Department of English Department of English College of Arts and Sciences
Course Descriptions

This class will survey a classic theme of early science fiction in a wide variety of texts from the seventeenth through the late nineteenth centuries. We will begin with the origins of modern science fiction in Kepler’s seventeenth-century moon voyage fantasy, and then turn to the first English fiction (perhaps also the first in European literature) to consider an actual apparatus for reaching the moon as well as the new species encountered there, Godwin’s The Man in the Moon. Much of the literature after Godwin returns to his speculations in either a serious or comic way, the exception being Swift, who sets the stage for a new kind of literary spoof by parodying the contemporary Royal Society, the first experimental society in England. We will also examine French and American responses to these traditions before ending with the most famous of all scientific “prophets,” the French novelist Jules Verne, and some of the films he directly or indirectly inspired. Throughout the course we will also survey biblical and other objections to the concept of plural worlds or universes and summarize (through student oral reports) the major secondary literature on the subject.


[Note: Many of these texts are only essay-length]

  • Johannes Kepler, Somnium (Dream); on library reserve, QB41.K4213, also QB41.K422.L4 and World Cat #1347047, OR, find used
  • Francis Godwin, The Man in the Moon ISBN 9781551118963 (Broadview)
  • John Wilkins, Mathematical Magic (short selections on line)

  • Francis Bacon, New Atlantis in New Atlantis and Great Instauration, ISBN 0882951262
  • Cyrano de Bergerac, trans. Archibald Lovell, Comical History of the States and Empire of the Moon (2001; ISBN forthcoming)
  • DeFontanelle, Bernard Le Bovier, Discovery of New Worlds from the French, trans. Aphra Behn. ISBN 1117720101
  • Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, part III (Laputa) [any edition]

  • Baron Munchausen, Gulliver Revived [available used from Amazon]

  • David Russen, Iter lunare, or voyage to the moon ISBN 1170562434
  • Voltaire, "Micromégas" and "Plato's Dream," in Micromegas and Other Short Fictions, ISBN 0140446869 (Penguin)
  • George Tucker, A Voyage to the Moon ISBN 1162650920 (Kessinger)

  • Jules Verne, The Moon-voyage; containing From the earth to the moon and Round the Moon ISBN 1426465777

  • George Méliès, Le Voyage dans la Lune,  1902 film

  • 1958 Film (English), From the Earth to the Moon
  • 2001 Space Odyssey

ASSIGNMENTS AND WRITTEN WORK: Two formal essays will be required for this course, each exploring a different aspect of moon voyage theme: how speculations on other worlds illuminate or satirize our world, appeal to more deeply rooted sources of human fantasy, or simply cater to escapist desires for fantastic adventures. The final exam will cover the same themes in film form.

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Last Updated: 3/6/12