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Critical Theory and Science Fiction

Carl Freedman

Publication Year: 2013

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 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.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quotes

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

I have been working on this essay, in one way or another, for a long time. Indeed, in composing and revising the text I have often been struck by how much preparation was accomplished on occasions when I had no conscious notion that any such project was under way. Inevitably, then, I have incurred many debts, to institutions, and to individuals. ...

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pp. xv-xx

Like any other writer, I am often asked about my current project. During the time that I thought of the following essay as my current project, I sometimes responded simply by giving the title. On other occasions, however, when a little more detail seemed to be called for, I usually employed one of two prepared responses. ...

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1. Definitions

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pp. 1-23

If theory is taken to mean an intellectual framework, a problematic that, by the form of its questions even more than by the content of its answers, defines a certain conceptual terrain, then all thought is theoretical. This proposition is, indeed, virtually tautological, since a theory or intellectual problematic is not that which merely shapes or contains thought ...

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2. Articulations

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pp. 24-93

The question of the canon is one of the liveliest and most hotly debated in literary studies today, and the—at best—marginal position that science fiction occupies with regard to the most widely influential canons of literary value makes explicit consideration of canon-formation urgent. ...

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3. Excursuses

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pp. 94-180

In this chapter, I offer substantial analyses of five major science-fiction novels. My aim is to demonstrate, in more detail than has previously been feasible, some of the different ways that science-fiction texts resonate strongly with concerns proper to critical theory. I do not attempt exhaustive readings, partly for reasons of economy, ...

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Coda: Critical Theory, Science Fiction, and the Postmodern

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pp. 181-200

As we have seen, it is in the nature of both critical theory and science fiction to speculate about the future. It seems appropriate, then, to conclude this book with some speculations about the future of critical theory and science fiction themselves. ...


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pp. 201-206

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About the Author

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p. 233-233

Carl Freedman is Associate Professor of English at Louisiana State University and the author of more than thirty articles and of George Orwell: A Study in Ideology and Literary Form (1988). In 1999 he received the Pioneer Award for Excellence in Scholarship from the Science Fiction Research Association.

E-ISBN-13: 9780819574541
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819563989

Page Count: 228
Publication Year: 2013