Science fiction in translation

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Science fiction in translation

First Year Program

St. Lawrence University

Plenary: M-W-F 9:40-10:40 Bewkes 232

Seminar: Tues 2:20 - 3:50 Bewkes 232

Instructor: Daniel W. Koon
Office: Bewkes 221
Phone: x5494
Office Hours: M-F 10:45-11:45, plus by appointment, or whenever my door’s open.

Mentor: Dan McCune


AIM: yepper1919 (quickest means of contact)

Phone: x7057


Office Hours: M 6-8pm by appt. at 78 Park St.; W 7-10pm at Writing Center.

This electronic document ( is the official syllabus of this course. It will be updated as the course proceeds. Please bookmark this page and check back frequently.

Last Revised: May 4, 2006.

Science fiction (and fantasy) is as American as the Wild West movie, right? Wrong. From Jules Verne to Cuban cyberpunks to Japanese manga and anime artists, the people who bring you SF&F are as international as, well, the crew of the Starship Enterprise. In this course we will sample the global science fiction literature (and a wee bit of fantasy) that has been translated into English, and we will explore the extent to which SF&F, that literature which strives “to boldly go” beyond the limits of its earth-bound, bipedal, humanoid writer, still reflects the planet, the species, the culture and the era of that writer. Or not. The class will share a common list of readings and films, with each student writing an in-depth research paper on a particular global science fiction (or fantasy) novel. 

The major assignment of this course is a final paper, 10-12 pages double-spaced, due at the end of the semester. It will be the result of your research into a specific question based on an SFF novel or novella that will be assigned to you. We will spend time throughout the semester investigating the issues involved with writing a major research paper, and the various stages of the paper will be collected and graded by the instructor at specific dates in the semester. (See Major Deadlines below.) The thesis of this paper will address whether or not the story reflects something characteristic about its author, country, or era.

Each student will give an oral presentation on an SFF film that is either filmed in a language other than English, or which is based on a non-English SFF work. The film will come from a list which appears later on in this syllabus. The presentation will be 8-10 minutes long, with no more than 5 minutes combined for plot synopsis and any film clips. We will work on this presentation in class, and it will be subject to multiple drafts.


For your second Oral Presentation, you will introduce the class to the particular SFF novel or novella you have been assigned for the Research Paper: you will teach half of a class.

How should you structure class? There are many possibilities. What I don't recommend is that you simply stand in front of class and lecture us for a half hour. (particularly reading straight from notes) A combination of lecture, directed discussion, and other activities is probably the best approach, but feel free to explore your own ideas of presentation. Since this is an important part of this course and because I'm asking you to do a good share of the teaching, it is important that we discuss your intentions for class well in advance - - two weeks before class and then again one week before. Handouts are recommended, but I don't want you to hand out a page of notes with "all the answers" to the students without trying to get them to work through the issues and come up with their own answers first.
Your portfolio is a record of your progress in this course. As such, it needs to include all drafts of every bit of written work you do during the course, including the various stages of your research paper including notes, all the materials associated with the topical projects just mentioned, and in-class free writes. Part of that portfolio should be the self-assessment, in which you reflect critically on the work assembled in the portfolio. Your self-assessment should be a frank, honest analysis of your work. It should neither be filled with platitudes nor excuses for why your grades were what they were. In fact, grades are completely irrelevant. What is your assessment of your own work? How did it improve during the semester?
A three-ring binder, or its equivalent, is recommended for assembling your portfolio through the course of the semester.


READING JOURNAL: One element of your participation grade will be your notes from the individual course readings, both stories and critical works. I will ask you to keep a notebook with extensive notes on all of the readings for this course, including films. I will occasionally ask you to hand it in, so that I can check that you are indeed keeping up. I will grade on completeness and quality, not on neatness (unless it is unreadable: taking notes electronically is not a bad idea). You will be allowed to use these notes, but not the original stories, in the in-class exams.

