Writing Infrastructure

The dictionary defines “infrastructure” as “the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, and power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.” The works of sf we’ve read for today juxtapose human (or human-like, in the case of the “Vegetable Wife”) beings with infrastructural features, such as the mailman man-pillar in “Standing Woman,” who helps deliver the mail even as he transforms into a tree; or the “Vegetable Wife,” who grows like a plant in the main character’s cimmeg farm. Continue reading “Writing Infrastructure”

Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse from The Tate


The “Exquisite Corpse” game began as a parlor trick in the nineteenth century and became extremely popular within the Surrealist art movement in the early 1900s. Each artist would fold a piece of paper into thirds (or fourths, fifths, or sixths, depending on how many were playing) and sketch a body part of a corpse on one folded section. After a set amount of time, each would pass his work to another artist, who would continue drawing without knowing what the other artists had drawn before or after them. Once the sketch was complete, the artists would unfold their papers to reveal an exquisite corpse.

We will do the same thing in fictional form. Continue reading “Exquisite Corpse”

Lynn White’s Thesis

Reading: Lynn White, Jr: “The historical roots of our ecologic crisis” by Lynn White Jr (in the Ecocriticism Reader)

Prompt: Lynn White’s essay is filled with controversial theses, all of which tend to criticize the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. Read the essay, locate one such assertion, and offer a refutation of it or further support for it in one succinct paragraph. To get full credit you must proofread, cite from the text, and have a coherent argument.

Aristotle’s Poetics

Prompt: Aristotle’s Poetics, some have argued, is nothing more than a very long recipe or formula for producing works of literature. For this assignment, create your own recipe or formula for the making of successful literature. The form is free, but you must cite and comment upon at least one passage from Aristotle’s Poetics in your paper.

“Tradition and the Individual Talent”

Readings: Tyson, the New Criticism; T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock” and “Tradition and the Individual Talent”

Prompt: In “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” Eliot discusses a peculiar anxiety that writers have about their potential for originality and argues that any “new” artistic form necessarily emerges from the past. For this assignment it is your task to locate one contemporary work of art or literature and write one paragraph about its relation to a previous work of art or literature.

Diagramming Structure

Writing Assignment: Diagramming Structure
Due Date: Tuesday Feb. 17
Grading: Conventional (A-F)

Prompt: Now that you have read a variety of fairy tales along with Klages’ introduction to Structuralism, I hope you are beginning to notice distinct narrative patterns within such works. When you isolate the elements that contribute to such a pattern in a text you are focusing on its structural elements. While structuralist theory initially emerged from an analysis of linguistic patterns, such patterns can emerge from any system of signification. For this week’s focus on structuralism, I would like you to do two things:

Create a visualization of one pattern that you identify in one of the fairy tales that we read for class. This pattern can be an illustration of something we’ve discussed or something else entirely. Whichever pattern you identify, however, your task is to make a visual abstraction of it. Think of this as an analog form of “distant reading,” i.e., reading distantly without the help of data visualization software.
Write a paragraph that explains your diagram (1 page max, single-spaced).

Cyborg Prompt

The central claim that Donna Haraway makes in her “Manifesto” is that the figure of the cyborg–a portmanteau of the words “cybernetic” and “organism”–offers us a radical new way for to think about what it might mean to be human.  The trouble with this, as she acknowledges, is that the cyborg in the popular imagination is usually hyper violent and militarized (think Robocop) or ridiculously over sexualized (think of any number of so-called “pleasure models” from the annals of science fiction).  Your assignment today is to try to find an image of the cyborg that brings us closer to the model that Haraway has in mind.  Search for about 5 minutes, and, once you’ve located your image, write a short paragraph the explains how, exactly, the image you’ve selected brings us closer to Haraway’s model.  Make sure to include a link to the image you’ve found.  Write your response in the “leave a reply” box below (or, as always, feel free to email me your response).

