"'Cognitive Estrangement: How Language is Science Fiction's Most Powerful Technology"
This panel seeks papers that explore the relationship between the science fiction reader and the science fiction text. Science fiction scholar Darko Suvin determined that science fiction is a mode of literature that at once sets the reader in an alien environment while simultaneously making that environment seem scientifically plausible. The reader's seemingly contradictory situation is not remedied merely through detailed descriptions of scientific terms, but is accomplished through the very use of language, what Samuel Delany calls the subjunctive. In "About Five Thousand One Hundred and Seventy-Five Words" Delany defines the subjunctive as ". . .the tension on the thread of meaning that runs between word and object." Both Suvin and discuss the experience
of the reader as an oscillation between the reader's known world and the science fiction reality which displaces the reader's reality by means of narrative mechanisms. In this sense language is the genre's most powerful technology as language not only serves to explore unfamiliar worlds and concepts, but also creates that unfamiliarity.
Possible paper topics can include, but are not limited to, the use of l33t speak and other languages that cross over from the virtual world to the real world or from novels into the real world (or some combination of that type of linguistic transference); a look at religious or messianic language applied to technology and the resulting implications; language as a means of isolation or control of an individual or group; novels or authors who remove personal pronouns and/or gender specific pronouns from the text and how that removal affects the reader; or how other forms of linguistic cognitive estrangement work on both text and reader.
Please submit a 250 word abstract with a brief bio to Jennifer Kelso Farrell email@example.com. Deadline November 15, 2008.
Jennifer Kelso Farrell
Assistant Professor, General Studies
Milwaukee School of Engineering
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