ENGL306-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023

Science, Technology and Literature

30 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 July 2023
End Date: Sunday, 12 November 2023
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 30 July 2023
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 1 October 2023


This course will particularly concentrate on the last two centuries of intersections between science, technology and literature, assaying major trends and preoccupations present in a range of texts and theories. Within a general examination of literature's engagements, the development of science fiction forms and concerns will be considered, especially because of the way that the genre often speculates the fears and desires of its time onto both futuristic settings and "alternate realities". Students will be expected to read a range of key material, including a small selection of novels, some short fiction, theoretical writings and visual texts.

Just over fifty years ago, C.P. Snow famously challenged the apparent separation of the Sciences and the Humanities in his book, The Two Cultures.  For Snow, such a separation was unhealthy, and this course similarly seeks to consider the fertile field of cross-influences between science, technology and literature that challenge such a separation.  

In the course, students will be expected to read a range of key material, including a small selection of novels, some short fiction, theoretical writings and visual texts that should represent differences and similarities in representation and subject choice that writers negotiate.

Amongst the many key areas examined, we will look at the science and technology of modernity represented in literature, including their role in imperialism, colonialism and industrialisation; the varying attitudes of celebration or concern for technological change; the rise of science fiction as a genre especially focussed on science and technology; the role of militarism, utopianism and dissent on literary treatments of technology; the rise of socially-focussed science fiction, and new definitions of social relations, gender, class conflict, ethnic pluralism and multilateralism, and environmentalism; and the advent of “new wave” foci, concerns with ‘virtual’ realities, cyborg and biological technology.

Throughout the course, a selection of filmic examples will also be used to illustrate and interrogate cultural interactions with science, including ‘50s pulp science fiction movies, British New Wave and Soviet film, and more recent posthuman subjects within films.

This course can be used towards an English major or minor. BA students who major in English would normally take at least two 100-level 15 point ENGL courses (which must include at least one of the following: ENGL117, ENGL102 or ENGL103), at least three 200-level 15 point ENGL courses, and at least two 300-level 30 point ENGL courses. Please see the BA regulations  or a student advisor for more information.

Learning Outcomes

  • In this course you will learn:
  • to advance your skills in textual and contextual reading and writing, and the application of critical reasoning to literary engagements with science and technology;
  • to critically engage with a selection of different literary genres from different historical periods, and demonstrate understanding of choices in the style and preoccupations of writers;
  • to closely examine the impact of the particular historical and cultural context on the form and function of various modes of cultural production (how the cross influence of science, technology and literature might work in different contexts);
  • to investigate the role of scientific rationale and technology, and their assumed benefits and dangers to society as represented in literature;
  • to explore the relationships between taste and cultural politics involved with the production and consumption of literary engagements with science and technology;
  • to develop students’ ability to engage with digital technology, and to construct an appropriate online artefact;
  • to produce highly coherent, fluent and well-researched writing, and demonstrate significant critical engagement.
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.

      Employable, innovative and enterprising

      Students will develop key skills and attributes sought by employers that can be used in a range of applications.

      Globally aware

      Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.


Any 30 points at 200 level from ENGL, or
any 60 points at 200 level from the Schedule V of the BA.


Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Daniel Bedggood


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Essay one 30% 3000 words
Essay two 30% 3000 words
Take home test 30%
Two short reflective writing tasks 10%

Textbooks / Resources

Required Reading:  
• Naomi Mitchison, Memoirs of a Space Woman;
• Becky Chambers, To Be Taught If Fortunate;
• Vernor Vinge, True Names;
• Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future;
• HG Wells, The Time Machine;
• Ursula Le Guin, Left Hand of Darkness;
• Annalee Newitz, Autonomous.

Prepared course readings of selected short literature and theoretical material available via Learn.  Note: level 300 students have extra reading provided.

(Image: "English: Cover of Science Fiction Quarterly, November 1952", licensed under public domain.)

Course links

Library portal

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,641.00

International fee $7,500.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

Minimum enrolments

This course will not be offered if fewer than 10 people apply to enrol.

For further information see Humanities .

All ENGL306 Occurrences

  • ENGL306-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023