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Room: Tate Hall, Room 22

Marta Boswell

Office: Room 1, basement of Tate hall

Office hours:
MW, 10:00-11:00 a.m.

Office Phone:

Marta Boswell

Library Reserve Desk: 882-4581

Required Texts (in reading order):
  • LeGuin, Ursula. The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969.
  • Butler, Octavia. Dawn, 1987.
  • Jones, Gwyneth.  North Wind, 1994.
  • Atwood, Margaret The Handmaid's Tale, 1985.
  • Scott, Melissa Trouble and Her Friends, 1994.
  • Shelley, Mary Frankenstein, 1817.
  • McHugh, Maureen China Mountain Zhang, 1997.
  • Wood, N. Lee Looking for the Mahdi, 1996.
  • Library Reserves (these will be
    available at the Circulation Desk
    throughout the semester)

Recommended Text:

  • Warrick, Patricia S., Charles G. Waugh and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. Science Fiction: The Science Fiction Research Association Anthology, 1988.


Recommended Movies:
  • The Alien Cycle (Alien/Aliens/etc.)
  • Contact
  • Deep Impact
  • Handmaid's Tale
Recommend Television:
  • Star Trek
  • X-Files
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer


General Info on English 16:

Babes in Space: Women in Science Fiction as Authors and Objects has been carefully designed by yours truly, Marta Boswell, and my former co-teacher, Rachel Sage (now making tons of money at a real job in Seattle). We want you to, of course, love the books. However, beyond being a 16-week excuse to read sci-fi novels and thereby escape all other, let's say, worldly concerns (like homework for your real classes), we want to make this class a space for inquiry into the issues raised by the texts we will be reading. Underlying most good science fiction novels are lots of questions about the universe. Most fundamentally, what is its nature? What is our nature? What is our place in the universe? How does time work? Is there a god? Good science fiction often asks its readers to consider the impact of religion, politics, or technology on human life and culture.

In addition to those foundational nodes of inquiry, we want this class to be a space for the exploration of ideas about race, gender, and otherness. Many female science fiction writers foreground such concerns in their work, and the construction of female characters by male science fiction writers often unintentionally provokes questions about the same issues. So as you read and as you love these books, be thinking about those things.

Course Goals:

To improve your ability to read material that challenges received ideas about the world. To improve your ability to articulate a response to such readings. To expand your knowledge of science fiction, particularly science fiction by and about women. To make you think about race, gender and otherness as it applies in the books and in all of our every day lives. Most of this will be accomplished by sheer inundation of material. If you’ve ever wanted to drown in a sea of words, this is your semester. We're going to read, read, read.

Course Policies:

Respect. Responsibility. Communication. Collaboration. And work, work, work. That goes for all of us, me included.


You are expected to be in class and to contribute to class discussions and activities. More than 9 absences and I'll consider you dropped from the class.   Additionally, you're responsible to participate in the List-Serv, post your Book Review and your Character Analysis Report on time, and check-in weekly to take the Reading Quizzes.

Late Work Policy:

I will only accept late work if you make prior arrangements with me for an extension. That means you need to contact me at least 24-hours before the assignment is due, preferably a week or two in advance.  Work turned in after the due date when no prior arrangement has been made may receive an "F".

Disability Statement:

If you need accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please inform me immediately. If you wish to speak privately about such accommodations, please see me during office hours or after class.

To request academic accommodations (for example, a notetaker), you must also register with Disability Services, AO38 Brady Commons, 882-4696. It is the campus office responsible for reviewing documentation provided by students requesting academic accommodations, and for accommodations planning in cooperation with students and instructors, as needed and consistent with course requirements.

