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Thesis Prospectus

Thesis Prospectus

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Published by: bailey12 on Oct 11, 2007
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09/15/2010

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Bailey Seybolt9/25/2007
Senior Thesis Prospectus: 
British Science Fiction in the 20
th
Century
Since the beginning of science fiction was marked by the birth of Dr.Frankenstein’s monstrous creature in 1818, the genre has remained a unique form of commentary on the society which has created it. While many literary genres seek to provide the reader with an examination of modern life, those genres are limited by thevery same constraints which keep the reader firmly planted in the reality of their lives.Often non-science fiction authors cannot clearly identify many of significant issues plaguing their contemporary society because they are too much a part of it; In order tolook at what plagues society, you must be willing to go outside it.What science fiction writers have offered the reader over the past 200 hundredyears is a clearer view of the problems of society because they do not pretend to representsociety exactly as it exists. What better way for an author writing in 1850 to warn of thedangers of the future than to set your novel in the year 2000? And what better way toidentify the prejudices of contemporary society than to transfer those problems to asociety existing on a completely different planet? It is easier to recognize what ismonstrous in what is unfamiliar than it is to look at one’s own reflection or the reflectionof one’s own society and see the monstrous reflected there.Throughout the history of modern literature, the science fiction has always beenconsidered without literary merit. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “I have been a sore-headedoccupant of a file drawer labeled 'Science Fiction'... and I would like out, particularlysince so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.”
1
Science Fiction
1
Kurt Vonnegut, jr.
Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons.
 
has its basis in the fantastic and often appeals to one’s sense of adventure, so it is oftentreated as an indulgence or an escape rather than a serious examination of society andhuman nature. In order to understand why this is so, it is important to follow the historyof Science Fiction as a genre from its roots in the late 18
th
and early 19
th
century throughits transformation to the widely read pulp fiction it became in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Thefirst section of my thesis will be dedicated to a brief examination of the history of sciencefiction in order to provide not only a framework for the novels I will look at but in order to raise such important questions as what “literature” is and where science fiction fits intothat definition. In order to look at the different genres and strains that came together tocreate science fiction, this section will also take a concise look at Mary Shelley’sFrankenstein as the first novel that could truly be considered science fiction.The rest of my thesis will naturally fall into four sections loosely divided by time period. In the second section I will explore works from the dawn of the 20
th
century witha focus on the work of H.G. Wells. Many of the post-Victorian science fiction novelsshare a marked anxiety about the state of the industrialized world. Industrialization wasresponsible for helping to break down class and gender barriers in the preceding centuryas well as the rapid progress of scientific discovery. For many, the sense of progress outof control of society created a fear of the potential for new science to result in “badscience”. This fear was especially related to connection between science and technologyand the looming shadow of the coming war in 1914.The third section examines science fiction from the time period surrounding WordWar II; The improvement in technology as well as the nature of the clash between theforces of the civilized world against the Nazis led to a new kind of fervor surrounding

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