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English 3720, Vanderbilt University (Spring 2017). “Literature, Science, and Technology:  Frankenstein’s Future: Robotics and Cloning in Science Fiction and Film.”  TR 9:35-10:50 (ESB 320). Professor Jay Clayton.

How do the futures literature and film imagine shape public attitudes toward science and technology? What is the human in an age of artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, and synthetic biology? How do science fiction and films influence public policy concerning scientific research? This course focuses on fictions and films about artificial life from Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and James Whale’s iconic 1931 film of that novel, through Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), to classic robot stories by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and others, to twenty-first century dystopias such as Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003) and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004). Films will include adaptations of many of these novels, as well as Blade Runner (1982), A.I. (2001), Her (2013), and Ex Machina (2015).


Honors 1820W-23, Vanderbilt University (Fall 2015) — an interdisciplinary seminar on science and science fiction.  Taught by Jay Clayton (English) and Robert Scherrer (Physics and Astronomy).

This class will explore the relationship between science and science fiction.  Drawing on classic works of scientific writing and SF, we will examine the distinctive modes of imagination and style in the two activities, as well as their social and cultural influences.  What are the ground rules for introducing original ideas in each field?  How are ideas embedded and developed in a SF story in comparison with their presentation in a scientific article?  What roles do prediction and falsification play in each?  Fiction will range from the origins of the genre in Wells to the “golden age” of Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, and Bradbury to new wave fiction, speculative fiction, Afro-futurism, and emerging twenty-first century writers, and will include readings from exemplary works of science writing.  No scientific background is required, but scientific concepts will be introduced and discussed.

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