Plagiarism Policy:

Plagiarism means the use of anyone else’s words or ideas as your own. Functionally, for our purposes, the definition of plagiarism encompasses any attempt to use anyone else’s words or ideas as your own. I do understand that citation is a tricky business and that we may, on occasion, encounter some unintentional instances of plagiarism due to missing or misplaced parenthetical markers. This type of plagiarism will require a rewrite of the assignment. Willful attempts to pass off the work of another student or an authoritative source as your own will result in penalties which may include:

  • An "F" on the assignment
  • An "F" in the class
  • A report of the incident to the English Undergraduate Advisor
  • A report of the incident to the Provost’s office
  • Expulsion from the university
Grading Criteria:
Midterm 300
Final 300
List-Serv Posts 100
Reading Quizzes 100
Book Reviews 100
Character Analysis Report 100
Total   1000


Grading Scale:

100 A+
92 A
90 A-
88 B+
82 B
80 B-
78 C+
72 C
70 C-
68 D+
62 D
60 D-
50 (or lower) F

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Midterm/Final (60% total)

Both exams will be primarily essay in nature. The Midterm will cover the readings from the first half the class. The Final will, primarily, cover the readings from the second half the class. The final may contain some questions that ask you to consider the class as a whole, including some reference to pre-Midterm texts.

List-Serv Posts (10% total)

We will use these to fuel class discussions. The list-serv posts should reflect your questions and difficulties with the previous week’s material, as well as any insights you have about a given text. You may choose to focus deeply on one portion of the assigned material, or to talk more generally about how it connects to other elements in the same text or in other texts.

Your list-serv posts should show that you are thinking about the texts and that you are thinking about the fact that you're writing into a moderated public forum.  That means I expect at least one substantive post on each book from all of you, as well as additional posts on the essays and short stories, on your research projects, and on the book reviews, both those you've done and those you've read.  If list traffic is slow or unproductive, I may assign specific post topics in class or on the Weekly Update.   You should post something of substance to the list at least ten times this semester.  You should also keep in mind that I'll be reading the posts along with your classmates and anyone else who browses our archives.  That means, first and foremost, no flaming, i.e., no personal attacks on anybody.  It also means you should use your posts to further the on-going discussion--please try to avoid contributing notes that say nothing more than "I loved/hated it" or "me too".

Reading Quizzes (10% total)

Just what they sound like.  These will appear on-line on a weekly basis.  You'll have a limited time frame (usually the week or so surrounding our class discussion of a text) in which to take the quiz, so be sure you keep up with the reading!  The quizzes will be multiple choice, and yep, you're free to use your books, but watch out!  These aren't the usual bonehead questions.

Keep in mind, the on-line format of these quizzes is an experimental one.  If, for whatever reason, I decide the quizzes are not providing a fair estimate of your reading abilities, we will choose another quiz format.

Book Review (10% total)

The due date for your Book Review will depend on the book on which you've chosen to work. Your Book Reviews should be about three to five pages (750-1000 words), free of spelling and grammar errors, and written according to the rules of proper MLA style and citation. (Mainly, this means you’ll need to note the page numbers of the book you cite in parentheses after any quote.) Books for review should be chosen from the Book Recommendation List unless you have requested and received special permission to report on another text.

Character Analysis Report (10% total)

You will be responsible to choose the due date for your Character Analysis Report. The goal of this project is to give you a chance to learn more about female characters in science fiction. You'll be choosing a movie (or set of movies), a comic book series, a tv series, or a video game that prominently features a female character. You will then be analyzing your character according to a set of criteria I'll provide. In addition to a ten-minute in-class presentation of your findings, followed by a question/answer session, you must turn in a three page (750 word) written summary of your research. For this research report, you may need to consult additional outside sources like other web sites, books, general interest magazines, and scholarly journal articles.  Some journals you might find helpful include: Science Fiction Studies, Journal of Popular Culture, and Extrapolation. You must use proper MLA citation in your written summary and you must include both a Works Cited and a Works Consulted page. See me for research topic approval and source assistance. You will be paired with one other person for this project and both of you will share the project grade.

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This page was created by Marta Boswell, Rachel Sage and David Drum.
Copyright 2000 Babes in Space. All rights reserved.
Revised: August 19, 2000.
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