PERSONAL WRITING MECHANICS INVENTORY: One element of your portfolio grade will be a running inventory of areas of your own writing that need work. After each assignment, you need to look through the instructor's, mentor's, or tutor's marks to see what you ought to add to this list. You should consult this list when proofreading all subsequent formal assignments. As a writer, it is important to practice the mechanics of writing, and to be aware of those areas in which you most need work. If one of these areas is 'homophones', for example, you may find it useful to compile a list of words that you have difficulty with ("to", "too", "two", or "its" and "it's", for example) but which the spell-checker refuses to help you with.

MISCELLANEOUS ASSIGNMENTS: Finally, there will be occasional free-writes and quizzes throughout the semester, as the need arises. I do not know in advance how many there may be, so I will simply include the results of these assignments in your 'classroom participation' grade.


Your active participation in class is important. Of course you need to attend class. I reserve the right to dock you a half-point from your final grade for each absence beyond the third, in addition to lowering your class participation grade (e.g. 4.0 becomes a 3.5, etc.). But you also need to arrive in class prepared to contribute to it. Bring any materials that we are planning to discuss that day -- texts, handouts, and notes from texts or films. Occasionally I will throw an unannounced quiz to ensure that you’ve come to class prepared. Such quizzes will usually be open notes, but not open text. Thus, it really pays to take good notes. Late arrival in class is also distracting, especially when one of your colleagues is giving his/her oral presentation. I will count every two instances of five minutes or more of lateness as equaling an absence. Please speak to me beforehand if you anticipate having to miss or be late for or leave early from any class.


The SLU Student Handbook defines plagiarism as "presenting as one's own work of another person -- words, ideas, data, evidence, thoughts, information, organizing principles, or style of presentation -- without proper attribution." While we will talk about the dangers of plagiarism in class, it is your responsibility to be aware of what is -- and what is not -- plagiarism, whether intentional or not. Your instructor has a variety of tools at his disposal for testing written work for plagiarism, ample experience at detecting it, and a low tolerance for it. If you have questions about whether you are adequately citing or attributing work, please ask your mentor or instructor. Please see the material below. You are responsible for this material.

If you need accommodation for special needs, please contact your instructor by the end of the first full week of classes. Please also contact the Office for Academic Services for Students with Special Needs (homepage, e-mail) as soon as possible. Another useful office for all students is the Academic Achievement Office, which can set you up with tutoring for this and other courses.


Research project


consisting of...

Bibliography & annotated bibliography


Notecards & functional outline


First draft


Final draft


Oral Presentation #1


consisting of...





Oral Presentation #2


consisting of...





Quizzes, exams, classroom participation


Reading journal


Personal writing mechanics journal







Research paper

Other major assignments


Mon. Jan 30      

Copy of your notes from your assigned film


Mon. Feb 6

2+ critiques of your Oral Presentation.

Place your PPT on T: drive


Fri. Feb 10

Preliminary list of sources


Fri. Feb 17

Two sources, with notes


Fri. Feb 24



Fri. Mar 3

1 paragraph version of paper


Fri. Mar 10



Fri. Mar 17

Annotated Bibliography


Fri. Mar 31

“5 paragraph” version of your paper


Fri. Apr 7

Functional Outline


Fri. Apr 14

Reading journal (miscellaneous notes)


Fri. Apr 21

Research Paper, Draft I


Fri. Apr 28

Writing mechanics journal


Fri. May 5

Research Paper, Draft II

FINAL EXAM, Thursday, May 11, 8:30am.

  One week and two weeks before each classroom presentation:

Outline of presentation, list of prior readings for the classmates, meet with instructor

  One class before each classroom presentation:

Class handouts for distribution



We -- Yevgeny Zamyatin (USSR: 1920)

Solaris -- Stanislaw Lem (Poland: 1961)

Cosmos Latinos -- Andrea L. Bell & Yolanda Molina-Gavilán (US: 2003)


Hard to be a god (alternate link) -- Arkadi & Boris Strugatsky (USSR: 1964)

Planet for rent -- Yoss (Cuba: 2002)

In addition, all of you will be required to do a research project on a specific science fiction novel (See Table below), which may require you to purchase or borrow another book.

