Metabolic Science Fiction

Course Number: ENGL 265SF
Prerequisites: Graduate Standing
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 265AA-ZZ
Quarter: Spring 2020
Instructor: Jue, Melody
Day(s): TBD
Time: TBD
Location: TBD
Description:

This course will explore how contemporary science fiction presents an occasion to examine
theories of metabolism. From the Greek word μεταβολή (to change; as in, a change of symptoms,
or a change in the pitch of a musical note), metabolism scientifically describes, “The chemical
processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life” (OED). While we will
begin by considering the medical and biological valences of the terms, this course will trace a
longer intellectual genealogy that connects metabolic thinking to Marxist critiques of capitalism,
the planetary energy budget, symbiogenesis, industrial agriculture, racialized practices of labor,
aerosolization and smells, and theories of the posthuman. What kind of alternative does
metabolism provide to concepts like the posthuman or even to ecology itself? What might it
enable us to see differently? Is metabolism useful for thinking across varied scales of analysis?
This courses privileges science fiction as a site for considering metabolism because of its
obsessions with bodily change, eating relations, terraforming, and environmental crisis. We will
conclude the class with a discussion of utopian world metabolisms that imagine a path away
from petroleum dependency, including the Green New Deal. Science fiction authors will include
Greg Bear, Octavia Butler, NK Jemisin, Chen Qiu-fan, Becky Chambers.