Science Fiction and Fantasy

All narrative fiction, even the most realistic, takes place in an alternative reality, a world in which the nature of events and the possibilities of human action are, to some degree or other, different from our own. A realistic work of fiction tries to minimize the difference; a work of fantasy flaunts it. In this subject we will investigate the character of alternative realities in works that do the flaunting, starting with some classics of Western literature (Homer’s Odyssey, Shakespeare’ The Tempest, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland) and then consider a variety of modern kinds, horror fiction, ghost stories, tales of the uncanny, and works of “magic realism” of the sort typified by Kafka, Marquez, Borges, and Pynchon. Ultimately we will lay emphasis upon the most prominent newcomer to the fantastic and possibly its rival, science fiction. We will have two goals: first, to study how the alternative character of a fantastic world leads to these different genres; and second, to study how science fiction differs from other fantastic genres and perhaps from fantasy itself. The subject will also consider developments in film (Metropolis, The Wizard of Oz, Blade Runner, Groundhog Day, Source Code, Inception).