Plus, other stories and excerpts, TBA

Napier, Anime from Akira to Mononoke. Chapter 2: Anime & Local/Global Identity.

Histories and Introductions to various international anthologies and novels:

From socialist realism to anarchist-capitalism: Cuban cyberpunk: (Toledano: Science Fiction Studies)

New Soviet fiction (Intro by Theodore Sturgeon)

The development of the Strugatskys’ fiction (Intro by Darko Suvin)

Martians in Bartolo’s banana field (Yoss)

Historias futuras (Intro)

Cosmos Latinos (Intro)

Prologue to Morel (Borges)

The best Japanese science fiction stories (Intro)

Science fiction from China (Intros by Pohl, Wu Dingbo)

New worlds from the Lowlands (Intros by Asimov, van Loggem)

Plus, Hacker, D. A Pocket Style Manual. Fourth Edition. (2004).

SF FILMS FOR FIRST ORAL PROJECT (one for each student):

Vampires in Havana



La Jetée






Fahrenheit 451






Woman in the moon



Koi mil gaya










Korea, N.


Wonderful days

Korea, S.












War with the newts, Čapek (Czechoslovakia)

Solaris, Lem (Poland)

Futurological Conference, Lem (Poland)

We, Zamyatin (USSR)

Heart of the serpent, Yefremov (USSR)

Hard to be a god, A. & B. Strugatsky (USSR)

The Time Wanderers, A. & B. Strugatsky (USSR)

Fables of an extraterrestrial grandmother, Chaviano (Cuba)

Planet for rent, Yoss (Cuba)

Hypernova, Hernández (Cuba)

Kalpa Imperial, Gorodischer (Argentina)

Japan sinks, Komatsu (Japan)


Science Fiction Studies, especially special issues on Stanislaw Lem, Soviet SF, Global Science Fiction, etc.

The Ultimate science fiction guide: countries

Online Russian / Soviet fiction (Russica)

This instructor’s Cuban SF page


This schedule is updated frequently. Keep your eye open for changes or for hyperlinks to new stuff.

Student presentations are marked in Green

M Jan 23

Introduction to course. Georges Méliès: Le voyage dans la lune (Fr. 1902)

Individual films to be passed out.

T Jan 24

SEMINAR: Library orientation: ODY. Scavenger hunt.

W Jan 25

Introductions. How to take notes for a film. How to critique a film. Méliès déjà vu.

F Jan 27

Reading critical works: Asimov, Sturgeon, Pohl

M Jan 30

Discussion of Japan articles.

In-class work on OP#1 project.

Hand in copy of notes taken while viewing your film. Individual novels to be passed out.

T Jan 31

SEMINAR: Oral Presentation Workshop. Bring all your notes. Assignment 2

W Feb 1

SF “prehistory”: Mythology, Kepler’s Somnium, deBergerac (Ch. 1, 2, 6, 9), Munchausen

F Feb 3

Frank Reade & the pulps (Powerpoint. Wiki: Early science fiction)

Start reading We.

Winterlude in Ottawa runs till 2/19. Bring your skates.

M Feb 6

Early film (kinetoscopes, etc.). Early SF films (PPT)

Hand in OP critiques from 2+ critics.

T Feb 7


W Feb 8


F Feb 10

Early films, continued. Jules Verne: From Earth to the Moon, Ch. 1


M Feb 13

Debrief on Oral Presentations. Jules Verne: Ch. 2, 3

List of sources due, Read one 1/3+ of your novel

♥ Feb 14

SEMINAR: Taking notes

W Feb 15

“Mitteleuropa” between the wars

F Feb 17

Introduction to the Writing Center.

Meet at Writing Center in ODY at 9:40 sharp!

2 sources due, with your notes for these sources.

M Feb 20

USSR: history, art, & SF. Sturgeon & Suvin

T Feb 21

SEMINAR: Citation style

W Feb 22

Zamyatin: We

Start reading Solaris

F Feb 24

Further discussion of We

Rules for Oral Presentations

M Feb 27

Čapek: War with the newts (O’Sullivan). Before class: read wikipedia on Capek and on this novel. Also read excerpt (Ch. 4 & 5).

