Courses by Eric Rabkin

Professor Eric Rabkin, University of Michigan, has offered a number of different courses examining speculative fiction in the past.

He first came to our attention due to his course on Coursera, a site that offers free university classes, called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. You can still sign up for it -- another session starts in October. The course description is as follows:

Fantasy is a key term both in psychology and in the art and artifice of humanity. The things we make, including our stories, reflect, serve, and often shape our needs and desires. We see this everywhere from fairy tale to kiddie lit to myth; from "Cinderella" to Alice in Wonderland to Superman; from building a fort as a child to building ideal, planned cities as whole societies. Fantasy in ways both entertaining and practical serves our persistent needs and desires and illuminates the human mind. Fantasy expresses itself in many ways, from the comfort we feel in the godlike powers of a fairy godmother to the seductive unease we feel confronting Dracula. From a practical viewpoint, of all the fictional forms that fantasy takes, science fiction, from Frankenstein to Avatar, is the most important in our modern world because it is the only kind that explicitly recognizes the profound ways in which science and technology, those key products of the human mind, shape not only our world but our very hopes and fears. This course will explore Fantasy in general and Science Fiction in specific both as art and as insights into ourselves and our world.

Here's links to the course outlines and syllabi for Rabkin's other SF courses:

English 341: Fantasy

What is fantasy, in our literature and in ourselves? This course will explore the nature and uses of fantastic narratives from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present, drawing texts from such widely different fields as fairy tale, science fiction, and the so-called New Novel. No special background in literature is required for registration, but we will begin immediately to consider broad concepts of art and analysis that should help increase understanding and enjoyment of the books and develop ourselves as imaginative and incisive thinkers.

English 342: Science Fiction

The march of science and technology has shaped—or deformed?—humanity since the inception of stone tools and language, and does so now more rapidly than ever. Science fiction, the art most responsive to the human implications of changes in science and technology is arguably the most important modern popular genre. This course will examine both the history and the diversity of science fiction prose by reading some of the best examples written since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Generally, we will approach each primary text in three ways: through a consideration of its backgrounds (scientific, mythic, and so forth), through specific questions the text raises (moral questions, questions of plausibility, and so forth), and through the traditional discipline of criticism (what is science fiction? what is the relationship of character to theme? and so forth).

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