Scribner Seminar Program
American Time Travels
Instructor(s): Wendy Lee, English
Why must characters in time travel stories go back in time to fix the present? What does a time travel story reveal or obscure about the era in which it was created, as well as about the other times that it imagines? These questions will guide our examination of the science fiction trope of time travel in American literature and culture. We will investigate time travel as a literary device and consider who time travels as well as how and why they travel. We will examine the relationship between time travel narratives and U.S. history, and we will consider the various feelings—nostalgia, hope, fear, etc.—that time travel evokes about the American past, present, and future. Spanning the nineteenth century through the present, the course will pay particular attention to how race, gender, class, and sexuality intersect with distinctions among the American “past,” “present,” and “future.” We will use time travel narratives to explore contested and changing understandings of what it means to be an American at various moments in U.S history. Primary texts include short stories, novels, popular films such as Back to the Future, television shows, and comic books.