Bibliography (1st draft) due.

T Feb 28

SEMINAR: Making a logical argument. ID and pirates

W Mar 1

Lem: The Futurological Congress (Johnston). Before class: read wikipedia on Stanislaw Lem, excerpt.from story.

F Mar 3

Lem: Solaris (Millard). Read to page 105 before class.

One paragraph essay” version of your paper due.

Include all related work.

M Mar 6

Class discussion of Lem’s Solaris. Complete book by classtime. Expect a quiz

Start reading Hard to be a god

T Mar 7

SEMINAR: Evaluating sources, Martian bunnies, Exercises

W Mar 8

More on Soviet SF: SFS Book review, Sturgeon, Octavia Butler obit

F Mar 10


Outline due. Include all related work.

M Mar 13

Yefremov: Heart of the Serpent, Leinster’s First Contact (Van Kennen)

T Mar 14

SEMINAR: Annotating

W Mar 15

A. & B. Strugatsky: Hard to be a god (Judge)

♣ Mar 17

Class discussion of Strugatskys’ Hard to be a god

Annotated Bibliography due. Include all related work.

Start reading Yoss’ Planet for rent


M Mar 27

Cuba & Cuban SF: Overview

T Mar 28

SEMINAR: Review material so far, 5-paragraph exercise. In Memoriam: Stanislaw Lem

W Mar 29

A. & B. Strugatsky: Time Wanderers (Gilbert). Yoss: Martians... & Toledano: From socialist realism

F Mar 30

Exam: Capek, Lem, the Soviets, Ch. 1-3 of Planet for rent. Questions Proposed by the class.

5 paragraph” research essay due. Include all related work.

M Apr 3

Chaviano: Fables of an extraterrestrial grandmother (Cottle). Read Ch. 1-3.

T Apr 4

SEMINAR: Individual conferences

W Apr 5

Hernández: Hypernova (Griffin). Read Semiotics for wolves.

F Apr 7

Yoss: Planet for rent (Rowley)

M Apr 10

Class discussion of Planet for rent, Intro to Cosmos Latinos.

T Apr 11

SEMINAR: Outlining again.

W Apr 12

Short stories from Cosmos Latinos: Arango’s Cosmonaut, Chaviano’s Annunciation, Encinosa’s Like the roses had to die, Aguiar’s Helh.

F Apr 14

Introduction to Historias Futuras. Fantastic Realism: Piñera: 3 ultrashorts & Jorge Borges: Library of Babel, Book of Sand.

Writing mechanics journal due. Writing mechanics journal due.

M Apr 17

Abre los ojos. Airs Fri-Sun, Apr. 14-6, Ch. 71: 4-7-10pm. Wikipedia: Magical realism, Cyberpunk

T Apr 18

SEMINAR: Peer review I: Summarize each paragraph, reconstruct Outline

W Apr 19

Latin American SF and Napier on Japan


F Apr 21

Japan: Napier

First draft of research paper due. Include all related work.

M Apr 24

Mechanics issues. Assorted Japanese short stories

T Apr 25

SEMINAR: The mechanics of writing: Grammar, punctuation, etc.

W Apr 26

Komatsu: Japan Sinks (Crittenden)

F Apr 28

Oshii: The Ghost in the Shell. Airs Tues-Thurs., Apr. 25-7.Ch. 73: 4-7-10pm.

Reading notebook (notes) due.

M May 1

China: Conjugal Bliss in the arms of Morpheus (Wei Yahua)

T May 2

SEMINAR: Peer review II

W May 3

Korea. Byung-chun Min: Natural City. Airs Mon-Tues., May 1-2: Ch. 77: 4-7-10pm

F May 4


Due Monday, May 8 @ noon: Research paper: final draft, Portfolio & self-assessment due in class.

FINAL EXAM: Thursday, May 11, 8:30am.




All students at St. Lawrence University are bound by honor to maintain the highest level of academic integrity. By virtue of membership in the St. Lawrence community, every student accepts the responsibility to know the rules of academic honesty, to abide by them at all times, and to encourage all others to do the same.

