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Lecture 11 - Scientific Productions

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Eleventh lecture for my students in English 192, "Science Fiction," summer 2013 at UC Santa Barbara. …

Eleventh lecture for my students in English 192, "Science Fiction," summer 2013 at UC Santa Barbara.

Course website: http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/ta/m13/

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  • 1. Lecture 11: Scientific Productions English 192 Summer 2013 21 August 2013 “It is a common sentence that Knowledge is power; but who hath duly considered or set forth the power of Ignorance? Knowledge slowly builds up what Ignorance in an hour pulls down. Knowledge, through patient and frugal centuries, enlarges discovery and makes record of it; Ignorance, wanting its day’s dinner, lights a fire with the record, and gives a flavour to its one roast with the burnt souls of many generations.” — George Eliot, Daniel Deronda (1876), ch. XXI
  • 2. In response to common MLA-related questions … Remember that the function of a citation in MLA-compliant papers is to point to a specific item on your Works Cited page and to locate the idea within that work.
  • 3. Two texts outside of your (likely) experience q Many of you will not have previously written about movies, and those writing on Alien may be struggling to figure out how to cite it. Alien. Dir. Ridley Scott. [Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon. Perf. Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright.] 1979. 20th Century Fox, 2004. Film. q If you are citing the contributions of a particular person, reformat your Works Cited entry to begin with that person’s name and to indicate their contribution to the film. Scott, Ridley, dir. Alien. 1979. 20th Century Fox, 2004. Film. q Alien doesn’t have page numbers, so all you can do is to cite the work as a whole. Don’t use play time, DVD chapter numbers, etc.
  • 4. q R.U.R., if you’re using the online version, isn’t paginated. Don’t refer to the page numbers that your computer created in your margins when you printed it, because they won’t (necessarily) be consistent with your reader’s computer’s pagination. q It’s a courtesy to your reader to indicate location as specifically as possible: by act number, for instance. q If you are using the Kindle edition, you may use location numbers. In this case, you should treat your in-text citations the same as you would citations when you’re citing a poem by line number: use “loc.” in first reference to the text, then omit it on subsequent references to the same text. (Čapek, loc. 1699; act 2) (Čapek 1726; act 2) (Čapek, act 2)
  • 5. A few more words on “estrangement” q One way to approach SF as a genre is as “the literature of cognitive estrangement.” q This concept draws on the Russian Formalist notion of “defamiliarization,” which we discussed yesterday, as well as on Bertolt Brecht’s theatrical “estrangement effect” (Verfremdungseffekt). q Brecht argues in his Short Organon for the Theatre (1948) that "[a] representation which estranges is one which allows us to recognize its subject, but at the same time makes it seem unfamiliar." q SF, in this sense, operates in two ways: by presenting radically different characters and/or by presenting a radically different context for the story.
  • 6. q By presenting various phenomena as estranged, then, SF encourages cognitive attentiveness to the everyday and avoids presupposing it as necessary or inevitable. q As a gross overgeneralization, then, SF encodes and valorizes liberatory dreams of the realization of desires, and is thus the opposite side of the coin from Jameson’s concept of History as “what hurts, […] what refuses desire and sets inexorable limits to individual as well as collective praxis.” Implications of estrangement
  • 7. q To put it another way: estranging the reader from his/her direct, everyday full immersion in the world around him-/herself brackets off the world that we (think we) know, presenting it as contingent, one of many possible worlds. q This skepticism towards the “real” world breaks with the mimetic tradition that the “real world” is what should be represented in literary fiction, and modifies the formula to say that the world is not what SF reflects, but rather what it reflects on. The break with mimesis
  • 8. q From this perspective, then, the “science” in “science fiction” is not the hard sciences and their technological products that were especially important in the early history of the genre. q Nor is the “science” in SF “the social sciences” and their insights that get incorporated into SF in the so-called “classic period.” q Instead, the “science” in SF is the adoption of several aspects of the scientific method as basic structural approaches in the genre: q Skepticism q Empiricism q Experimentation q Statistical projection and extrapolation
  • 9. “The natural sciences caught up and surpassed the literary imagination in the 19th century, the sciences dealing with human relationships might be argued to have caught up with it in their highest theoretical achievements but have certainly not done so in their alienated social practice. In the 20th century, SF has moved into the sphere of anthropological and cosmological thought, becoming a diagnosis, a warning, a call to understanding and action, and—most important— a mapping of possible alternatives. This historical movement of SF can be envisaged as an enrichment of and shift from a basic direct or extropolative [sic] model to an indirect or analogic model.” — Darko Suvin, “On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre” (1972)
  • 10. “Čapek is full of self-contradicting ideas co- existing at the same time, ideas that make us grin or laugh as we wish to clap our ears shut and flee. But in the old days his ideas were possibly more mystifying than frightening; we were more likely to read him as a charming curio. Now his world is far less outrageous or even improbable. We have evolved into his nightmare.” — Arthur Miller (1990)
