Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Title Using the Science Fiction Archive
Code ENGL730
Coordinator Mr A Sawyer
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2018-19 Level 7 FHEQ First Semester 5


  • The module will introduce students to the concept of a literary archive and the importance of context and evidence in presenting an argument about a literary text.    

  • It will enable students to develop an understanding of science fiction as a literature which develops and changes over time.

  • It will offer practical experience of research methods and strategies.

  • Learning Outcomes

    Students will have been introduced to a major research collection and will have developed a sense of its contents and value to its field.

    Students will have a critical understanding of science fiction as a mode that enables readers and writers to reflect upon their contemporary aspirations and anxieties.

    Students will have had practical experience in reflecting upon and discussing the value of archival materials such as manuscripts, letters, and ephemeral material.


    1: Books and other printed material

    Book covers will be displayed and discussed, to show how the books are imagined and for what audience. For example, different versions of covers of books by authors such as JG Ballard, Philip K Dick,or Joanna Russ will be discussed. The way texts and illustrations engage with concepts like “the future” or “the alien other” and how these engagements enable stories to be told about the "contemporary" world will be discussed, using examples from the sf collections, such as "World of Tomorrow" cigarette cards and texts written "as if" from the future.

    2: Magazines

    Issues of a magazine such as Amazing or Astounding will be discussed, to ask what paratextual items such as adverts and readers’ letters tell us about the audience and what they expect. Evidence for the role of editors, such as Hugo Gernsback, John W. Campbell or Cele Goldsmith, in defining sf will be the basis of discussion.

    3: Author''s archives

    The nature of authors'' archives and what we learn from them will be discussed. Examples will include lecture notes and holograph mss from Olaf Stapledon and letters from Naomi Mitchison and Virginia Woolf. Variant texts from John Wyndham will be discussed. Images from the I. F. Clarke papers will continue discussion on themes such as how we imagine "the future".

    4: Secondary material: Fanzine, conventions, and critical.

    The way sf developed a "fandom" which itself developed a sense of "ownership" and "canon formation" of the field, will be discussed by considering fanzines from the 1950s and convention material from 1937 to the 21st century. Later involvement by academic critics, and new generations of fans brought up through online rather than print media will suggest nuances and fault-lines in this sense of "ownership", and students will be encouraged to scan onlike "fan archives" such as where early material has been digitised.


    Teaching and Learning Strategies

    Tutorial -

    4 x 1 hour seminars

    Teaching Schedule

      Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
    Study Hours     4

    Timetable (if known)     4 x 1 hour seminars
    Private Study 46


    EXAM Duration Timing
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    Penalty for late
    CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
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    Practical Assessment  Equivalent to 1500 w  100  Yes  Standard UoL penalty applies  Assessment 1 Notes (applying to all assessments) Students will be asked to undertake a mini-project, such as individually or collectively designing a poster or “Biblioboard” anthology to illustrate questions such as: “What are the differences in the way we have imagined ‘the future’ over the past century?” “How has science fiction used “icons” such as the “alien” or the “robot”? “How is an audience created and defined?” “What are the problems involved in using an archive for biographical/bibliographical research?” “How important is ‘ephemeral’ or ‘grey’ literature in understanding a field?” “How ‘neutral’ can archives be?" “Is a literature constructed by its authors or its readers?”  

    Recommended Texts

    Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.
    Explanation of Reading List: