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Lecture

ENG237 September 26 - Aliens part 2

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Department
English
Course
ENG237H5
Professor
Michael Johnstone
Semester
Fall

Description
ENG237 – September 26, 2012 1 Butler's Dawn Parts I and II The Oankali: Darko Suvin's "Cognitive Estrangement"  The focus is on the difference and otherness of the aliens o Physically different and ideologically different  On the one hand the Oankali are technologically superior and the primary thing they do is engage in this genetic trade  Can we talk about the Oankali as having a colonialist view?  Their drive to engage in the trade of genetic material is key to their belief o Its key to how they don't become stagnant as a race o Its about an understanding of the change in evolution  Lilith is our access to and our means to interpreting the Oankali and how different and other they are from humanity o Its her experience of difference and otherness that guides our understanding of the text  Lilith's understanding of the physical appearance starts out as something that seems to be different and then there is a definite understanding that he is radically other o This tension remains through out the entire text  At first Lilith looks for familiar markings, she looks for familiar features and through the understanding that he doesn’t have any of the features that she is mentally listing makes him other and makes him realize that he's not human at all  Identifying his gender seems more of a concession and therefore the Oankali difference in gender might not be what we as humans expect it to be even if Jdhaya does identify himself as one of our genders  The struggle for understanding if what is important because comprehension that Jdhaya is 'other' produces fear o Not only is he other and alien but he is also a 'monster'  There is also the alien-ness of their ideology  Oankali means trader or gene trader o In their economy genes are the currency o They don't trade things or objects they trade genetic information and material o This exchange is crucial to their understanding of what survival is and means o It's in their genetics to change and transform which is in stark contrast with humans who believe that the human body is sacred  "We acquire new life"  "I understand your words. Your meaning, though… it's as alien to me as you are." o Lilith's words show the struggle for understanding and the struggle to bridge the gap between the two species  Lilith's reaction to the alien is a theme that is central to science fiction o Making sense of the 'other' o There is an attempt to make sense of the unfamiliar and the different o And it's often done from a rational point of view Darko Suvin's "Cognitive Estrangement" ENG237 – September 26, 2012 2  Tries to identify and map out what sf does structurally and formally and what distinguishes it from other genres  He was critical in the establishment of a forum to talk about science fiction  Cognitive estrangement is on one hand describing structural and on the other describing ideological  Structurally it describes the attitude of estrangement  Sf is about "extrapolating and totalizing "scientific" rigor o We extrapolate from what we know and think about plausible possibilities and attempt to see things in a new and unfamiliar way  Philosophically sf perceives things through a cognitive glance o It's not just that it extrapolates but it does so with rigor o The extrapolating is down through a scientific point of view  SF is a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition and who main formal devices is an imaginative framework alternative to the author's empirical environment  The world being described is different that the world of the author  Cognition = knowing, estrange = unfamiliar  A consequence of defamiliarization (as described by the Russian Formalists) is that people begin to see things in a different and new way o Through strangeness there is a novel way of viewing the world and experiencing life  The hope is to challenge the reader with something that is new, novel and unexpected o Through doing things in a new way we can rethink our mental boundaries  Cognitive estrangement can be seen as a synonym to science fiction  It has a specific function and through cognitive estrangement science fiction is fundamentally subversive drama o It is fundamentally a literature of critic, a form of social and cultural commentary o It
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