Science Fiction and Gender

M W F 9:10 - 10:00
318 Berkey Hall

T. Tavormina (e-address: tavrmina@pilot.msu.edu)
218 Morrill (355-1733; 355-5229 [also for messages])
Office Hours:  8:30-10:00 Tuesday
or by appointment and on-line
Texts Syllabus On-line Resources Library Resources Activities & Assignments Grading
Roster   Discussion Style Paper Instructions Symposium Instructions Reading Tips
Chats    Handouts: Wks. 1-7 Paper Feedback Handouts: Wks. 8-14 Group Projects
Course Description:

This is a course that will take advantage of one of MSU's Special Collections: The James Tiptree, Jr., Collection of stories, novels, and other works that have won or been shortlisted for the annual James Tiptree, Jr., Award for science fiction that explores and questions assumptions about gender and gender roles within society. We will read several recently published novels and short stories that have been honored in the Tiptree contests over the last six years (all published in the '90s), along with some classic works and a remarkable historical dialogue in the same tradition, as a way of seeing in what ways speculative fiction may enable us to better understand the issues that shape -- or could shape -- the inextricable relationships between identity, gender, and society.

The class will also take advantage of the presence of Samuel R. Delany, one of the most important American science fiction writers and critics, on the MSU campus this fall. Mr. Delany will be a visiting Honors Professor for the semester, and is generously ready to be a guest speaker and teacher in classes over and above the Honors course he will be teaching himself. This is an opportunity not to be missed!


Required Texts:

Nicola Griffith, Ammonite
Maureen McHugh, China Mountain Zhang
John Barnes, Orbital Resonance
Marge Piercy, He, She, and It
Theodore Roszak, The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein
Jeff Smith and Jeanne Gomoll, eds. Khatru nos. 3 and 4: Symposium on Women in Science Fiction, 2nd printing (1993)
Sarah LeFanu, Feminism and Science Fiction

Plato, Ovid, James Tiptree, Jr., Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, Greg Egan, and Donna Haraway: selected myth, fiction, philosophy, and criticism dealing with gender and its ramifications.

The Feminist SF Listserv

Recommended Text:

Joanna Russ, To Write Like a Woman (collected essays)

[Note to the class on books]



Day and Date Reading
M 8/25/97 Introduction
W 8/27/97 Myth, Assumptions, and Constructions: Plato's myth of the three genders (from the Symposium); the Teiresias myth (via Ovid and Robert Graves); Muriel Rukeyser, "Myth"
F 8/29/97 Tiptree, "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?"
W 9/3/97 Tiptree, "The Women Men Don't See"; LeFanu, Tiptree chapter
F 9/5/97 LeFanu, Intro - chapter 3; Khatru Symposium, pp. 3-21 
M 9/8/97 Delany biosketches/interviews; "The Tale of Old Venn"
W 9/10/97 Delany, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, pp. 65-141
F 9/12/97 Special Collections visit to see Tiptree materials (books, stories, visual, miscellaneous); Khatru Symposium, pp. 22-34 or LeFanu, chapters 4-6 (TBA)
M 9/15/97 LeFanu, chapters 4-6, or Khatru Symposium, pp. 22-34
W 9/17/97 Griffith, Ammonite, 1-143 (chs. 1-8)
F 9/19/97 Griffith, Ammonite, 144-235 (chs. 9-12)
M 9/22/97 Griffith, Ammonite, 236-349 (chs. 13-18)
W 9/24/97 Khatru Symposium, pp. 37-58
F 9/26/97 Egan, "Cocoon"
M 9/29/97 McHugh, China Mountain Zhang, 1-129
W 10/1/97 McHugh, China Mountain Zhang, 130-208
F 10/3/97 McHugh, China Mountain Zhang, 209-310
M 10/6/97 Khatru Symposium, pp. 62-85
W 10/8/97 LeFanu chapter on Le Guin; Le Guin, "The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction" and "Gender Redux" (watch the dates on when things are written and published!!)
F 10/10/97 FIRST PAPER DUE: in class, at beginning of class.
M 10/13/97 Le Guin, "The Matter of Seggri"
W 10/15/97 Le Guin, "Mountain Ways"
F 10/17/97 Barnes, Orbital Resonance, 1-116 (chs. 1-6; Dec. 8-23, 2025)
M 10/20/97 Barnes, Orbital Resonance, 117-218 (chs. 7-12; Jan. 2 - Feb. 2, 2026)
W 10/22/97 Barnes wrap-up; LeFanu, chapters 7-8
F 10/24/97 Piercy, He, She, and It, pp. 1-96 (chs. 1-11)
M 10/27/97 Piercy, He, She, and It, pp. 97-259 (chs. 12-29)
W 10/29/97 Khatru Symposium, pp. 86-114
F 10/31/97 Piercy, He, She, and It, pp. 260-339 (chs. 30-39)
M 11/3/97 Piercy, He, She, and It, pp. 340-429 (chs. 40-48)
W 11/5/97 Haraway, "A Manifesto for Cyborgs" -- a reading walk-through
F 11/7/97 Haraway, "A Manifesto for Cyborgs" -- discussion
M 11/10/97 Khatru Symposium, pp. 115-137 
W 11/12/97 Roszak, Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, vii-73 (Part One, first half)
F 11/14/97 Roszak, Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, 74-157 (Part One, second half)
M 11/17/97 Roszak, Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, 161-255 (Part Two)
W 11/19/97 Roszak, Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, 259-368 (Part Three)
F 11/21/97 Delany, "Reading at Work, and Other Activities Frowned by Authority: A reading of Donna Haraway's 'Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s'" -- a reading walk-through
M 11/24/97 Roszak, Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, 371-425 (Part Four)
W 11/26/97 Guest Panelists on Haraway: Professors Delany and Shelton
M 12/1/97 NO CLASS (or catchup day)
W 12/3/97 SECOND PAPER DUE from Groups 4-6; Symposium 1 (Group Project; individual papers from group 1 due Monday 12/8)
F 12/5/97 Symposia  2 and 3 (Group Projects; individual papers from groups 2 and 3 due Monday 12/8)
TH 12/11/97 7:45 - 9:45 am: Symposia 4-6 (Group Projects) and class evaluation.  Our officially scheduled final exam time.  We'll look for an alternative time or a way to enjoy it in spite of the hour.



