 pages) asks you to engage in critical thinking about a character of your choosing from one of the texts we have read thus far in the semester. You will receive an assignment sheet that details the method in which to conduct your character analysis (e.g. paying attention to specific words that are used to name and describe the character in your text). Due Date: TBA (Week 8)

Proposal Presentation (5%):

  • Each student will give a short presentation on their proposed creative writing assignment project. Students will also present the possible critical sources/readings which will inform their Critical Component and short story. Presentation Dates TBA (Week 11)

Character Comparison Paper (15%):

  • This assignment asks you to build on the work you did for the Character Analysis Paper. You will take the character analysis you did for the previous assignment and put it in conversation with another character from a different text. You will compare and contrast the ways in which each character is named and described, with attentiveness to themes of gender, marginality, and/or other forms of diversity. This assignment thus requires you to revise and rework/remix the previous Character Analysis Paper assignment into a longer paper (5-8 pages). Due Date: TBA (Week 13)

Creative Short Story (with Critical Component) (20%):
  • This high-stakes assignment asks you to engage with important themes related to diversity which we have explored throughout the semester, incorporating such issues into your own short story.

  • The Critical Component, which counts for 5% of the assignment grade, requires you to write 2-4 pages briefly detailing and explaining the critical sources/course readings which informed your short story and creative writing process.

  • Due Date TBA (Week 14)

Final Portfolio with Reflection Letter (20%):

  • This final portfolio will be a collection of some of your works from the semester. These can be the works which you consider your best writing, works which you think have improved most throughout process of revision and transition from blog post or in-class writing to the final draft, and/or works which you think most demonstrate how you have engaged with this course’s learning objectives. More details to follow.

  • Will tentatively include revised versions of 2 blog posts, creative short story with critical component, character comparison OR character analysis paper; include drafts, when applicable!

  • The Reflection Letter, which counts for 10% of this assignment grade, asks you to think about the course’s learning objectives and explain how you think the course fulfilled any of these goals, and how your writing has changed or improved over the course of the semester. Include specific examples from the works you have chosen to revise and include in your portfolio. More details to follow.

  • Due Date TBA (Week 17)

Participation: While this course is writing intensive, seminar participation is also important, as the goal is for students to learn with and from one another. Although speaking in class is highly encouraged, “good” class participation does not necessarily mean talking the most. Other types of contribution include asking questions to both the instructor and other students, recognizing and allowing for productive silences and moments of contemplation, as well as leaving helpful, constructive response comments on fellow students’ blog posts. Above all, participation means contributing thoughtful input throughout the semester which demonstrates critical engagement and which will help not only yourself but also your fellow students and instructor.

Explanation of Letter Grades
A: An excellent response to the assignment. Demonstrates a sophisticated use of rhetorical knowledge, writing, and design techniques.
B: A good response to the assignment. Demonstrates an effective use of rhetorical knowledge, writing, and design techniques. May have minor problems that distract reader.
C: An average response to the assignment. Demonstrates acceptable use of rhetorical knowledge, writing, and design technique. May have problems that distract reader.

D: A poor response to the assignment. Demonstrates a lack of rhetorical knowledge and writing and design technique. May have significant problems that distract reader.
F: A failure to respond to the assignment appropriately.
Grading Scale



Emory Point Scale


































Student Success Resources

Access and Disability Resources

I strive to create an inclusive learning environment for all. I am invested in your success in this class and at Emory, so please let me know if anything is standing in the way of your doing your best work. This can include your own learning strengths, any classroom dynamics that you find uncomfortable, ESL issues, disability or chronic illness, and/or personal issues that impact your work. I will hold such conversations in strict confidence.

Students with medical/health conditions that might impact academic success should visit Access, Disability Services and Resources (http://www.ods.emory.edu/index.html) to determine eligibility for appropriate accommodations. Students who receive accommodations must present the Accommodation Letter from ADSR to your professor at the beginning of the semester, or when the letter is received.
Emory Writing Center

The Emory Writing Center offers 45-minute individual conferences to Emory College and Laney Graduate School students. It is a great place to bring any project—from traditional papers to websites—at any stage in your composing process. Writing Center tutors take a discussion- and workshop-based approach that enables writers of all levels to see their writing with fresh eyes. Tutors can talk with you about your purpose, organization, audience, design choices, or use of sources. They can also work with you on sentence-level concerns (including grammar and word choice), but they will not proofread for you. Instead, they will discuss strategies and resources you can use to become a better editor of your own work. The Writing Center is located in Callaway N-212. Visit writingcenter.emory.edu for more information and to make appointments.

