ENGL 481/570 (Section 001, Schedule #29172/29352)
Virginia Commonwealth University
Spring 2013
TR 12:30-1:45pm :: 327 Hibbs
Prof. David Golumbia
Office: 324D Hibbs Hall
Spring 2013 Office Hours: Tues 2-4pm

Genres: Hard Science Fiction

Contemporary film, television, digital and written examples of Hard Science Fiction, a genre that purports to incorporate "plausible" extrapolations from real contemporary science. We will ask questions about the suppositions informing the genre, while reading texts and watching a variety media closely in cultural and formal terms. Our primary focus as always will be on the texts themselves, but we will look for patterns and themes in the works as we analyze them. In three cases we will watch texts be transformed from novel to film (Stalker and Blade Runner) and from novel to film to film (Solaris), in two cases including seminal films by the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. The course will be taught primarily via discussion. Evaluation is by discussions, short papers, an oral presentation, and a longer final paper. In addition to the requirements for ENGL 481, graduate students enrolled under ENGL 570 will additionally read some criticism and theory and write longer papers.

Books to Purchase (available at bookstore, but you are encouraged to acquire used copies of these editions)

  1. Stanislaw Lem, Solaris (Poland, 1961; Mariner Books edition, 2002)
  2. Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic (USSR, 1972; Chicago Review Press edition, 2012)
  3. Arthur C. Clarke, Rendezvous with Rama (US, 1972; Bantam Books edition, 1990)
  4. Greg Benford, Great Sky River (US, 1987)
  5. Greg Bear, Anvil of Stars (US, 1992)
  6. Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (US, 1968; Del Rey edition, 1996)

Films (on reserve at Cabell Media Center)

  1. Andrei Tarkovsky, dir., Solaris (Russia, 1972)
  2. Andrei Tarkovsky, dir., Stalker (Russia, 1979)
  3. Steven Soderbergh, dir., Solaris (US, 2002)
  4. Paul W.S. Anderson, dir., Event Horizon (US, 1997)
  5. Ridley Scott, dir., Blade Runner (US, 1982)
  6. Barry Levinson, dir., Sphere (US, 1998)
  7. Stanley Kubrick, dir., 2001 A Space Odyssey (UK, 1968)

Assignments and Evaluation

Evaluation will be based on written exercises and course participation as follows:

Course-Specific Policies


Email Policy
Electronic mail or "email" is considered an official method for communication at VCU because it delivers information in a convenient, timely, cost effective and environmentally aware manner. Students are expected to check their official VCU e-mail on a frequent and consistent basis in order to remain informed of university-related communications. The University recommends checking e-mail daily. Students are responsible for the consequences of not reading, in a timely fashion, university-related communications sent to their official VCU student e-mail account. This policy ensures that all students have access to this important form of communication. It ensures students can be reached through a standardized channel by faculty and other staff of the university as needed. Mail sent to the VCU email address may include notification of university-related actions, including disciplinary action. Please read the policy in its entirety: http://www.ts.vcu.edu/kb/3407.html

VCU Honor System: Upholding Academic Integrity
The VCU honor system policy describes the responsibilities of students, faculty and administration in upholding academic integrity, while at the same time respecting the rights of individuals to the due process offered by administrative hearings and appeals. According to this policy, "members of the academic community are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity." In addition, "All members of the VCU community are presumed to have an understanding of the VCU Honor System and are required to:

The Honor System in its entirety can be reviewed on the Web at http://www.provost.vcu.edu/pdfs/Honor_system_policy.pdf or it can be found in the current issue of the VCU Insider at http://www.students.vcu.edu/insider.html

Student Conduct in the Classroom
According to the Faculty Guide to Student Conduct in Instructional Settings "The university is a community of learners. Students, as well as faculty, have a responsibility for creating and maintaining an environment that supports effective instruction. In order for faculty members (including graduate teaching assistants) to provide and students to receive effective instruction in classrooms, laboratories, studios, online courses, and other learning areas, the university expects students to conduct themselves in an orderly and cooperative manner." Among other things, cell phones and beepers should be turned off while in the classroom. Also, the university Rules and Procedures prohibit anyone from having "in his possession any firearm, other weapon, or explosive, regardless of whether a license to possess the same has been issued, without the written authorization of the President of the university..." For more information, visit the VCU Insider online at http://www.students.vcu.edu/insider.html

Students with Disabilities
SECTION 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended, require that VCU provides "academic adjustments " or "reasonable accommodations" to any student who has  a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.  To receive accommodations, students must request them by contacting the Disability Support Services Office on the Monroe Park Campus (828-2253) or the Division for Academic Success on the MCV campus (828-9782). More information is available at the Disability Support Services webpage: http://www.students.vcu.edu/dss/ ; or the Division for Academic Success webpage at www.specialservices.vcu.edu/disabilityss.

If you have a disability that requires an academic accommodation, please schedule a meeting with me at your earliest convenience. Additionally, if your coursework requires you to work in a lab environment, you should advise your instructor or a department chairperson of any concerns you may have regarding safety issues related to your disability. This statement applies not only to this course but also to every other course in this university.

Statement on Military Short-Term Training or Deployment
If military students receive orders for short-term training or deployment, they should inform and present their orders to Military Student Services and to their professor(s). For further information on policies and procedures contact Military Services at 828-5993 or access the corresponding policies at http://www.pubapps.vcu.edu/bulletins/about/?Default.aspx?uid=10096&iid=30704 and http://www.pubapps.vcu.edu/BULLETINS/undergraduate/?uid=10096&iid=30773.

Excused Absences for Students Representing the University
Students who represent the university (athletes and others) do not choose their schedules. Student athletes are required to attend games and/or meets. All student athletes should provide their schedule to the instructor at the beginning of the semester. The Intercollegiate Athletic Council (IAC) strongly encourages faculty to treat missed classes or exams (because of a scheduling conflict) as excused absences and urges faculty to work with the students to make up the work or exam.

Campus Emergency Information
What to Know and Do To Be Prepared for Emergencies at VCU:

Important Dates
Important dates for the Spring 2013 semester are available at:

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Class Registration Required for Attendance
Please remember that students may only attend those classes for which they have registered. Faculty may not add students to class rosters. Therefore, if students are attending a class for which they have not registered, they must stop attending.

Week-by-Week Syllabus

Week One. Introduction

Week Two. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Week Three. Rendezvous with Rama

Week Four. Sphere

Week Five. Solaris (Lem)

Week Six. Solaris (Tarkovsky)

Week Seven. Solaris (Soderbergh)

Spring Break

Week Eight. No class.

Week Nine. Great Sky River

Week Ten. Roadside Picnic

Week Eleven. Stalker

Week Twelve. Anvil of Stars

Week Thirteen. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Week Fourteen. Blade Runner

Week Fifteen. Event Horizon

Final paper due in my English Dept mailbox (Hibbs Hall), or via email, by 3:50pm, Tuesday, May 7, 2013, per the registrar's exam schedule. There is no other final exam for the course.

Last updated April 18, 2013.