ACTIVATING IMAGINATION FOR SOCIETAL CHANGE: SPECULATIVE REALIST LITERATURE IN THE SECONDARY CLASSROOM

2020-06-15T15:06:48Z (GMT) by Guadalupe E Ramirez
Speculative realism/historical fantasy are labels coined by Stanford University’s Ramon Saldivar. Saldivar describes this genre as “a way of documenting things that have happened, or could happen” (the realist component), but warping realism into science fiction and fantasy, blending and bending the genres (Dickason). In his 2013 article “The Second Elevation of the Novel: Race, Form and the Postrace Aesthetic in Contemporary Narrative,” Ramon Saldivar brings an interesting perspective to how a new generation of authors have taken this genre and exposed utopia as fraud. He argues that as many writers (often members of minorities) seek to challenge the status quo and explore new territories with their prose, a new genre has been born from the utopian and dystopian schools- the genre he coins “speculative realism.” Implicit in his labelling of a new genre is the assumption that existing genres (created and nurtured by the dominant groups in society) are inadequate vehicles for the sort of work these authors seek to do, and in order to make their unique contributions, they have had to become pioneers in the field. Specifically, these authors have focused on utopian and dystopian worlds and have exposed the ruling class ideology hidden in the resolution. This new genre provides perfect material from which to draw texts that encourage students to grapple with the difficult concepts of how society should be organized, and what means might be required to achieve it. This project was developed with high school pedagogical practice in the forefront, therefore texts are chosen based on genre, grade level/interest, and thematic/ideological content. Within each group, the texts are chosen to highlight the deliberate indoctrination present within the current curriculum, and through comparison demonstrate how substituting speculative realist and historical fantasy for dystopian and historical fiction novels both educates and empowers students. In the dystopian genre, the commonly taught Lord of the Flies by William Golding is compared and contrasted with Octavia Butler’s Earthseed series. To explore novels based on history, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is contrasted with the historical fantasy The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.