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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2005

E 324 • Language and Communication in Science Fiction

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
32115 MWF
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
PAR 204

Course Description

Restricted to Non-English Majors

In science fiction the technology or biology of the world the author creates may be foregrounded, playing important roles in the plot, or they may simply be taken for granted. Often, accepting the conditions of a science fiction writer's world may require the reader to make an imaginative leap and take for granted technology or biology that's at best described vaguely (for example, the reader might have to go along with the idea that the inability to travel faster than the speed of light has been overcome by the invention of a "transluminescence drive"). Language (or, more broadly, communication) has been a central part of the plots of some science fiction work. It has also been something in the background, taken for granted just like the fictional "transluminescence drive".

In this course we will look at how language plays a role in four science fiction novels and in several shorter selections. We will examine how language may used to recover lost worlds, how language is used to establish contact with alien intelligences, and how language may be used to create worlds. In addition to the works of fiction we will read, we will use some video material, and we will read short essays written for non-linguists about the linguistic theory relevant to the fiction we are discussing. You don't need a background in either linguistics or science fiction to enjoy this course; all you need is the willingness "to boldly (sic!) go where you haven't been before."

Grading Policy

1. Two short (3-5-page) papers, drafts required (25% each)
2. A longer (5-9-page) paper with required draft (45%)
3. Class participation (5%)


(This list is tentative and depends upon availability)
Walter W, Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz
Ursala K. Le Guin, The Telling
Jack McDevitt, The Engines of God
Suzette Haden Elgin, Native Tongue
Readings Packet With shorter selections and articles on language


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