Responsibility for avoiding behavior or situations from which academic dishonesty may be inferred rests entirely with the students. Claims of ignorance, unintentional error, and academic or personal pressure are not excuses for academic dishonesty. Students should be sure to learn from faculty what is expected as their own work and how the work of other people should be acknowledged. Instructors are expected to maintain conditions which promote academic honesty.

Instructors have the duty to investigate any instance involving possible academic dishonesty and must present evidence of academic dishonesty to the Academic Honor Council rather than make private arrangements with the student involved. Violations of the St. Lawrence University Code of Academic Honor are administered under the constitution of the Academic Honor Council [See Student Handbook for the Constitution].


Academic Honesty

The primary objective of the University is the promotion of knowledge. This objective can be furthered only if there is strict adherence to scrupulous standards of honesty. At St. Lawrence, all members of the University community have a responsibility to see that standards of honesty and integrity are maintained.

Students who respect academic honesty and who are orderly and meticulous in their treatment of both their own work and the work of others should anticipate no difficulty with cheating, plagiarism, or other forms of academic dishonesty. Borrowing ideas or language from others is acceptable scholarly practice and in many instances actively to be encouraged.

Academic dishonesty generally arises from one of two sources: either a student has knowingly cheated or plagiarized or he/she has been careless or slipshod in discriminating between his/her own work and that of others or in acknowledging sources accurately. These latter difficulties are easily circumvented. Any standard handbook on English usage or term paper writing manual will furnish a methodology as well as appropriate internal reference, endnote, or bibliographical forms (cf., for example, the Harbrace Handbook, A Guide to MLA Documentation, or Writers Inc.).


Academic Honesty

A major objective of the University is the pursuit of knowledge which can be achieved only by strict adherence to standards of honesty. At St. Lawrence, all members of the community have a responsibility to see that these standards are maintained.


Academic Dishonest*

1. It is assumed that all work submitted for credit is done by the student unless the instructor gives specific permission for collaboration.

2. Cheating on examinations and tests consists of knowingly giving or using or attempting to use unauthorized assistance during examinations or tests.

3. Dishonesty in work outside of examinations and tests consists of handing in for credit as original work that which is not original, where originality is required.


The following constitute examples of academic dishonesty:

a)      Plagiarism: Presenting as one's own work the work of another person - words, ideas, data, evidence, thoughts, information, organizing principles, or style of presentation-without proper attribution. Plagiarism includes paraphrasing or summarizing without acknowledgment by quotation marks, footnotes, endnotes, or other indices of reference (cf. Joseph F. Trimmer, A Guide to MLA Documentation).

b)      Handing in false reports on any experiment.

c)       Handing in a book report on a book one has not read.

d)      Falsification of attendance records of a laboratory or other class meeting.

e)      Supplying information to another student knowing that such information will be used in a dishonest way.

f)        Submission of work (papers, journal abstracts, etc.) which has received credit in a previous course to satisfy the requirement(s) of a second course without the knowledge and permission of the instructor of the second course.


Claims of ignorance and academic or personal pressure are unacceptable as excuses for academic dishonesty. Students must learn what constitutes one's own work and how the work of others must be acknowledged.


St. Lawrence students are required to sign the following statement prior to registration for classes:

"I hereby acknowledge that I have read the above document and I understand my responsibility in maintaining the standards of academic honesty at St. Lawrence University."




Statement of Philosophy

First-Year colleges provide ideal environments for fostering the complex intellectual and social skills that are at the heart of a liberal education. The First-Year Program (FYP)/ First-Year Seminars (FYS) play a significant part in the development of students’ abilities to communicate effectively and to use writing and speaking to help them to become critical readers of a variety of texts.

Improving student abilities in reading, writing, speaking and research requires serious, sustained practice and overt, in-class reflection upon that practice. A critical feature of this sustained practice is that students receive detailed, constructive response to their work from instructors, from peers, and from mentors and/or Writing Center tutors.

