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Leaving to Oregon tomorrow morning! Meanwhile, here's some more detailed stuff about the current state of the the Transgressive Sexuality in Science Fiction class, for those who are interested in following that. First here's the finished, or nearly so, reading schedule, divided into 'parts' because it's my class and I can be as pretentious as I want.

September 8

PART 1: Freedom and Repression

September 15

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1. (excerpt)
Theodore Sturgeon, "If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?"

September 22
Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land (through part 2)

September 29
Stranger in a Strange Land (through the end)
Allyn Howey, "'Junior, you aren’t shaping up too angelically': Queerness in Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land" (

PART 2: Gender and Genre

October 6

Lois McMaster Bujold, "Labyrinth"
Frederic Pohl, "Day Million"
Samuel R. Delany, "About 5,750 Words"

October 13
John Varley, "Options"
Spider Robinson, "High Infidelity"
Judith Butler, "Performative Acts of Gender Constitution"

October 20
Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness (through chapter 10)
Short paper due.

October 27
The Left Hand of Darkness (through the end)
Ursula K. LeGuin, "Is Gender Necessary? Redux"

PART 3: Love and Death

November 3

James Tiptree, Jr, "Love is the Plan the Plan is Death"
James Tiptree, Jr, "The Screwfly Solution"
Julie Philips, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon (Introduction)

November 10
James Tiptree, Jr, "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side"
Samuel R. Delany, "Aye, and Gomorrah..."

PART 4: Power and Pleasure

November 17

Octavia Butler, "Bloodchild"
Samuel R. Delany, Stars in My Pocket like Grains of Sand (through Monologue 3)

November 24
Stars in My Pocket... (through Monologue 11)
Samuel R. Delany, The Motion of Light in Water (excerpts)

December 1
Stars in My Pocket... (through epilogue)
Raphael Carter, "Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation"
Long paper due.

Second, a prospective student wrote me a while ago and asked me, among other things, about my vision for the course. I interpreted this as a question about what I wanted to deal with theoretically and went on about it at moderate length, which I reproduce (with minimal editing) here.

The first paragraph of my course outline describes roughly the parameters of a rather obscure discussion I'd like to have about genre and discourse; a lot of my vision for this course involves the hope of my creating a space from which that discussion might emerge. I am influenced a lot by queer and feminist theory, especially around the social constitution of identity categories, some of which are normative and others abjected, but most of which are stabilized in part by the claim to be essential, natural, and timeless features of individuals. Any given science fictional work, almost by generic definition, is in tension with some discourses about the way things are and the way people are, and taking others for granted. It is also engaging, more or less, with discursive assumptions about what science fiction is that constitute that literary identity -- which in turn, with the introduction of SF fandom, becomes an identity marker for individuals once more, many of whom go on to write more science fiction.

Samuel R. Delany talks about this connection between literary genre and identity formation in his writing about 'paraliterature', which is a category that he argues contains all those written genres of which your average person on the street would say, "Oh, that's not real literature" -- Science Fiction, academic criticism, pornography, comic books, category romance, and so on. He writes,

"The abyssal split between literature and paraliterature exists precisely so that some values can circulate across it and others can be stopped by it. The split between them constitues literature as much as it does paraliterature. Just as (discursively) homosexuality exists largely to delimit heterosexuality and to lend it a false sense of definition, paraliterature exists to delimit literature and lend it a false sense of itself. Indeed, since both were disseminated by the explosion of print technology at the end of the nineteenth century, the two splits are not unrelated."

(Livejournal-Andy's note: this quotation is from "The Para/Doxa Interview" in Delany's collection, Shorter Views; I can cite a page number later when I figure out where my copy is.)

So we will be engaging with this question of what science fiction is, and also with what sorts of discursive violence are circulating around it -- perpetrated upon it, within it, by it, or in some combination. But I don't mean to be entirely pessimistic; given this framework, I also hope that our discussion will be able to draw out and highlight those places where the SF we read successfully does transgressive work -- as I think in many cases it does, and I'm sure that others in the class will argue for examples I haven't considered.

Looking back over this, I see that I've said very little about sexuality in particular. But I think that categories around sexual proclivity and sexual behaviour, what is possible and what is natural in that arena, are a primary location of the sort of discursive tensions I've been talking about, and so a relatively theoretically disciplined examination of how they are portrayed -- pretty much any portrayal, but in particular any that /attempts/ to be transgressive -- will illuminate a lot about how our understandings of sex work, both in their internal logic and their function in larger structures of ideological power.
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Andy H.

February 2013

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