AMST 106 Fall 2013 Science-Fiction of the African Diaspora (D) (W)

Cross Listed as AFR107, ENGL107
Publishers, authors, academics, and critics often assume that science fiction and fantasy readers are all or mostly white, an assumption driven, perhaps, by the scarcity of black writers inside the genre--the science-fiction creative-writing classes I teach at Williams, for example, are depressingly undiverse. And for a long time, among professional science-fiction writers, Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler represented pretty much the entire deal. The last fifteen years, however, have witnessed the emergence of a number of black science fiction and fantasy authors from the Americas and Africa. In this course we will read a sample of this fiction, paying particular attention to these questions: In what new ways (if any) do these authors gesture toward themes of social hierarchy or race? In what ways (if any) do the standard science-fiction ropes of imagined futures, interplanetary colonization, or contact with alien life allow black writers a new metaphorical vocabulary to talk about their own experience? In what ways (if any) are they constrained by readers' expectations, while white writers are not? This is a discussion-based class. Assignments will include original creative writing, imitative or parodic writing, and of course that old stand-by, interpretive essays on assigned texts. We will be reading well-thumbed classics by Charles Chesnutt, Paulina Hopkins, Amos Tutuola, W.E.B. DuBois, Delany, and Butler, but also newer works by Derrick Bell, Nalo Hopkinson, Anthony Joseph, Tananarive Due, Akua Lezli Hope, Nisi Shawl, Ama Patterson, Kuni Ibura Salaam, and Nnedi Okorafor, among others. This course fulfills the EDI requirement, as it engages questions of power and privilege, and the coded representation of racial or ethnic otherness. Any story that involves the clash of sentient species, for example, or a nostalgic or disruptive reinterpretation of the social hierarchies of the past, partakes implicitly of this coded language.
Class Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation will be based on substantial, weekly writing assignments of graduated length totaling 20 pages over the course of the semester and active participation in classroom discussion
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Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preference: first-year students who have not taken or placed out of a 100-level English course
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Distribution Notes: meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under ENGL; meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under AFR or AMST
Divisional Attributes: Division II,Exploring Diversity,Writing Intensive
Other Attributes:
Enrollment Limit: 19
Expected Enrollment: 19
Class Number: 1616
CLASSES ATTR INSTRUCTORS TIMES CLASS NUMBER
AMST106-01(F) SEM Sci-Fi of the African Diasp (D) (W) Division 2: Social StudiesExploring Diversity InitiativeWriting Intensive Paul C. Park
TF 1:10 PM-2:25 PM Hopkins 401 1616
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