Scientific Romance

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Module code


The aim of this module is to introduce you to early works of science fiction, known at the time as ‘scientific romance’.  These include works by Verne, Wells and Conan Doyle.

We will also examine the treatment of various themes in these scientific romances, such as imperialism, Darwinism, war, race and technology.

Indicative weekly topics:

  • Voyages extraordinaires: Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870)
  • Evolutionary perspectives: Verne, Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864) and Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race (1871)
  • Colonial Encounters: Kurd Lasswitz, Two Planets (1897), and H.G. Wells, The First Men in the Moon (1901)
  • Seeing the Future: W. Graham Moffat, What’s the World Coming to? (1893)andWells, When the Sleeper Wakes (1899)
  • Pre- and Post-humanism? H.G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau  (1896) and Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World (1912)
  • ‘Sources of Steampunk?’ A spectrum of short magazine stories


  • Presentation (20%)
  • Research assessment (80%, 3,500 words).

Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Show familiarity with the history and context of early science fiction
  • Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the themes found in scientific romances
  • Articulate independent critical responses to a range of early science fiction stories and forms


Dr Keith Williams


There are fortnightly seminars lasting two hours.