Cyborgs, Clones and the Rise of the Robots: Science Fiction

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
23 March 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

Science fiction has experimented with speculation about other worlds by means of time travels in time and space and other ways of living and being by crossing boundaries of different kinds including species and the human/machine. Some science fiction has imagined oppressive regimes, hierarchical societies characterised by brutality and enslavement.

Other science fiction has used the speculative aspects of the genre to create radically new, imagined transformations of body and society brought about by scientific and technological inventions. This diversity of treatment in science fiction makes it a versatile genre which has appealed to feminist, postcolonial and Afrofuturist as much as to conservative approaches.

The module focuses on a specific theme--what it means to be human--by exploring the robot, the cyborg and clone as well as the automaton and the vampire. The fears and desires are intense in the treatment of the human/animal/machine and when associated with reproduction and the figure of the alien in the world of the science fiction novel.

This module includes material on such topics as colonialism, genocide, genetic engineering and enslavement.

Module aims

The module aims to explore science fiction as a genre and in historical context by examining selected examples form the nineteenth century to the present day when science fiction forms and ideas seems to dominate contemporary culture. Attention will be paid to the characteristics and conventions of science fiction and the historical developments in the genre with selected examples from the novel, short story, drama and film. Opportunities are provided to broaden knowledge of the genre by a) choosing one of the texts (from a list of recommended texts) for close study and group discussion and b) making some comparison with film adaptations where relevant.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the literary techniques and conventions of science fiction as a genre.
2. Demonstrate relevant knowledge of historical developments in the science fiction genre exemplified by literary texts studied on the module.
3. Perform relevant individual close readings of literary texts and comparative analyses, informed by appropriate research.
4. Develop a detailed critical understanding of changing ideas about what it means to be human as represented in science fiction.

Module information

Essential Reading:

Ashley, Mike, ed. (2015) The Feminine Future: Early Science Fiction by Women Writers, New York: Dover.
Wells, H. G. (1898) The War of the Worlds
Capek, Karel (1923) RUR
Atwood, Margaret (2003) Oryx and Crake
Ishiguro, Kazuo (2005) Never Let Me Go
Ishiguro, Kazuo (2021) Klara and the Sun
Butler, Octavia E. (2005) Fledgling
Thomas, Sheree R ed Dark Matters (2000)
W. E. B. DuBois, The Comet (1920)
Rivers Solomon, The Deep (2019)

For the book review essay and discussion you may select one from the list above or those additionally listed below:

Asimov, Isaac (1950) in I, Robot short stories focusing on 'Runaround' (1942)
Le Guin, Ursula K. (1969) The Left Hand of Darkness
Dick, Philip K. (1968) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Gibson, William (1984) Neuromancer
Hopkinson, Nalo (2000) Midnight Robber

A full list of secondary reading is available on Moodle.

Learning and teaching methods

Anticipated teaching delivery: Weekly 1-hour lecture and 1-hour seminar


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay 1 (1,500 words)    25% 
Coursework   Reflective Log: Submit to FASer in a single Word document    15% 
Coursework   Participation    5% 
Coursework   Essay 2 (3,000 words)    55% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Katharine Cockin, email:
Professor Katharine Cockin
LiFTS General Office, email: Telephone: 01206 872626



External examiner

Dr Doug Haynes
University of Sussex
Reader in American Literature and Visual Culture
Available via Moodle
Of 2192 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
2192 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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