|"The Future is Today," CIC Assistant Director
Stefanie Martin tells her English
242: Reading Fiction class. She cites literary and cultural
theorist Frederic Jameson: “[i]t is safest to grasp the concept
of the postmodern as an attempt to think the present historically
in an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first
place.” In other words, as Stefanie summarizes for her class,
the present is never present to itself. In this course, Stefanie
asked her students to approach science fiction as a means to defamiliarizes
and re-image the present as a point within a socially produced
and constantly changing and changeable history.
Among Stefanie’s many insights into the genre, she asks students to consider why a critical mass of cyberpunk writers turned to Victorian metaphors and imagery in order to elaborate their visions of the future. Students were also asked to analyze how time travel functions in stories about social dissonance and/or war and to consider the relationships among citizenship, war, and military service. The course also addressed recent advances in hematology and genetics, considering the cellular networks of the body as an information processing, reproduction, and communication system. Through these examinations, students were encouraged to develop a set of tools for analyzing fictional texts in light of the conversation the texts construct with their present and historicity.
Stefanie used her course web site, particularly the schedule page, to provide downloadable versions of course materials and links to background materials on each course author. She also used E-Post discussion spaces to encourage students to answer key questions about course texts.