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Integrating Science Fiction as a

Genre into Writing Classes

By Ayah Wakkad

The usefulness of bringing literature into freshman composition classes has always been a topic of argument in the academic

Scholars, notably Erika Lindemann, Erwin Steinberg

and Francis and Barbara Lide, stand against making a
place for literature in freshman composition classroom.
Their reasons for taking this stance are:

1. Literature is a divergence from the writing course' goals

(Lindemann, 312).
2. A writing course should focus on producing the text
instead of consuming it (312).
3. Literature is a source of distraction to students from
focusing on rhetoric and the rhetorical canon in their
writing (Steinberg, 272).

4.The discrepancy between what students read and

what they write doesn't work effectively in
improving students' writing skills (Lide, 111).
5. Many TAs focus on the literary material instead
of writing which transforms the writing class into
an introduction to literature one (110).

Scholars like Gary Tate, John Fenstermaker,

William Stone, Winifred Horner, Gregory Jay,
Elizabeth Latosi-Sawin, Leon Knight, and Jeanie
Crain stress the importance of bringing literature in
freshman composition.
Their reasons are:
1.By directing students to only reading nonfiction
prose and expository essays, students are losing the
opportunity of improving their writing by reading a
corpus of rich literary texts that embody
imagination and style (Tate, 317).

2. A composition course should not be solely

academic as this makes it boring and detached
from students' life. Instead, it should encompass
what beyond the academy, the human life (321).

3. Including literary materials provides students

with the context and the details that make the
process of generating ideas and writing easier
(Fenstermaker, 34, 35).

4.The processes of synthesis and analysis students

practice while reading a story help them
synthesize the details of and analyze the
connections in their own writing (Stone, 230).
5.Literature can lead students naturally into the
discourse of the academy as it develops their
critical literacy (Latosi-Sawin , 675).

6.A careful selection of the literary material would

help raise students' awareness of and respect for
cultural diversity (Knight, 678).

In my viewpoint,
By incorporating literature in a composition
course, teaching rhetoric becomes more
interactive, throwing away these awkward
moments of silence between the students and
their teacher.
Learning rhetoric becomes more memorable as
students obtain a deeper understanding of the
rhetorical situation which aids them in
identifying the purpose, the audience and the
context of their own text.

Why to specify SF
from among other
literary genres to use
?in composition

1.SF speaks to the human condition and depicts the effect of change on the human race. Thus, it will aid
students in such a changing world.

2.SF is a comprehensive genre which evolves

across time and encompasses features from
different genres of literature.
Thus, by reading an interdisciplinary SF novel
students get to know how genres may overlap
and what variety of choices there are.

Based on a survey conducted on

300 teachers of the 7-12 grades,
John Reynolds Jr. concludes that SF
is an educational tool that is
increasingly being used by teachers
in classrooms.

3.By serving as a warning device for future problems, science fiction

becomes a diagnostic and prognostic tool with a healthy skepticism
built into it which arouses students curiosity and initiative
(Reynolds, 124).

4. Some SF works are originally multimodal texts,

a combination of texts and interior art like the
Galaxy Science Fiction magazine and the
At the same time, many SF works have been
translated into popular multimodal projects
(movies, TV shows, video games, magazines,
zines, comics, etc.), leading to a considerable
increase in the number of SF audiences and fans
among students.

This feature of multimodality in SF, consequently,

helps students focus on the rhetorical choices made
in these texts and develop the critical and analytical
skills needed for writing.

1. I propose holding three class workshops in the second
and the fourth month of the semester in which two Soft SF
novels H. G. Wells' The Time Machine (adventuredominant) and Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel
(sociology-oriented) will be discussed by students.
2. The SF novels selected should be "with broad spectrum"
whose level of complexity suits the students' reading level
(Quina and Greenlaw, 105).

Here, I recommend that teachers integrate Soft

SF, not Hard SF, in their classroom as the focus
here should not be on the scientific details or the
literariness of the text but on the themes and the
cultural concerns that students can infer from the
text and relate to the real life.
3. Each student should post at least three questions
on the discussion board prior to the workshop

4. In each class workshop, a group of (4-5) students

will lead the discussion for 20 minutes, raising
questions that will stimulate their peers to think
The leading group should manage to present and
comment on a multimodal material related to the
After the discussion, students will asked to write an
analytical, persuasive, or comparative/contrastive
essay of 1-2 pages in class on a theme or an issue
they deduce from the novel.

5. For the final project, students will be asked to

write an argumentative essay of 4-5 pages on an
issue/a topic they infer from one of the two SF
novels they read. They can refer to the novels as a
context and a source of supporting ideas which will
help them figure out their claim and build on it.
After that, students will translate their essays into
zines of 6-8 pages in which they are expected to
materialize the knowledge of the rhetorical
patterns and choices they obtain throughout the

Work Cited
Fenstermaker, John J. "Literature in the Composition Class." College
Composition and Communication. 28.1 (Feb., 1977): 34-37.
Jay, Gregory S., Elizabeth Latosi-Sawin, Leon Knight, and Jeanie C.
Crain. "Four Comments on Two Views on the Use of Literature in
Composition." College English. 55. 6 (Oct., 1993): 673-679.
Lide, Francis and Barbara Lide. "Literature in the Composition Class:
The Case against." Rhetoric Review. 2.2 (Jan., 1984): 109-123.
Lindemann, Erika. "Freshman Composition: No Place for Literature."
College English. 55.3 (Mar., 1993): 311-316.
Quina, James and M. Jean Greenlaw. "Science Fiction as a Mode for
Interdisciplinary Education." Journal of Reading. 19.2 (Nov., 1975):

Reynolds Jr., John C. "Science Fiction in the 7-12 Curriculum." The

Clearing House. 51.3 (Nov., 1977): 122-125.
Steinberg, Erwin R. "Imaginative Literature in Composition
Classrooms?" College English. 57.3 (Mar., 1995): 266-280.
Stone, William B. "Teaching 'The Dead': Literature in the
Composition Class." College Composition and Communication. 19.3
(Oct., 1968): 229-231.
Tate, Gary. "A Place for Literature in Freshman Composition."
College English. 55.3 (Mar., 1993): 317-321.