Tutoring for Multilingual Students

If English is not your first language and if you need additional help with assignments in this or other college classes, you may benefit from working with specially trained ESL Tutors. The tutors are undergraduates who will support the development of your English language skills. Like Writing Center tutors, ESL tutors will not proofread your work. Language is best learned through interactive dialogue, so when you come to an ESL tutoring session, be ready to collaborate! ESL tutors will meet with you in the ESL Lab in Callaway S108 and other designated locations; they will help you at any stage of the process of developing your essay or presentation. You may bring your work on a laptop or on paper. If you schedule an appointment in the ESL Lab, you may also bring your work on a USB - computers are available in the lab.

Visit the website of the Office for Undergraduate Education (http://college.emory.edu/oue/) and select "Student Support" and then "ESL Program" to schedule an appointment, read the tutoring policies, and view the offerings of the ESL Program (direct link to ESL Tutoring: http://college.emory.edu/oue/student-support/esl-program/esl-tutoring.html). If you do not have a scheduled appointment, you may want to meet with a drop-in tutor in the ESL Lab, Callaway S108. Here, you may have less time with a tutor if other students are waiting, but you can briefly discuss an assignment and some of your concerns. For more information, visit the website or contact Levin Arnsperger at larnspe@emory.edu.
Emory Counseling Services

Free and confidential counseling services and support are available from the Emory

Counseling Center (404) 727-7450. This can be an invaluable resource when stress makes your work more challenging than it ought to be. http://studenthealth.emory.edu/cs/

Course Schedule/Logistics
Tentative Schedule
Note: Sometimes, course schedules end up having to shift. If anything below changes, the change will be communicated to you both in person, through email, and on the Course Updates page of our website. If there are changes, I will also modify the syllabus and post a new version with a new date in the file name to the Syllabus section of our website. Once I have notified you, you are responsible for following the altered plan.
Film Screenings

You may choose to watch the assigned films on your own, but I will also try to arrange screenings outside of class-time that you can attend. We will arrange these a week in advance.

UNIT 1: Origins of Genre

Week 1: What is Science Fiction? What is Genre?

      • (both the literary genre of sci-fi and writing genres)


  • “On the Origins of Genre” by Paul Kincaid

  • Chapter 3, “Genre,” of The Norton Field Guide to Writing


  • In-Class Writing

    • What do you think “genre” means?

    • What does “genre” mean for your own writing? Brainstorm some “genres.”

  • Blog post:

    • Writing their own definition of science fiction


  • Syllabus quiz

Week 2: On Creatures and Critical Thinking


  • Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley (over 2 weeks/4 courses)

  • (Rhetoric/chapter on critical thinking TO BE DECIDED)


  • In-Class Writing

    • Practice/workshop on writing summaries and paraphrasing

    • Free-write on the differences between the three frames on Frankenstein (Walton, Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s creature). Pay specific attention to differences that arise out of the different genres of each frame as well as the different positions of each “speaker.”

  • Blog post

    • Pick a passage from Frankenstein and paraphrase/summarize it
    • Frankenstein is composed in three frames: Walton, Frankenstein, and the creature; Walton’s frame takes the genre of a letter (to his sister), while Frankenstein and his creature both tell their stories directly to a person. For your blog post, choose to either rewrite/remix a) Frankenstein’s narrative in the form of a letter to his cousin Elizabeth (in anticipation of their marriage) b) the creature’s narrative as a letter to his future bride (in anticipation of her creation)

Week 3: Creatures and Conversation


  • Frankenstein (cont.)

  • Rhetoric/chapter on key term Conversation (TBD)


  • In-Class Writing

    • Peer review of blog post from last week (the letter remix)

    • Practice on how to put works into conversation with one another, and how to enter into a conversation with a text; comparison/contrast; looking for and integrating secondary sources; etc.

  • Blog post:

    • Revised version of the blog post from last week (the letter remix), including a reflection of 1 paragraph on what changes you made, and why, and 1 paragraph on how this assignment (and revision assignment) might relate to some of the course’s learning objectives

    • Summary of Frankenstein

Week 4: Ex Machina, or The Modern Frankenstein


  • Ex Machina


  • Short guide to film terminology (specific reading TBD)


  • In-Class Writing

    • In groups, write up a summary of an assigned scene from the film Ex Machina, using film terminology

  • Blog posts:

    • Summary of Ex Machina (with film terminology!)

