Science Fiction in the Literature Classroom (MLA Pedagogy Series)

deadline for submissions: 
April 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Modern Language Association
contact email: 

The presence of science fiction in university classrooms is by now no longer shocking; the genre has become a mainstay not only in literature and philosophy classrooms but also in STEM fields, as its predictions and extrapolations pose memorable and concrete case studies to explore the societal and ethical implications of technological innovation, as well as interesting practical engineering problems to try to solve with real-world science. As the world around us becomes more and more science fictional with each passing year—often in ways that have eerie resonance with the dystopian and apocalyptic predictions of years past—the speculations of science fiction will only have more purchase in our attempts to prepare our students for a future that seems very much in flux.

But in film and literature departments science fiction still often suffers from a reputation as being easy, silly, and fundamentally undemanding, an essentially degraded form of artistic production unworthy of serious attention by serious critics. This reputation persists despite the canonization of major writers of science fiction—Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia E. Butler, Philip K. Dick, and J. G. Ballard, among many others—who are treated as exceptional deviations from the genre rather than emblematic of it, and also denies the science fictional dimensions of work by acclaimed writers such as Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, David Mitchell, and David Foster Wallace.

This volume, Teaching Science Fiction in the Literature Classroom, will be divided into three sections. The first, “Form and Genre,” will focus on teaching science fiction in its own terms, as a genre with rules, conventions, and principles quite specific to itself. The second, “Canonicity and Prestige,” will consider science fiction appearing in the classroom alongside more traditionally acclaimed literature and film, often on the same syllabus. The third, “Creation,” will consider pedagogy that invites students to create science fiction, with all the possibilities and pitfalls that can entail.

Scholars interested in contributing an essay of approximately 3,000–4,000 words are invited to submit a 250–500-word abstract outlining their chapter. The deadline for submissions of abstracts is 15 April 2020; please e-mail submissions and any questions for clarification to Gerry Canavan ( Permission from students must be obtained for any relevant quotations from student work in the essay; previously published essays cannot be considered. Learn more about the MLA guidelines for publication.