Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Classics and Sci-Fi Panel at next year's APA

Huh. Here's a Call For Papers for next year's APA conference. I can't decide if I have anything to submit.

Ad astra per antiqua: Classical Traditions in Science Fiction

A rich and relatively under-explored area in modern receptions of classical traditions is science fiction. Although points of comparison may be offered by the study of classics in other areas of ‘popular culture’ (e.g., film and comics), science fictional receptions of classical traditions have historical and artistic significance all their own. A complex relationship is evident already at science fiction's arguable point of origin, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), whose subtitle "The Modern Prometheus" alludes to classical meditations on the use of technology to create and control nature and human life. The relationship was developed further by such 'classic' authors as Jules Verne (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864), H.G. Wells (The Time Machine, 1895), and Frank Herbert (Dune, 1965). More recently, classical material has been a part of science fiction in genres as diverse as space opera (e.g., Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek franchise, 1966-present) and steampunk (e.g., William Gibson's and Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine, 1990), as well as direct but complicated re-tellings of classical tales (e.g., Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos series, 1989-1997, and Ilium, 2003).

Science fictional receptions of classical traditions raise questions not only about science but also about, for example, religion, philosophy, social thought, political theory, and literature. Such questions necessarily must address the complex interaction between (1) science fiction's continuous but mysterious reference to scientific method and to the historical results of that method's applications, and (2) the classical tradition's status – in a mixture of historical fact and fictive imagination – as pre- or non- or differently-scientific. How, then, does science fiction imagine ancient thinking as contributing to or challenging modern discourses with special regard to those discourses' scientific aspects or interests? How does it constitute the classics in light of master narratives of modern scientific knowledge and practice? By raising these and other questions, the comparative study of classics and science fiction helps to ask how ancient Greco-Roman classics continue to speak – or are received as speaking – to a modern world separated from antiquity by profound processes like the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution.


Anonymous said...


Please contribute something. (You'll need a break from your disertation by then :p ). Also if you attend a blow by low of the discussion would be wonderful.




Katie, saw a great panel at the APA this year on Homer's afterlife and there was a great paper by C. W. Marshall on Comics: "Odysseus and the Infinite Horizon." On the same panel, also Thomas Jenkins paper on N. C. Wyeth's 1930s illustrations of the Odyssey. References were made to his paper, "Heavy Metal Homer: Countercultural Appropriations of The Odyssey in the Graphic Novel" in Classics and Comics, ed. C.W. Marshall and George Kovacs. Forthcoming, 2010. So, both of these guys would be definitely worth inviting in your panel. See both of their APA abstracts online.

Katie Rask said...

@ Kostis:

They sound great, I can't wait to read the articles. But it's actually not my panel :)It's organized by Benjamin Stevens and Brett Rogers. I will definitely be in the audience, though!

Pierre A said...

I am coming to this topic rather late, but I want to add to the more recent references, L. Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall. I found this story fascinating, and asked my father about the background to it (by a strange, though not unpleasant, bureaucratic accident, he later became my official "Graduate advisor") and he simply handed me his Everyman edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall. I really never looked back after that. This happened in my 11th year of high school in Berkeley, California, and the fact that I was reading Gibbon at the time of a critical interview got me a significant college Scholarship in the next year.