Turn of the Screw and “Social Book”

Writing Prompt: In his essay on the uncanny, Sigmund Freud describes the strange sensation one experiences when he or she feels both at home and estranged at the same moment.  For this assignment it is your task to find one passage in your assigned chapter of Turn of the Screw that engages with any of the ideas that Freud expresses in “The Uncanny” and explicate the connection in one-two paragraphs of cleanly written and well organized analytic prose. Note that  you must cite passages from both texts to receive full credit.

SocialBoook Prompt:

1. Open the following link:


2. Create an account if required

3. Find the passage that you identified in your assigned chapter.

4. highlight it by selecting the text

5.  Add a comment about its significance in terms of Freud (this will be a shortened version of your paper).

6. “Post” your comment, making sure that your name is on the post so you get full credit.

Prompt for “Cities and Their Cities”

Together, we are going to create a global map of “joined” cities.

To complete this assignment, you will need a google account and your completed homework assignment.


1. Go to the following link:


2. Log in to google (create an account if you need to, but your FAU account *should* work).

3. Locate your city & city.

4. Tag the locations with the passages from the novel you identified and include your analysis.

5. Add to your analysis, if you see a way to do so.

Save your work, log-out, go home!


Fredric Jameson’s Archaeology of the Future: the Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (2007) articulates the central concern of this graduate seminar: “In an age of globalization characterized by the dizzying technologies of the First World, and the social disintegration of the Third, is the concept of utopia still meaningful?” The short answer to this question is “yes.”  The longer one will require us to take an unconventional critical approach to the form.  While recent scholarship about dys/u/eu/topoi has tended to focus on the manner in which utopian literature forms a response to the political events of its time—e.g., Plato’s commentary upon the Athenian polis in the Republic, Thomas More’s response to the Reformation in Utopia, Jonathan Swift’s commentary upon the contentious political climate in post-Civil War England in Gulliver’s Travels, Ernst Bloch’s visions within the context of early Marxism and Fredric Jameson’s in the context of advanced capitalism—in this graduate seminar we will consider of equal importance the expression of place. The words “utopia” and “dystopia,” after all, are directly traceable to the Greek term topos, or “place”—a skewed place in the case of the dystopia, and a non-existent (but good) one in the case of the utopia. Our particular emphasis will be upon the remarkable fact that utopian works create places and spaces within fictional worlds that help open up new frontiers in our own. By examining the adjacency between fictive and real-world spaces and places, we shall be able to assess the continued relevance of this important literary form.



New Cyborg Theory


This graduate seminar focuses on works of science fiction and fantasy that complicate conceptions of what it means to be human, what it means to be animal, and what it means to be technological by blurring the boundaries that have traditionally separated these categories.


Creative Writing Science Fiction

CRW4930 is a course on the writing of short, literary science fiction.  Although science fiction as a whole tends to exhibit certain generic patterns and honors certain conventions—Martians! Robots! Little green men!—writing literary sf means not succumbing to clichéd, formula-based writing that fails to pay attention to language and originality. Instead, writing literary sf entails learning to hone your creative craft all while paying heed to additional constraints. Class time is split between analyzing published work and workshopping student writing.

Still shot from Fiend without a Face (1958), a film based loosely on Amelia Reynold’s Long’s “The Thought Monster” (Weird Tales, 1930)  (aka what not to do when writing literary sf).


Mediums and Messages

Much of the discussion coming out of the field of the Digital Humanities focuses upon how “the” new media are changing the ways we communicate, the ways we express ourselves, and the ways we understand new and old modes of expression. There are several problems with this emphasis. In the first place, it treats new media as a monolithic entity, when they are instead a diverse collection of cultural and technological practices. Secondly, by granting agency to new media, it participates implicitly in untenable ideas of technological determinism. Finally, and most importantly, it neglects the fact that human beings and human bodies have always formed integral parts of expressive communication technologies. By switching the focus from “media” to “mediums,” a word that signifies both human and technological conduits of information, and by tracing the way human beings have participated in circuits of communication from antiquity to today, “Mediums and Messages” offers a corrective to this trend by foregrounding the manner in which we are all imbricated in practices of communication, digital or otherwise.