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ENGLISH 4SF3 Scifi:Tomorrow Or Day After

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Anne Savage


Office: Chester New Hall 326

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23729

Office Hours: Mondays 1:30-2:30 or by appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description:

This term our topic will be animals and technology, our main theory texts Donna Haraway's When Species Meet, and Cary Wolfe’s Before the Law, available online through Mills. While humans have always looked at animals in utilitarian terms, from edible animal to guide dog, from leather to lab animal, 'usefulness' has been considered within religion, philosophy, allegory, child care, moral lesson, language itself,  and much more. For the first time in history more than half the human population of our planet lives in cities, so that many people have no experience of animals except as food or clothing, unless they watch nature programs, all carefully edited by other human beings to some human purpose or other. Abattoirs, fur farms, vivisection, battery farms and other sites of violence are hidden from view and knowledge in a kind of visual euphemism of a well-run society and economy. A multitude of definitions of the animal are mediated by technology in the 'nature' show, the 'wildlife' photo or calendar, the crittercam, the lab. Animals are the basis for in a vast economy of pet food, accessories, medical care and even cosmetic surgery, as well as meat and skin. Who are they, really?


And who are we? All life on earth has been subjected to and is subject to human technology and its products; we refer to ‘artificial intelligence’ without defining it, thus losing what has until recently been considered not simply a function of ‘higher’ organic life, but also uniquely of human life. On the one hand ‘human’ has been, both scientifically and philosophically placed on a continuum with ‘animal’, and also with ‘machine’.

How do the human/animal and artificial ‘life’ interact, on what bases, and what results?

Course Objectives:

We will establish a range of theoretical inquiry through the first readings (Cary Wolfe and Donna Haraway), then discuss the primary sources. Class discussion will be determined by your interests, and each of you will be responsible for conducting your own part of one of our seminars in a set of presentations in the last four weeks of class. By that time, we will have declared some specific interests in the material with regard to the issues and topics in the course description, so that you’ll have a good range of possibilities to discuss what interests you.

By the end of the course you will have done a lot of writing and talking about what is largely left unspoken and unnoticed concerning the ways in which technology mediates animal-human relationships in our otherwise familiar culture. You will be able to propose and deliver a conference paper, compose a respectable discussion panel, and speak knowledgeably on the topic.  If you want to apply to do graduate work, you may be able to use this material for your research.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:



H.G Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau (Dover, 1996).

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, We 3 (Vertigo, 2013).



Method of Assessment:

Assignments and Evaluations: (Due Dates)

Participation:                                                 2o% 

First paper:                 January 26                 15%

Second paper:            March 9                      15%

Student seminars:       March 16-30               20%

Final paper:                 April 6                         30%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Assignment Policy:

Let me know if you are unable to meet the due date before it passes, and we can discuss an extension.


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


“Desertion,” Clifford Simak, The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories, ed. Tom Shippey (2003, Oxford University Press).

“Swarm,” Bruce Sterling, ibid.

“Bulk Food,” by Peter Watts, from Twelve Monkeys (Tesseract: Edmonton, 2000).

The Author of the Acacia Seeds And Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics. MS. Found in an Anthill,” by Ursula LeGuin, from The Compass Rose (Bantam: Toronto 1983).

“Rachel in Love,” A Woman’s Liberation: A Choice of Futures by and About Women, ed. Connie Willis & C. Williams (2001, Warner Books).


Excerpt from Planet Earth (Chimpanzee males go to war)

BBC documentary on Driver Ants (YouTube, to be posted on Avenue)


H.G Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau (Dover, 1996).

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, We 3 (Vertigo, 2013).

REQUIRED READING LINKS: Please consider the footnotes of our critical works and bring whole printed copies to class with your annotations and questions.

Before the Law, Cary Wolfe, (University of Chicago Press, 2013), Chapter one, and notes to pages 107-110. Available AS E-book in Mills online.

“What is it like to be a bat?” Thomas Nagel, From The Philosophical Review LXXXIII, 4 (October 1974), pages 435-50.

When Species Meet, Donna Haraway, (University of Minnesota Press, 2007) “Introduction,” pages 3-42. Available AS E-book in Mills online.

“Blood Child” and “Afterword, ”Octavia Butler (1995).


Excerpt from Planet Earth (Chimpanzee males go to war, to be shown in class)

BBC documentary on Driver Ants (YouTube, to be posted on Avenue)

Other Course Information:



Where has our thinking been, and where is it going, on questions of human and animal?

11 Introducing the course, materials, assignments.

18 Cary Wolfe, Before the Law: what is biopolitical thought? How did we get to it, and what does it imply?

25 Donna Haraway, Introduction, When Species Meet, online through Mills.


2 “Swarm” Supplementary documentary on the superorganism:

16 “Rachel in Love”:  bodies, discomfort, embarrassment. Planet Earth clip showing chimpanzees at war. Theory texts: “What is it like to be a bat?” Thomas Nagel, and Cary Wolfe’s chapter.

23 “Blood Music”: the single-celled Other. Does Donna Haraway’s introduction to When Species Meet offer a point of reference?

30 “Bulk Food”: using concepts of ‘nature’ to justify human behaviour.


6 The Island of Doctor Moreau and WE3: What is it like to be human when you know…? SECOND RESPONSE PAPER DUE: “Blood Music” or “Bulk Food” focussed through concepts from Haraway’s introduction to When Species Meet.

13 Seminar presentations

20 continued

27 continued


4 Overview and course evaluations

 For further thinking: Alex the parrot in conversation

(with particular applications to Before the Law, language, 7-8).

Since September 1982, the grading scale has been:


Equivalent Grade Point

Equivalent Percentages







































0-49 -- Failure