    • Comparison of Frankenstein and Ex Machina (to be reworked/updated into a short essay)

      • Putting the two texts into conversation with each other

      • Paying specific attention to gender and marginality

UNIT 2: Gender and Sexuality

Week 5: Man, Do I Feel Like A Woman?


  • “Introduction: Women and Writing” by Lisa Yaszek (pp. 149-153)

  • “Aye, and Gomorrah” by Samuel R. Delany


  • Blog posts:

    • Summary of Yaszek article

    • Sex and sex (Gender and the sexual act) ***?

  • DUE at end of week: Frankenstein/Ex Machina comparison paper

  • In-Class Writing:

    • Before handing in paper, turn over, write two to four paragraphs on what you learned about the key terms critical thinking and conversation (at least one paragraph for each) in this comparison paper assignment

Week 6: Feminist Utopias


  • “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ

  • “Houston, Houston, Do You Read” by James Tiptree, Jr.


  • In-Class Writing:

    • What is a utopia?

  • Blog posts:

    • Write your own (brief!) feminist utopia or idea for a feminist utopia (can be later updated into the Creative Short Story assignment, if you so wish)

    • Comparison of “When It Changed” and “Houston, Houston, Do You Read”

      • Pay specific attention to point of view/narration

Week 7: Ripley’s Awesome, Believe It or Not


  • Alien


  • Blog posts

    • Ripley was originally written as a male; write about the importance of gender in this context

  • Prepare for/start writing Character Analysis Paper

UNIT 3: An Alien Race, or, Aliens and Race

Week 8: Birth of an Alien Age


  • “Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler

  • “El cosmonauta” (translated into English: “The Cosmonaut”) by Angel Arango


  • DUE at end of week: Character Analysis Paper

Week 9: Race in Outerspace


  • “Measure of a Man” from Star Trek: The Next Generation


  • Proposal for Creative Short Story with Critical Component (graded for completion)

Week 10: Spring Break?!
Week 11: Prawns and Prejudice


  • District 9

Informal Presentation:

  • In-Class presentation of idea for Creative Short Story with Critical Component


  • Blog post: Annotated Bibliography of sources for Critical Component of Creative Short Story (graded for completion)

    • Use at least 3 sources, either texts from class or outside sources (scholarly/critical articles) – annotations should be two paragraphs: first paragraph will be a summary of the source; second paragraph will be an explanation of the source’s usefulness/relevance to your creative short story/how you anticipate incorporating the source/the source’s themes

UNIT 4: Disability
Week 12: Disability in Science Fiction


  • “Introduction: Reading Disability in Science Fiction” by Kathryn Allan

  • “Movement” by Nancy Fulda


Week 13: Cyberpunk, Crip Crit, and Character Comparison Conferences


  • “Burning Chrome” by William Gibson

  • Reading on Crip Criticism/Disability Studies Criticism (an excerpt from my paper, “‘Jacked In’: Representations of Prosthesis in ‘Burning Chrome’ and ‘Good Country People’”)


  • Paper Conferences for Character Comparison Paper


  • Blog post:

    • What kind(s) of diversity is/are present in “Burning Chrome”? In which ways does the story lack diversity?

  • DUE at end of week: Character Comparison Paper

Week 14: Writing Week!


  • Check-in/Conferences on Creative Short Story


  • DUE at end of week: Creative Short Story with Critical Component

    • Critical Component must be 2-4 pages double-spaced; can be written from the point of view of the author (you) or of a critic (imagined)

Week 15: Reflection: Looking Back


  • Blog post:

    • 2-4 paragraph reflection on writing genres (throughout the course)

  • First Draft: Portfolio Reflection Letter

  • Prepare/start working on Final Portfolio
    • DUE end of this week: 2-3 sentence rationale for why you are choosing to include the works they will put in their portfolios

Week 16: Portfolio… The Final Frontier


  • Portfolio: TBD (but tentatively including: revised versions of 2 blog posts, creative short story with critical component, character comparison OR character analysis paper; include drafts, when applicable!)

  • Revised Final Draft of Portfolio Reflection Letter, to be handed in with Portfolio

Week 17 (Finals Week):


  • Conferences on Portfolio; I will also be available for office hours and individually-arranged consultations on portfolios


  • DUE: Portfolio and Reflection Letter



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