LITR 4368 Literature of the Future


take class textbooks

explain windows, boxes on coursesite


1st classes--profs want grand preview, get big ideas up front, prepare students for later reinforcement

What students get: sense of personalities, styles, expectations (how much work, what possible pleasures)

not try to do too much, and if it starts to feel that way, I'll refocus.

throw a lot of terms, but don't get overwhelmed--you'll get used to terms and get comfortable by the time you're responsible for them on midterms or final.





no final answers > questions, terms, what kinds of stories we assume the future will tell (or what story is in the background of our assumptions)

romance narrative: dilemma whether to teach unique features of science fiction or find in sf features common to classic or literary fiction


Course all new to you, but some will perceive that like all the future, it's largely a product of the past

I invented this course and have developed it over 20 years

content: taught course at least a dozen times, already know a lot of what we'll experience, but have to let you get there yourselves

Retiring this year, so in all likelihood you're the last class who will ever take this course

sharing a little more personally than I usually do, under circumstances 



not a science fiction fan--students have often read a lot more sf than I have

training esp. in early American litera;ture and multicultural literature

b. 1951, 1950s-60s sf had almost no reputation in literary criticism and college teaching

grew up with space race, lots of science fiction in popular culture, movies esp.

1970s attitudes began changing about what counted as serious literature

, serious literature that could be considered sf



Course unique to UHCL, origin story 20 years ago

Like everything in the natural and human world, it has evolved

Studies of the Future

Houston as future


future is potentially as big and long-lasting than past

can't do everything

relate objectives to exams








narrative and time are both mysterious--we know what they are without knowing how to say what they are

humans as story-telling creatures--reflects and shapes reality


Objective 3: elements of literature that occur in all literary genres or subjects



translation: King James / Revised Standard Version, but read whatever works for you


How to read the Bible?


First, class attitudes--public university: church-state separation observed

Put positively, just as public school teachers don't endorse a religion, neither do they attack a religion

Purpose is knowledge, not conversion or de-conversion

If you disagree with me, that's knowledge too


How to read the Bible? (or any religious text)

Not easy, or people would do it more

But also compelling for inherent and cultural reasons

Most people read very selectively, or pick up a few key words and concepts from repetition and emphasis


Drift in and out of attention

What do you pay attention to? When does the text seem to work?


Throughout history, if average people have enjoyed reading any particular parts of the Bible, those parts tend to be the apocalyptic parts.

Apocalypse scares people, but the story-line also assures them.

"Romance narrative"

"The Sublime"





synonym for story, plot, but with larger implications

traditional "four elements" of literature: character, setting, plot, viewpoint


Often used in literary theory to describe a "story pattern" that repeats from one text to another

Narrative as central issue in literary studies in past 20 years

stories aren't just stories but reveal human desires, reflexes, concepts, values

When we tell stories, we teach all these things at once

Stories as teaching, learning

Back to Horace: Literature entertains and instructs


Back to narrative

humans as story-telling creatures

stories as means by which humans interpret and shape reality

"story-telling" so close to "being human" that narrative becomes difficult to define in a hurry--applies to many aspects


Another reason narrative is difficult to define: narratives take place in time

Time as very slippery concept

St. Augustine: "I know what time is until you ask me what time is."

Similar attitude toward narrative, but important for this class to remember that different narratives shape attitudes or behaviors toward the future


Study of apocalypse subject--no way we'll finish or be comprehensive! Go web-surfing or to the bookstore, and you'll find that this subject inspires a never-ending torrent of words.

What we can do:

Observe a literary / cultural / spiritual phenomenon

Practice some respectful critical thinking


Apocalypse: future is soon, dramatic, revolutionary--everything changes--current world falls apart and new world takes its place


"Millennialism" (for example, a few years ago "the Millennium" could mean "the year 2000" or "the end of the world, Messiah's return," etc.

"Eschatology"--study of the end times (for example, a person who studies Scripture for clues to when the world will end, etc., would be an "eschatologist.")

"End-times," "End of Days"

Idea of a messiah or savior who saves or changes everything for the better

end of old world, beginning of new world--"New Heavens and New Earth" (Rev. 21.1)


Another "sign" of apocalyptic thinking:

"Decline" thinking . . .

"Things are really getting bad out there."

"The system can't take much more until everything falls apart."




"Apocalyptic Narrative" not limited to Judeo-Christianity

Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism all have apocalyptic traditions

And Judeo-Christianity has "apocalyptic texts" before Revelation (last book in Bible)

e.g. Book of Daniel


But Christianity, especially in its Evangelical Protestant form, and especially in the Americas, emphasizes the end-times and shapes the narrative of western civilization




Summer school, esp. 5 weeks, unique teaching / learning experience.

upside: meeting so often, less time to forget, so intense learning

 downside: course over so quickly, students may remember less in a year or so (cf. summer school 1973)


socially: cf. summer camp, roll call


history: as far as know, no other course exactly like it in the world


Assurances: experienced teacher used to guiding students successfully through 5-weeks courses--some in last summer's class.

Students' responsibilities:

1. Don't cut classes--missing a day = missing a week

2. Keep up with your reading--quizzes every day

3. Student presentations and student-led discussions--the more students are involved, the better they tend to do

4. Major assignments and grade components: midterm  and final exam  


Syllabus as reference source, need-to-know basis

I'll spend part of each class reviewing assignments and previewing exams


class meeting time:

Class meeting time is officially 9-11:59

Except under unusual circumstances, class will end by 11:45 or 11:50

But if it doesn't, please don't complain--because you're already getting out 10 or 15 minutes early at 11:45 or 11:50.

Sometimes class will end a little earlier, around 11:30--but don't count on it.



NYT article on apocalyptic feeling



7 Signs of the Apocalypse

5 Signs the Apocalypse is Here

Is the Apocalypse Near?

Jack Van Impe Presents