  • 11. Modern production and labor Old Rossum's notes: “Nature has found only one way of organising living matter. There is however another way which is simpler, easier to mould, and quicker to produce than Nature ever stumbled across.” (loc. 180; introductory scene) HELENA. They do say that man was created by God. DOMIN. So much the worse for them. God had no idea about modern technology. (loc. 260)
  • 12. Domin: “And then Rossum’s nephew came out here. Now this man, Miss Glory, he was a genius. As soon as he saw what the old man was doing he said, ‘This is ridiculous, to spend ten years making a man; if you can’t do it quicker than Nature then you might as well give up on it’.” (loc. 216) Domin: “What the old man did might have been alright for a university but he had no idea at all about industrial production. […] After the age of research came the age of production.” (loc. 231; introductory scene)
  • 13. HELENA: The best sort of worker? I suppose one who is honest and dedicated. DOMIN: No. The best sort of worker is the cheapest worker. The one that has the least needs. What young Rossum invented was a worker with the least needs possible. He had to make him simpler. He threw out everything that wasn’t of direct use in his work, that’s to say, he threw out the man and put in the robot. (loc. 245; introductory scene)
  • 14. HELENA: I saw my first robot in our village. They’d bought him so that. … that’s to say they’d employed him to… DOMIN: Bought it, Miss Glory. Robots are bought and sold. (loc. 260; introductory scene) FABRY: […] One robot can take the place of two and a half workers. The human body is very imperfect; one day it had to be replaced with a machine that would work better. BUSMAN: People cost too much. FABRY: They were very unproductive. They weren’t good enough for modern technology. And besides […] to give birth to a machine is wonderful progress. It’s more convenient and it’s quicker, and everything that’s quicker means progress. Nature had no notion of the modern rate of work. (loc. 545)
  • 15. ALQUIST: […] Does Nana ever pray? HELENA: She never stops. ALQUIST: Does she have prayers for the different things that can happen in a life; prayers against hard times, prayers against illness? HELENA: Prayers against temptation, prayers against floods, … ALQUIST: No prayers against progress though, eh? HELENA: No, I don’t think so. ALQUIST: That’s a pity. (loc. 1103; act 1)
  • 16. Čapek’s robots Domin: “Our factory for making people”; “Making artificial people” (loc. 116; introductory scene) Domin: “He [young Rossum] took a good look at the human body and he saw straight away that it was much too complicated, any good engineer would design it much more simply. So he began to re-design the whole anatomy, seeing what he could leave out or simplify.” (loc. 231; introductory scene)
  • 17. Domin: “Sulla doesn’t have feelings. You can examine her.” (loc. 279) Domin: “Robots don’t cling to life. There’s no way they could do. They’ve got no sense of pleasure. They’re less than the grass.” (loc. 346; introductory scene) NANA: “You [Helena] hate them [the robots]. Everyone hates them, it isn’t possible not to. Even this dog hates them, won’t take a scrap of meat from them; sticks out his tail, he does, and howls as soon as he gets the smell of them.” (loc. 820; act 1)
  • 18. Čapek’s people Domin: “All our visitors want to see the factory” (loc. 116; introductory scene). HELENA: What makes you think that’s what I was going to ask? DOMIN: Everyone asks for the same thing. (loc. 138) HELENA: (to the others) You aren’t robots? BUSMAN: (laughing) God forbid! HALLEMEIER: The idea’s disgusting! (loc. 501)
  • 19. DOMIN: Excuse me, Miss Glory, but are you sure you’re talking to robots? HELENA: (taken aback) Who else would I be talking to? DOMIN: I’m afraid these gentlemen are people, just like you are. Just like the whole of Europe. (loc. 501) DOMIN: People are supposed to be a little bit mad, Helena. That’s the best thing about them. (loc. 736; introductory act)
  • 20. The transcendental signifier Nana: “It’s against the will of God, that’s what I say; work of the Devil, it is, making scarecrows like that with machines. It’s blasphemy against the Creator, (raises hands) it’s an offense against the Lord who made us in His own image, Helena.” (loc. 839; act 1) NANA: (syllable by syllable) “War in the Bal-kans.” Oh Jesus, it’s God, He’s punishing us again! (loc. 1012; act 1) Domin: “Miss Glory, robots are not people. They are mechanically much better than we are, they have an amazing ability to understand things, but they don’t have a soul.” (loc. 258; introductory scene)
  • 21. “Happiness for everybody … Free! … As much as you want!”* Domin: But in ten years’ time Rossum’s Universal Robots will be making so much wheat, so much material, so much of everything that nothing will cost anything. Everyone will be able to just take as much as he needs. Nobody will live in poverty. They won’t have jobs, that’s true, but that’s because there won’t be any jobs to do. Everything will be done by living machines. People will do only the things they want to do, they can live their lives just so that they can make themselves perfect. (loc. 636; introductory scene) *Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic, qtd. in Jameson 75
  • 22. Remember some of the characteristics of dystopian fiction … q Characterized by a society suffused with mass poverty, oppression, or other suffering. q Often extrapolative, based on contemporary social trends. q Often provides explicit explanations for “how things came to be this way” within the fictional world. q Often positions itself explicitly as warning about how contemporary trends may turn out. q Often intends to provide a critique of (Utopian- intended) totalizing solutions to social problems.