Fiction: The Speculative Mode

Summer 2017 quarter (First Session)

Taught by

queer studies, philosophy, poetics
  • UG

This program will be a space for thinking together about the phenomenon of speculative fiction—what we could call the speculative mode in literature. We could ambitiously say that the speculative mode is more general than any genre or form, appearing whenever writing simultaneously 1) builds a world, 2) shows us how it builds that world, 3) suggests other possible worlds and  4) places the very idea of 'world' in question. As the speculative mode has gained in importance and focus, science fiction novels, fantastic tales, and lyric poetry (to cite a few examples) all seem increasingly influenced by it. In this program we'll primarily study speculative literature, including short stories, novels, and poetry, and cast our net wide enough to include Chinese, Polish, Russian, Argentine, and U.S. works from the early twentieth century to today. Philosophy and theory have become informed by speculation and thereby stranger as well: we'll also work through a few key theoretical essays to challenge our assumptions about what the speculative mode can do. We'll enjoy the literature of Samuel R. Delany, Stanislaw Lem, Jorge Luis Borges, H.P. Lovecraft, Ursula Le Guin and César Aira; alongside these will be a few theoretical readings, including essays by Octavia Butler, Quentin Meillassoux, and Donna Haraway, to focus the conceptual elements of speculation. Through all of these texts, we’ll pay special attention to the following questions: to what urgent political, social, cultural, ethical, or aesthetic needs do these speculative worlds respond? How does the writing of various sorts of prose genres and poetic forms intersect with the speculative mode? What is the relation between genre and gender, and what is queer speculation? What could a speculative translation be? Classroom time will be divided between succinct lectures and seminar discussion, with plenty of opportunity for in-class writing. Students can additionally expect to write regular reading responses and two essays, with additional possibilities for creative writing.

Students taking 8 credits will also participate in Saturday writing workshops in addition to the Tuesday and Thursday meetings.

Program Details

Fields of Study

literature queer studies


Summer Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

Tu/Th 3:30-7:30p; Sat 10a-6p (8 credit students only)

Online Learning

No Required Online Learning