Carl Freedman traces the fundamental and mostly unexamined relationships between the discourses of science fiction and critical theory, arguing that science fiction is (or ought to be) a privileged genre for critical theory. He asserts that it is no accident that the upsurge of academic interest in science fiction since the 1970s coincides with the heyday of literary theorCarl Freedman traces the fundamental and mostly unexamined relationships between the discourses of science fiction and critical theory, arguing that science fiction is (or ought to be) a privileged genre for critical theory. He asserts that it is no accident that the upsurge of academic interest in science fiction since the 1970s coincides with the heyday of literary theory, and that likewise science fiction is one of the most theoretically informed areas of the literary profession. Extended readings of novels by five of the most important modern science fiction authors illustrate the affinity between science fiction and critical theory, in each case concentrating on one major novel that resonates with concerns proper to critical theory.Freedman's five readings are: Solaris: Stanislaw Lem and the Structure of Cognition; The Dispossessed: Ursula LeGuin and the Ambiguities of Utopia; The Two of Them: Joanna Russ and the Violence of Gender; Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand: Samuel Delany and the Dialectics of Difference; The Man in the High Castle: Philip K. Dick and the Construction of Realities....
|Title||:||Critical Theory and Science Fiction|
|Number of Pages||:||228 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Critical Theory and Science Fiction Reviews
4.5 stars. I'd like to say Review to Come, but let's be real, I still haven't reviewed books I read months ago. I'm never going to catch up now.
Freedman argues that not only do science fiction and critical theory have a major overlap, but that science fiction can be considered a genre that is predisposed to critical theory, and vice versa. Granted, part of that connection comes from the definitions he's using for both. He defines science fiction in Dark Suvin's sense, as a genre of cognitive estrangement--that which encourages you to think of an alternative fictional world (estrangement) but one which can be considered as rationally occurring similarly or in the future of our own (cognitive). though he softens the definition to include any work that has cognitive estrangement as the general focus (Suvin was a little more hardline). Critical theory, on the other hand, Freedman defines as "dialectical thought"--basically, theory that focuses on criticizing prevailing concepts, up to and including its own methods; he offers Marxism, psychoanalysis, and postmodernism as major examples. And if those are the terms you're working with, then his thesis seems to be a pretty natural fit.The first chapter of the book sets up these definitions, and the second considers their implications--what the two share in common in terms of historical mutability, material reducibility, utopian possibility; how these factors play out in Philip K. Dick's prose; the narrative structure of science fiction in terms of the historical novel and critical theory; science fiction's connections to utopia; the affinity of the two forms and how it's overshadowed by eddies in critical thought. Chapter three looks at the sci-fi/crit issue in terms of specific issues, authors, and novels: Ursula K. Leguin's The Dispossed and positive utopia; Johanna Russ's The Two of Them and feminism; Samuel Delany's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand in terms of Adorno and difference, and Philip K Dick's The Man in the High Castle in terms of the dialectic of enlightenment and science fiction at large. The final coda looks at what critical theory and science fiction mean in light of postmodernism.While I do agree with Freedman's premise that a major vein of science fiction does what he defines critical theory to do, I also suspect that it's a trait you could find in a subset of almost any literary genre--heck, I could even point to a children's series or two that could pull it off (and I'd love to see the book written with that premise; you could even argue that with children's literature's license to explore the absurd, they engage in critical theory MORE than other genres). That said, I did enjoy the book, for the most part. It's very heavily rooted in literary theory; since I've shifted a bit more into media theory since my early graduate days, perhaps I felt that root a little more than I would have--the postmodernism musings at the end felt particularly unengaging to me. It felt like it was setting up postmodernism for ages, then sort of fell off. In comparison, I think the second chapter was the one I found most intellectually interesting, though the third chapter was the one I enjoyed the most--less for the studies themselves than because I allowed myself a break to go and read the novels he was using. If nothing else, I'll always think fondly of this book because it pushed me to read The Dispossed and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. (I'd already read Man in the High Castle, and I couldn't find a copy of The Two of Them.) I think its chief idea is fairly straightforward once the definition is set up, but I don't regret the time I spent with it--or the time I spent tangentially near it.
here, the author asserts that of all the genres, science fiction has a special ability to explore and develop the concepts of critical theory.while i agree, i hated this book. lol. i couldn't even finish the second chapter!his writing style is obtuse and too academic. i suspect that he simply published his dissertation. nothing wrong with that, but i was not the right audience to appreciate this work.