FOUN 98: Evolutionary Fictions

Fall 2012

FOUN 98, Section 05 meets MW 3:00 - 4:22 pm in Coleman Hall 056

FOUN 98, Section 18 meets TR 1:00 - 2:22 pm in Smith Hall 112

John Rickard
Office: Vaughan Lit 231

Office Hours:

Tuesday, 2:45 - 4:00 pm
Wednesday, 4:30 - 5:00 pm
Thursday, 2:45 - 4:00 pm
And by appointment



These books should be available in the Bucknell Bookstore and through Please make sure you purchase the EXACT editions listed below, as we will want to refer frequently to specific pages and passages in class. If you have any problems obtaining any of these texts, please let me know right away. Many readings are available electronically in PDF format in our Moodle area.

Last Day to Drop/Add: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Last Day for Four-Week Withdrawal From a Course with Dean's Permission: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Family Weekend: Friday, September 21 - Saturday, September 22, 2012
Fall Break Begins: 5:00 pm, Friday, October 5, 2012
Fall Break Ends: 8:00 am, Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Advising for Spring 2013 Semester Begins: Monday, October 22, 2012
Preregistration for Spring 2013 Semester Begins: Monday, October 29, 2012
Last Day for Ten-Week Withdrawal with Dean's Permission: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Classes End: Tuesday, December 4, 2012


This course satisfies the foundation seminar and W1 (writing intensive) course requirements of the College Core Curriculum (CCC). As a foundation seminar, the course will develop writing, reading, speaking, listening, and information literacy skills necessary for collegiate-level academic work. Students will also develop capacities for independent academic work and become self-regulated learners. As a W1 course, this class will: (1) include recurring instruction in writing; (2) teach the writing process: planning, composing, revising, editing; (3) teach and emphasize the importance of the following expository skills:

* addressing intended audiences
* achieving purposes
* organizing the whole paper, paragraphs, and sentences
* choosing appropriate words
* punctuating and spelling correctly;
(4) require frequent writing from each student; and (5) teach the use of writing as thinking and as a means of creating and processing knowledge.


This syllabus refers to readings and assignments for both sections;

each week's work is indicated according to "Day 1" and "Day 2"


COURSE OBJECTIVES: Although Darwin's Origin of Species was published almost 150 years ago, the theory of biological evolution seems as "hot" a topic in contemporary American culture as it was in Victorian England following the appearance of Darwin's famous book. School boards in Pennsylvania and Kansas have recently attempted to mitigate the impact of darwinism on school curricula and textbooks, and many people seem to find evolution as construed by the biological sciences inimical to their religious beliefs and worldviews. On the other hand, many writers, philosophers, psychologists, and scientists have responded to their own understandings of darwinism with great excitement and hope, believing that the concept of evolution has opened up new vistas for humankind, new possibilities for developing and re-imagining ourselves. Clearly, evolution is a "symptom" of a cultural divide, a source of anxiety and aspiration.

This course will explore some of the ways that writers from Mary Shelley onwards have responded to the new powers, possibilities, and anxieties that modern science and technology have brought about. Looking at philosophical, scientific, literary, and internet writings as well as film, we will probe in particular the ways in which scientific developments such as evolutionary theory have changed the ways we view and understand our own bodies and "human nature" more generally. We will explore the growing sense that technological protheses are stimulating "(r)evolutionary" changes in the bodies and minds of human beings, the notion that we are in fact becoming a new and different species, perhaps even something partly mechanical. Just as Freud did, we will ask what the ramifications of such changes might be, grappling with relevant texts in an attempt to better understand what being "modern" has come to mean in terms of the destabilization and/or fragmentation of origins, traditions or "metanarratives," and even our own bodies and personal identities. We will end with very recent books and films in the so-called "cyberpunk" genre.

Thoughout the semester, we will work to develop reading, writing, and critical thinking skills through in-depth analysis of written texts and films and practice in the writing process. We will work together on a series of essays aimed at developing various types of writing skills.

An important part of my job is making sure that you know how to use sources carefully and correctly in academic writing and that you understand the University's policies concerning plagiarism, which I define as the unacknowledged use, either intentional or unintentional, of material first expressed by another person. We will discuss plagiarism and proper methods of documentation during the semester, but if, at any time, you have questions about plagiarism problems in this or any other class, please come and ask me about them.

CLASS FORMAT: Although at times I may lecture in order to present background material, most of our class time will consist of discussion among the members of the seminar. Class participation in discussion and other activities is essential, is taken for granted, and will be an important part of your grade. Failure to participate will lower your grade, as will excessive absences or chronic tardiness. After three absences your participation grade will begin to drop.

More than four unexcused absences will guarantee an "F" for the class. If you do not feel that you are willing or able to keep up with the reading, attend class daily, and participate in discussion, you should consider withdrawing from the course before the end of the drop/add period. In case of an absence, it is your responsibility to obtain copies of any class handouts, to find out what we covered in class, and to learn whether any extra work was assigned.

ASSIGNMENTS: We will practice a variety of forms of written and oral presentation in this class, some involving formal analysis and some inviting more direct reaction. The first two essays will be shorter, formal "analysis" papers that explicate the ways in which a piece of literature "works." Your final project for the course will involve a researched investigation of a theme, writer, text, and/or film that you found particularly interesting. Part of your grade for each of these assignments will be based on your preparation of drafts and participation in rough draft workshops in class. You will also present two "reaction papers" orally in class, handing the written paper in to me after each presentation. We will often begin class with in-class writings about the overnight reading that will help us focus on our readings and prepare for class discussions. Please expect occasional reading quizzes and/or in-class writing on the assigned material.

I prefer to receive papers electronically via e-mail. Papers should be prepared in Microsoft Word format. If this presents any problems for you, please let me know early in the semester.

FILMS: Since film is such an important part of the history of science fiction and since so many of the books we read have been "interpreted" by films based upon them, the syllabus lists a number of films related to the concerns of the course. When a film is listed as "required," you must watch it during the week it is listed and be prepared to discuss it on the day listed on the syllabus. The films listed above in the syllabus will be held for you at the Reserve Desk in the Library; I encourage you to watch them in groups. If you prefer, and if we can arrange it, I can also try to set up group viewings of the films outside class times.

Online Dictionaries and Style and Grammar Guides:

Jack Lynch's Guide to Grammar and Style

Jack Lynch's Resources for Writers and Writing Instructors

Patient Griselda's Grammar Guide, from Meredith College

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Grammar Handbook

The Ultimate Writer's Guide -- Thanks to Beth Santos for suggesting this page

Common Errors in English, by Paul Brians

The Elements of Style (1918) -- William Strunk's classic guide to writing style

Paper 1 Analysis Paper
Paper 2 Analysis Paper
Paper 3
Researched Analysis Paper
Reaction Paper As assigned (see online schedule)
Class participation, extra writing, quizzes   15%

LATE PAPERS: I will at times allow students an extra day to work on finishing a late paper, but only if you have an acceptable reason for turning the essay in late and only if you ask me for an extension before the paper is due. Students who get their essays in on time justifiably consider it unfair for a professor to allow other students extra time to finish assignments; therefore, unexcused late papers will go down one letter grade for every day they are late. I will not allow extensions on the oral presentation or on the final paper.

FINALLY . . . As noted above, my office is Vaughan Lit 231. I am available during my normally-scheduled office hours to meet with you. If you need to speak with me outside of my scheduled office hours, you can e-mail me ( or call me at 577-1424. If you have an important message or really need to speak with me urgently, please call me at home at 523-7784 (please always try my office number first).