Science Fiction and Romanticism

G-borg

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I'm currently working on a thesis that seeks to discover some of the thematic similarities between modern Science Fiction and the romantic thoughts of Coleridge, Shelley, Wordsworth, etc. Here’s my working idea: (I'll try to cut it short...)

It seems to me that SF is often seen as being extremely sceptical about the human intrinsic worth. The human race always regresses in the future. When trying to discover mans place in the universe it always ends up as being very small. Either there are thousands of other superior races or the human race gets overrun by its own technology.

But is it possible to argue that in fact though all this, SF often just as well becomes a celebration of the one thing that we humans do seem to have that no other animal has: the imagination? It is after all the imagination enables us to write Science Fiction. And this imagination is inherent to man both in SF and romantic literature.

To the romantics the creation of a poem is a godlike ability. In SF mans creation is always monstrous and a result of mans yearning to become god. But isn’t it in fact two sides of the same coin? Is SF in fact not celebrating the uniqueness of mans intellect in much the same way as the romantic idea of the author?

The romantics were fascinated by the forces of nature, just as SF writers are fascinated by the abominations of Science. But is it not the same kind of fascination?

A long post I know ;) If you come across any texts or have thoughts, ideas or comments i would truly love to know them. As I said this is just some of m initial working ideas.
Cheers!
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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There are two strands to sf - optimistic and pessimistic. For every doomsday scenario, dystopia and cataclysm, there is an sf work that posits a bright, glowing future for humanity.

SF as we know it today was born in the 30s, 40s and 50s, a time when the old Industrial Age worship of technology still held sway and the incipient space age seemd the best hope for dreams of human transcendance. The spirit of this kind of sf is definitely romantic in that sense.

I can't think of any critical works that you could refer to, but I'll think it over.
 

littlemissattitude

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Interesting thesis, G-borg. Not sure I agree, but interesting nonetheless.

I do think that I would try to stay away from baldly stating that anything is always anything (or never anything, for that matter). Those sorts of broad generalizations often end up being rather difficult to argue without having to insert all kinds of caveats. It is generally better to say that the general rule is...whatever you are arguing, and then be able to explain, or explain away, the exceptions. Or, anyway, that's what I have found to be true. (That critical thinking English course I took once is always coming back to haunt me like this:) .)

At any rate, you might want to read "Trillion Year Spree" by Brian Aldiss, if you haven't already. I don't know how helpful it might be in developing your thesis, but it is an interesting survey of the history of science fiction.

By the way, welcome to the board. Glad you decided to hang out for a bit.:)
 

G-borg

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You are absolutely right about generalizations.
I have narrowed my scope to specific novels that will function as examples for the wider perspective; Do Andoids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Frankenstein, Dune and 2001 and Rime of the Ancient Mariner will be my main focus.
What I'm looking for is their shared belief in what is human. What trait do we have that cannot be duplicated? Empathy? Psychology? The tendency to commit mistakes and be sick? Our creative imagination?

I actually haven't read Trillion Year Spree yet, but I'm waiting for it from the library.

Thanks for the heads up! Much appreciated :cool:
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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Hmm...sorry for seeming ignorant, but its been a while since I studied lit - what is the definition of 'romanticism' as a literary genre? That may help me figure this out a bit more.

I keep thinking that Cordwainer Smith may be a writer you should try, especially the story The Rediscovery of Mankind, as it deals with a far-future humanity trying to get back to the root of what being human is. But I'd need to understand what youmean by romanticism better to give you more suggestions.

As I understand you are looking for thematic similarities - not to establish SF as a romantic genre - that seems fair enough.
 

G-borg

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knivesout said:
As I understand you are looking for thematic similarities - not to establish SF as a romantic genre.QUOTE]
On the nose! :)

As for your question about romanticism, that could take a while... But in short:

Romanticism exalted intuition, feeling, inspiration, and the genius of human creativity. It took delight in the exotic—the sights, sounds, and stories of foreign lands, other cultures, and the fantasy world of the imagination.
The English poets William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Wordsworth typified the Romantic preoccupation with individualism, with nature, and with the supernatural.
- From Encyclopaedia Britannica

Many of them were also idealists who believed that humans were able to better themselves without the use of gods or religions,and would if they were at peace with themselves and nature inherently know right from wrong.

Thanks for the heads up on Cordwainer Smith! I'll look into it.
Keep posting whatever thoughts you might have. This is a really great way for me to try out and practice my arguments.
Thx very much guys :cool:
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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G-borg said:
Romanticism exalted intuition, feeling, inspiration, and the genius of human creativity. It took delight in the exotic—the sights, sounds, and stories of foreign lands, other cultures, and the fantasy world of the imagination.
The English poets William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Wordsworth typified the Romantic preoccupation with individualism, with nature, and with the supernatural.
- From Encyclopaedia Britannica

Many of them were also idealists who believed that humans were able to better themselves without the use of gods or religions,and would if they were at peace with themselves and nature inherently know right from wrong.
Much of this is in line with the spirit of Golden Age SF. The space age itself is a deeply romantic endeavour in many ways. A major difference is that romantic poets turned toward nature and as in the case of Blake, were actively opposed to technology's impact on life. How will you reconcile this aspect?
 

G-borg

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Think about Deckards yearning for a real live animal in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. It is almost as if owning and nurturing a real animal will be his salvation from the deacay of the world and the human race.
The entire world is shrouded in post nuclear dust. Everything on earth will eventually die from it. You could almost argue that through its abscence nature is ever present in these scenarios. Couldn't you?
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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That certainly made sense to me, although I don't know how far you can go with that argument. Nature simply isn't a significant enough element in SF as it is in fantasy - I've remarked elsewhere that, in doing background for a story, SF writers usually concentrate on the physics and maybe the chemistry of their worlds, and mostly pay little attention to elements derived from the life sciences.

Dune would appear to be an exception with its vividly depicted ecology, although I can't resist asking the old question of exactly what those giant sandworms are supposed to be eating!

Oh, I'm remembering stuff incrementally today - here's another - one SF writer who definitely is a romanticist, without any resevations, is Ursula K Le Guin. Are you familiar with any of her work?
 

G-borg

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I think they eat the spice, don't they? It's actually been a while since I read it :eek:

You are completely right in that nature is not a dominant theme in Science Fiction. But it lurks somewhere in the background all the time. Science, after all, is the taming of the natural forces.
I particularly like the term "natural philosophy" as the natural sciences were called in Shelly's time.

I know Ursula K Le Guin by name only. I'll check her out.
 

BAYLOR

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The Killing Star by Charles Pelligrino and George Zebrowskis . A hostel alien race shows up and decimates Earth and most of here colonies . What was their motive? Simple, they did it to us before we could do it to them first .
 
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