FILM 4280/COMM 6280
How do we dream our visions of the future? How do we explore our fantasies of the past?
Science fiction extrapolates the trends of the present to imagine possible future worlds, both utopian and (more often) dystopian. Fantasy looks back to imagine past worlds in which technology has not yet usurped nature. Both genres are rooted in mythic traditions that push beyond the boundaries of realism to reach for deeper truths.
This class will examine the genres of fantasy and science fiction across multiple media, including film, television, literature, comics and gaming. We’ll survey their history, while at the same time tracing the influence of each text forward into the present. We’ll look at how these works have reflected and influenced American society, as each new generation of creators has responded to changing social conditions by re-imagining the key tropes and themes of the genres. And we’ll try to understand why these visions continue to capture the world’s imagination.
Class readings will include books, a coursepack of articles, and news items distributed via the class email list. Here are the books you’ll need:
Most course books should be available at the GSU bookstores. They can also be ordered through online retailers such as amazon.com/student, bn.com, and powells.com. The coursepack is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South).
Students in Film 6280 will read two additional books of their choice: one scholarly book to present to the entire class, and one novel to discuss in a separately scheduled meeting with the other graduate students.
Relevant news and commentary will be shared with the class via the Twitter hashtag #fsfmedia. Feel free to respond to tweets or post your own. Class Schedule
Unit I: Modern Myths
T 8/24 Understanding Fantasy and Science Fiction
T 8/31 Star Wars and the Power of Myth
Ted Friedman, “Myth, the Numinous, and Cultural Studies”:
Ted Friedman, “The Politics of Magic,”
Joseph Campbell, excerpt from The Hero With a Thousand Faces (CP)
Christopher Vogler and Stuart Voytilla, excerpt from Myth and the Movies (CP)
T 9/7 The Lord of the Rings and the Collective Unconscious
Hyde and McGuinness, Introducing Jung
Ted Friedman, “Jung and Lost”:
Ursula K. LeGuin, “The Child and the Shadow” (CP)
J.R.R. Tolkien, “Introduction to The Fellowship of the Ring” (CP)
Unit II: Folklore and Fantasy
T 9/14 The Wizard of Oz and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
Salman Rushdie, The Wizard of Oz
T 9/21 The Company of Wolves and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Angela Carter, “The Company of Wolves” (CP)
Selections from Marjorie Tatar, ed., The Classic Fairy Tales (CP)
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, “Why Vampires Never Die”:
Laura Miller, “Real Men Have Fangs”:
T 9/28 Harry Potter, The Magicians and True Blood
Lev Grossman, The Magicians
T 10/5 Spirited Away and Futurama
Margaret Talbot, “The Auteur of Anime” (CP)
James W. Boyd and Tetsuya Nishimura, “Shinto Perspectives in Miyazaki’s Anime Film Spirited Away,” The Journal of Religion and Film 8.2 (October 2004):
Norkio T. Reider, “Spirited Away: Film of the Fantastic and Evolving Japanese Folk Symbols,” Film Criticism 29.3 (2005): 4-27:
Aaron Sherwood, “Characterization, Narrative Structure and Mythopoeia in the Films of Hayao Miyazaki” (2006):
T 10/12 Pan’s Labyrinth, Sandman and Lost
Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Season of Mists
Unit III: Science Fiction
T 10/19 Metropolis
J. P. Telotte, “The Seductive Text of Metropolis” (CP)
Take-home midterm due
T 10/26 Bride of Frankenstein and Twilight Zone
William Gibson, “The Gernsback Continuum” (CP)
Andrew Ross, “Getting Out of the Gernsback Continuum” (CP)
David Hartwell, excerpt from Age of Wonders (CP)
Gary Morris, “Sexual Subversion: The Bride of Frankenstein”:
T 11/2 Blade Runner and Star Trek
Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” (CP)
Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” (CP)
Henry Jenkins, “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations” (CP)
Ted Friedman, “Capitalism: The Final Frontier”:
T 11/9 Brazil, Ender’s Game and The X-Files
Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
Carl Jung, “Flying Saucers as Modern Myths” (CP)
T 11/16 The Matrix and Battlestar Galactica
David Weberman, “The Matrix: Simulation and the Postmodern Age” (CP)
Slavoj Zizek, “The Matrix, or the Two Sides of Perversion” (CP)
Spencer Ackerman, “Battlestar: Iraqtica,”
T 11/23 No Class – Thanksgiving Break
T 11/30 Children of Men, World of Warcraft and The Guild
Download and play the free World of Warcraft trial:
Take-Home Final Due Tuesday, December 7, 5 PM
You are responsible for viewing assigned films in time for class discussion. Screenings are held on Thursdays at 4:30 PM in 406 Arts & Humanities.
8/26 Star Wars
9/2 The Lord of the Rings
9/9 The Wizard of Oz
9/16 The Company of Wolves
9/23 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
9/30 Spirited Away
10/7 Pan’s Labyrinth
10/21 Bride of Frankenstein
10/28 Blade Runner
11/11 The Matrix
11/18 Children of Men
11/25 Thanksgiving Break – play World of Warcraft
12/2 No screening
The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:
A+ 100-98 B+ 89-88 C+ 79-78 D 69-65
A 97-93 B 87-83 C 77-70 F 64-0
A- 92-90 B- 82-80
TV Presentation – 10 points (Film 4280)
As part of a 2-3 person team, you will give a presentation on an influential fantasy or science fiction television show. Your team has two presentation options:
Research Presentation: Each member of the team gives a 5-minute presentation on a different aspect of the show: 1) the creator; 2) the economics of the production; 3) audience responses. Each member hands in a list of sources. A minimum of five separate sources is required. (Wikipedia can be consulted and, if so, should be listed on the bibliography, but does not count toward the five sources.) PowerPoint is not necessary, but short video clips (such as creator interviews, news stories, and fan films) should be incorporated into each presentation when available.
Creative Presentation: Alternately, the presentation team can choose to collectively produce a short film about the TV show. Options include an edited selection of clips with voice-over commentary, a series of interviews with viewers, or a fan film.
Book Presentation – 10 points (Film 6280)
Instead of the TV presentation, each graduate student will give a 15-20 minute presentation on a relevant scholarly book of the student’s choice. The presentation should include an examination of the book’s main arguments and how they relate to the themes of the course, an application of the book’s ideas through a media example, and a class discussion period.
Take-Home Midterm – 45 points (Film 4280 and 6280)
The take-home midterm will require you to relate concepts from the readings and lectures to the assigned films, series, novels and comics. Undergradate and graduate students will take the same exam, but graduate students will be expected to submit more detailed answers. Due October 19.
Take-Home Final – 45 points (Film 4280 and 6280)
The take-home final will be structured just like the midterm, covering the second half of the semester. Due December 7.
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.
Office hours are by appointment. I’m usually available to meet before and after every class.
Late midterms are penalized at the rate of 1/2 point per day overdue. Late finals cannot be accepted without an extension.
Rewrites of any midterm question are welcome. The final grade on the question will be the average of the original grade and the rewritten version’s grade. Rewrites of the final are unavailable, but rough drafts of the final can be submitted for feedback through November 30.
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.
Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State. Upon completing the course, please take time to fill out the online course evaluation.
Students who wish to request accommodation for a disability may do so by registering with the Office of Disability Services. Students may only be accommodated upon issuance by the Office of Disability Services of a signed Accommodation Plan and are responsible for providing a copy of that plan to instructors of all classes in which accommodations are sought.
Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.