Class Consciousness

Stephen W. Potts

Syllabus for LTWL 4M: UCSD Summer Session 2

Screenshot of Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis ...

Screenshot of Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis from the trailer for the film Forbidden Planet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


LTWL 4M: Great Science Fiction Films

(and the science fiction that inspired them)

Instructor: Stephen Potts                           Office: Warren Lit 147

Office phone: 858-822-4674                        Hours: TTh 4-5 pm & by appointment

email:                           Website:

Objective: To explore new worlds and new civilizations. To boldly go where no class has gone before. We will begin with a historical overview of science fiction film and its relationship to the literary genre. In addition, you will be introduced to the language of filmmaking and cinematic critique, terminology we will employ in the analysis of the movies as movies. Ultimately, the intent is to highlight film as a technological art and science fiction film as a medium for scientific extrapolation, philosophical speculation, and social commentary. The movies selected for this course also stand out in film history—either for their special effects and message, their influence on later genre films, or their inherent artistic values.

Requirements: One third of your final grade will be based on a research paper (2000-2500 words) on a relevant topic to be negotiated between you and me, the instructor. In most cases, this will be a critical analysis of a specific movie requiring research and a short bibliography of Works Cited. Another third will come from a concise take-home final offering a choice of essay questions. Class participation makes up the other third of your grade; you should be in class for the background lectures and the group discussions of movies and assigned readings, which should be completed on the schedule below. The course reader is available through A. S. Soft Reserves. So come to class, watch the movies, complete the readings, and contribute.


Week 1:

8/6     Course Introduction, of course. Lecture: Science fiction in literature and film. How to “read” a movie.

8/8    Introduction: Monsters from the Id—The Fifties and the Cold War. Movie: Forbidden Planet (1956, dir. Fred McLeod Wilcox).

Week 2:

8/13    Discussion of Forbidden Planet. Reading: J. P. Telotte, “Science Fiction’s Double Focus.” Lecture: The New Frontier—The Sixties and the Space Age.

8/15   Introduction: A Tour of Stanley Kubrick, Auteur. Movie: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Week 3:

8/20   Discussion of 2001.  Readings: Arthur C. Clarke, “The Sentinel.” Thomas Allen Nelson, “The Ultimate Cinematic Universe.” Lecture: SF Onscreen After 2001—The Future Is Not What It Used to Be.

8/22   Introduction: The Empire Strikes Back—New Hope and Future Noir. Movie: Blade Runner (1982, dir. Ridley Scott)

Week 4:

8/27   Discussion of Blade Runner. Readings: Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Chapter Nine). Leonard G. Heldreth, “The Cutting Edges of Blade Runner.” Lecture: SF Conquers the World (or at least Hollywood)

8/29    Introduction: The Millenium, the Matrix, and the Return of the Jetéé. Movie: Twelve Monkeys (1996, dir. Terry Gilliam).

Week 5:

9/3      Discussion of Twelve Monkeys. Reading: Peter Marks, “Pasts, presents and futures in America.” Movie: Children of Men (2006, dir. Alfonso Cuarón)

9/5     PAPERS DUE. TAKE-HOME FINAL HANDED OUT. Discussion of Children of Men. Reading: Michael Joshua Rowin, Review of Children of Men. Conclusions: SF Onscreen After 2001

9/7    FINAL DUE


About runawayserfer

I am a writer and editor living on the Left Coast & writing my first novel: a 1980s-era political thriller titled El Imperio.

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