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Lecture

Science Fiction - January 22.pdf

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Department
English
Course
ENG237H1
Professor
Mike Johnstone
Semester
Winter

Description
ENG237: Science Fiction Details for the first quiz: there are 12 questions, and we have 20 minutes to complete the quiz. Make sure to save each question individually, and to spell everything as accurately as possible. There will be mark penalties for going over the time limit. The total quiz is worth 60 marks. There will be multiple choice, fill in the blanks, select from a list, matching, etc. The quiz is strictly about reading and lecture content. Miss Dow: "if he doesn't see me, am I here?" Dorman is using the alien's POV to dramatize the condition of Otherness and alienation that women experience in a patriarchal, misogynistic society. We can also see the story as speaking about colonization. Miss Dow can be seen as a subjugated, colonized subject: just how much does she rely on the colonizer for a sense of legitimacy? Butler, "Bloodchild". This story is more directly concerned with colonization and the situation of being colonized. There is a master/slave dynamic between the narrator and T'Gatoi. Butler is using this dynamic to put the reader in an uncomfortable position: we identify with the slave/ colonized. In the story, humans are treated as commodities: their position in society only really benefits the aliens. Humans are a material good. "Thus, we were necessities, status symbols, and an independent people." Gan says that he and his people are independent, but in reality he does not understand their position in society and in their relationship with the aliens. He buys into the propaganda of the colonizers. There is a sense of dramatic irony in this line. There is a tension between what he says and what his reality is. We learn, through Gan's point of view, that the aliens have made humans believe that the relationship between them is good and natural. The master/slave dynamic is something that they come to believe is the way of life. Humanity doesn't question what they are told is good for them, they simply take it as true. What they are told over and over becomes a belief: this is the way ideology works. They aren't allowed firearms, "for their protection". Mating between the humans and aliens is a good thing--"they were told". Culturally, psychologically, emotionally, etc. this is the situation that the humans and aliens find themselves in. There are profound differences between the two species, and yet in this story the alien is the dominant species and the humans are the "Other". The aliens are the ones in power. Why might Butler make the aliens the colonizer and the humans the colonized? Gan comes close to rebellion but in the end mates with her--partly to save his sister. In the end T'Gatoi perhaps sees him as more than a commodity. "I'll take care of you.", T'Gatoi. There is an unsettling aspect to their relationship and to what she says, to the idea of a female human penetrating and inseminating a male human. "Take care of" has many unsettling connotations: the physicality/violence of what is going to happen, "take care of" like a pet or child. "I'll take care of you"--there's a heavy price to pay: he will live for a long time, but he will have to breed with her many times. There is also an interesting gender dynamic: Gan is a male, but he will be penetrated, inseminated, and taken care of. There is an emotional attachment implied, when the reality is that she cares more about her babies than Gan. Part of what Butler is playing on is a reliance upon the reader having a knowledge of what colonization is and how it works. We are unsettled by seeing this, and by seeing that Gan doesn't understand it. Dramatic irony. By the end of the story this power dynamic hasn't changed. This is a demonstration of the ideological power of the master colonizer over the slave/colonized. We expect Gan to rebel, yet this doesn't happen, which perhaps is more realistic. Chiang: TheAlien as Transformative Experience Narrative is an act of remembering as well as re-membering. We tell stories to give meaning to experience, but it usually happens after we've reflected upon what has happened. It is predominately a retrospective act, however in this story we see the effect of the narrator's experience with the Heptapods. Narrative for Louise exists in all tenses. The story she tells is constructed by this changed worldview. The humans have a sequential worldview, while heptapods have a causal, simultaneity view of the world. Her view is now an amalgamation of the two. "I remember" is a narrative queue of what timeline we're in. I remember usually indicates the past, and yet it is used here to talk about the future, because Louise sees the past in terms of the future. There is a disjunction between what we expect and what we see on the page. Our sense of how tenses should work is disrupted. Why is it important for Louise to divide the narrative like this? The two different sections represent a "before" and "after" in her life. Divides the two aspects of her personality: the scientist and the mother. By the end of the story readers have been "trained" to see the two parts of the story as one. The passage at the end of the story highlights how Louise can integrate the different tenses to construct an idea of time experienced as a simultaneity. She uses all three tenses in this passage to blend time into one simultaneity. We see it not as chaos, but as a different kind of order. The first paragraph is a mixing of tenses, the second is reflection, and the final passage is completely present-tense. We are being taught to read time from the point of view of the heptapods. What are the heptapods a metaphor of? Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness. The ideas of the alien as Other and the alien as a transformative experience are both important to the story. The Gethenians are radically Other, and Genly's time there changes him significantly. The alienness on the world is not limited strictly to the aliens themselves, although they are perhaps the strangest part of the setting. The first thing we are presented with in the novel is a plethora of disorienting, "new" details. It is significant that in a novel about the perception of the Other, the novel's very language signals the difference between this world and our own, challenging the reader with a sort of strangeness. At the beginning of the novel the reader has to deal with a lot of new words and ideas. Particularly at the beginning of the novel, the reader has to get oriented and establish meaning from context. Even in the very first sentences, we are presented with a lot of new/strange words and terms. What are these places? What does it mean? Right away, the language is clearly establishing a sense of difference: the world of the story is not our world. Readers are disoriented and have to figure out how to understand what is going on. Things are so different and unusual that we are thrown off balance. There is a very alien quality to the language we are encountering. This language very concretely communicates the otherness of this world, and forces the reader to do a fair bit of work to figure out what is going on. In addition to these new words and concepts, our point of view is challenged by the differences between humans and Gethenians.Although we don't find out the full extent of this different right away, it is hinted at from the start. What's important about the qualification that Genly makes, saying that he must call Estraven a "man"? It gives the readers doubt or uncertainty about the gender of this character, showing us that he is not just a regular man. It also shows us that there is a limitation in Genly's language when presented with the Gethenians. This points out the power of language in shaping reality. We see the Gethenians after this as typically male/masculine, and this constricts the way that Genly/the readers can see them. Darko Suvin, "Cognitive Estrangement" (from "On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre" Suvin argues that SF is the literature of "cognitive estrangement". It is about the encounter with something different (put simply). What is SF's ideological and aesthetic distinctiveness? SF takes off from a fictional hypothesis and develops it with extrapolating an
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