In this seminar, we will explore the relationship between science fiction (SF) cinema and critical political thought via the thematics of utopianism, dystopianism, and materialism, as they might be actualized through multiple conceptual personae, including the alien / hybrid, the robot / humanoid, and automation / artificial intelligence. We will pay special attention to the classical political theoretical questions. First, of nature: good and evil; second, of legitimacy: property and the state; third, of community: minorities and majorities; and fourth, of decision: democracy and dictatorship. In the process, we will engage multiple SF subgenres, including Afrofuturism, alien invasion, biopunk, cyberpunk, feminist SF, hard SF, social SF, and tech noir, amongst many others. With a temporal focus centered upon 21st Century SF films, students will engage the political as it has been presented filmically, in form as well as content, over the last two decades.
The seminar will be composed of four two and a half hour sessions, each of which will be split between a lecture between half an hour and an hour in length and a group discussion covering the remaining time. Readings will be set for each week, and students will be expected to write 400 words on some aspect of the week’s topic in advance. This will be posted to the google classroom page for everyone to read and comment on, providing some preliminary threads for the group discussion. The final assessment will consist of a 1500 word essay on a topic agreed upon with the instructor in advance.