English 310: Science Fiction and the Futures of Medicine

What can science fiction tell us about the social, ethical, and political dimensions of medicine? In this course, we’ll look at how a few medical categories have changed over recent history, and then we’ll explore how science-fictional “extrapolations” of present technologies help us to think about health and medicine in new ways. We’ll consider how fiction writers, filmmakers, historians, and scientists have imagined the consequences of possible developments such as increased longevity, pandemics, genetic modification, hormone treatments, and more. This course introduces students to concepts in literary studies and science and technology studies that will help us think seriously about how and where medicine and culture intersect in important ways. Likely fiction authors include Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Ramez Naam, and we’ll also discuss one or two films.