On-Line Resources:

Feminist Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Utopia -- a major resource, with many layers of further links [soon {as of May 1999} to be at www.feministsf.org].

Cyberfem Page -- to quote the author (a journalism major and journalist at Cal State U Long Beach),   "Don't know where to go looking for feminist resources or those cool penpals all over the world that you bought your Internet account to find? Here's where you'll find some help."  Interesting links with a personal voice.

The Voice of the Shuttle Gender Studies Metapage -- the Voice of the Shuttle is one of the major scholarly starting places to find humanities material on the WWW.  You should get to know it in general, and take advantage of  the gender studies subsite for this class specifically.

U of M F&SF Page -- good research site, with some  partial look-ins at sf classes at U of M.

Julie's Gender Book List -- a deliberately selective list of the author's favorites.

Gaylaxians Home Page -- a starter page to further links on gay and lesbian writers, works, and fans in sf.

James Tiptree, Jr., Award and the WisCon/SF3 Home Page. -- all about the award and the fan organization and con that supports it.  Every Memorial Day weekend in Madison: not a bad place to be for the holiday.

Samuel R. Delany Page -- a site put up by Delany's publishers, University Press of New England, mostly containing the kinds of introductory material you'll find in publishers' sales catalogues, with a couple of links to more ambitious, non-commercial, but still incomplete pages.

Nicola Griffith Page -- one of our authors on the web, with rich and deep content and further linkages. For scuba work as well as surfing; plan to stay and read a while, not just hop around. Interactive subsites.   There's also a place here to "Ask Nicola," where e-mail questions get passed on to her anonymously and she answers them, sometimes grouping related questions together.  But do read some of the answers first so you see the kinds of questions she finds interesting and which ones are offensive (like asking questions without knowing some of her work, or looking for leads on paper topics and research sources, etc.)

Maureen McHugh's Home Page -- a warm and engaging place, with opportunities to e-mail the author directly with questions or comments on her work, her remarks on such matters as gender, stepmotherhood, writing, China, and many other things.  Maureen has kindly offered to come visit us during the semester, so I urge you to get to know her through her home page and say hi to her early in the term.

SFF Net -- many useful subpages, such as the list of sf&f people with web pages.



Library Resources--Reserved Reading List:

I've placed almost all the Tiptree novels and stories (both winners and short list honorees) on reserve at the library, with 2-hour to 1-week checkout times, depending on the length of the item in questions, along with a number of classic works of gender-related science fiction and some related material. These reserved readings will be the major, though not necessarily the only, source for you to start on your research/critical essay projects -- one in which you deal with at least one of our class readings and one or more other Tiptree winners/honorees, and another in which you deal with at least one of our class readings and at least one work not on the Tiptree lists (or not there yet) but part of the general tradition of gender-bending and gender-exploring science fiction. The list is long, so I've given you a link to it rather than incorporating it into the syllabus.

Class Activities and Assignments:

Reading and face to face discussion of course texts (see Syllabus above).

Reading the postings (listening to the conversations) on the Feminist SF Listserv (see Listserv Instructions).

2 individual  literary-analytical papers (5-8 pp. each), based on materials in the Tiptree Collection at the MSU Library and in the more general tradition of sf writing that explores gender (see Paper Instructions).

Attendance at and (full) 2-page analytical response (identifying and dealing with ideas and issues raised, not just expressing affective reactions) to at least one of the public readings given by visiting Honors Professor Samuel R. Delany during the Fall semester.

The Dialogues of 342: an on-line "symposium" group-project building through the semester to a final edited, oral "performance" of highlights and best insights.  Join the tradition of Socrates and Plato, the Khatru contributors, and the Feminist SF Listserv in developing ideas through conversations, whether oral, in writing, or electronic (see Symposium Instructions).

Other communal activities: Chat room exercises in gender roles and styles (see Chat Instructions) and a potluck final feast and discussion (i.e., a symposium in its full form) in lieu of a final exam, using baked goods and other recipes from the Tiptree cookbooks (on Reserved Reading at the Library).  If we can make it on the weekend before Finals, that would be great; the rain-date can always be the officially scheduled final exam time, 7:45 - 9:45 am on Thursday December 11: anyone for a sumptuous brunch??

Honors-Option: An intellectually rich, beyond-show-and-tell Web-based project presenting and analyzing a well-defined topic raised by one or more of our readings.  Proposals must be turned in by October 15, and must be approved before the H-option can go forward.  You do not need to be an Honors College student to undertake an H-option, but you must be earning at least a 3.0 in the class to have the option recorded on your transcript.



Literary-analytical papers (2): 25% each

Attendance at formal class space/time and active, thoughtful participation both there and in pre-/post-class on-line conversations: 25%

Attendance at and response to public reading or lecture by Professor Delany: 10%

Group Project and Other Communal Exercises: 15%