Underlying the teaching of communication skills in the FYP and the FYS is the assumption that these courses are components of a university-wide, four-year commitment to teaching communication skills across the undergraduate curriculum.


Though the goals for speaking, writing, and research are discussed in separate sections below, they are related activities. Instruction in these skills is most effective when grounded in a holistic view of communication. Students should be made aware of the differences and similarities between oral and written modes of discourse.

1. Oral Communication

By the end of the FYP/FYS students should demonstrate an increased ability:

a) to develop an oral presentation through a series of drafts, demonstrating substantial conceptual and performative revision.

b) to produce a speech with a clearly defined rhetorical purpose that is appropriately and adequately fulfilled given the audience being addressed.

c) to use informal conversation, in class or out, to facilitate close reading and promote critical thinking.

d) to speak from notes or outline, rather than from a manuscript or in an impromptu fashion.

2. Written Communication

By the end of the FYP/FYS, students should demonstrate an increased ability:

a) to develop a piece of writing through a series of drafts, demonstrating substantial revision at both the conceptual and the sentence level.

b) to produce an essay with a clearly defined rhetorical purpose that is appropriately and adequately fulfilled given the audience being addressed.

c) to use informal writing, done in class or out, in journals, reader-response papers, or exploratory essays, to facilitate close reading and promote critical thinking.

d) to produce writing that is characterized by a mature prose style and that conforms to the conventions of standard written English.

3. Research

By the end of the FYP/FYS, students should be better able to conduct productive, imaginative research. Specifically, they should demonstrate an increased ability:

a) to assess the research requirements of a particular assignment and to meet those requirements by using library collections, electronic databases, and Web-based sources.

b) to be able to choose amongst the sources to determine which are most appropriate for a particular assignment.

c) to assess and represent the complexity of a particular line of inquiry and to enter responsibly into the conversation about the issues it raises.


I. FYP courses

An FYP course will be approved if students:

a) are given diverse and repeated opportunities to write and speak, including the opportunity to write and speak in response to readings, discussions, lectures, films, etc. These responses may occur in class or out, and they may take many forms: freewriting, open or directed journals, graded or ungraded exploratory essays, essay exams, small group discussion, impromptu discussion, oral exams

b) are required to engage in at least three formal, graded writing projects. A “project” requires that students develop a piece of writing over time on the basis of appropriate feedback at a number of stages in the process

c) are required to engage in at least two oral communication projects, one of which undergoes a process of revision. A “project” requires that students develop a speech over time on the basis of appropriate feedback at a number of stages in the process. At least one speech must be extemporaneous, by which we mean that students should deliver a prepared speech from an outline or minimal notes

d) are required to conduct library research and use the sources as an integral part of at least one written and/or oral project

e) are instructed in and held responsible for the ethical use of sources

f) are required to keep all of their written work in a course portfolio, to reflect in writing upon their work, and to submit the completed portfolio to their faculty for review

II. First-Year Seminars

A First-Year Seminar will be approved if students:

a) are given diverse and repeated opportunities to write and speak, including opportunities to benefit from detailed formative feedback from instructors and peers

b) are asked to assess adequately the research requirements of a particular assignment and to seek out efficiently the means of meeting those requirements

c) are given diverse opportunities to incorporate appropriate illustrative or persuasive detail in oral and written communicatio

d) are required to complete at least one and no more than two projects comprising some combination of formal and informal oral, written, and research activities that demonstrate a satisfactory grasp of the program’s communication goals

e) are instructed in and held responsible for the ethical use of sources

f) are required to assemble all their work in a portfolio that includes a written assessment of that work, and to submit the completed portfolio to their faculty for review


In addition, it is strongly recommended:

1. that students engage in oral and written assignments that address a variety of audiences, ranging from instructors and peers to other imagined or real audiences.

2. that students write and speak for a variety of purposes: to explore, to express, to inform, and to persuade

3. that students be encouraged to respond to texts via creative projects

4. that students engage in a variety of research tasks that encourage critical use of sources

5. that colleges include assignments that require the production and analysis of visual images, so as to improve visual literacy

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