English and Film Studies

ENGL 673 A1: Victorian Science Fictionality: The Hollow-Earth Novum In England and America

P. Sinnema

This course explores a particular instance in the emergence and proliferation of science fictionality (“a way of thinking about the world, made concrete in many different media and styles, rather than a particular market niche or genre category”— Csicery-Ronay, 2008): the hollow-earth novum, the “central imaginative novelty” of the texts on our reading list, “the source of the most important distinctions between the world of the tale and the world of the reader” (Suvin 1980). We will look briefly at some early Enlightenment speculations about the internal structure of the earth by Edmond Halley and at an exemplary mid-eighteenth-century work of alternative-world fantasy by Norwegian Ludvig Holberg in order to understand a little of the scientific and aesthetic origins of hollow-earth fiction and theory, both of which experienced a dramatic proliferation in the Victorian period, especially the decades of the 1880s and 1890s. The course’s focus is transnational. Course pack materials will be distributed to students in the first class. You are asked to order your own texts as soon as possible from the presses/distributors listed below (note that at least two are available online), and are advised to have The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction read by our second meeting.


Course Pack (CP):

Edmond Halley, “Account of the cause of the Change of the Variation of the Magnetical Needle”           (Philosophical Transactions 1692)

Roger Luckhurst, Science Fiction (2005)—selections.

James McBride, Symmes’ Theory of Concentric Spheres (1926)—selections.


Ludvig Holberg, The Journey of Nils Klim to the World Underground. [1741]. Trans. & Intro.   James McNelis. Pref. Peter Fitting. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press, 2004.

Captain Adam Seaborn (John Cleves Symmes?), Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery. [1820].             Intro. J.O. Bailey. Gainsville: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1965.

Edward Bulwer Lytton, The Coming Race. [1871]. Ed. Peter W. Sinnema. Peterborough:             Broadview, 2008.

Mary E. Bradley Lane, Mizora: A Prophecy. [1881]. Ed. And Intro. Jean Pfaelzer. Syracuse:             Syracuse UP, 2000.

*John Uri Lloyd, Etidorpha, or the End of the Earth: The Strange History of a Mysterious Being   and the Account of a Remarkable Journey. [1895]. University of Connecticut Libraries

            Online. http://www. archive.org/details/etidorphaorendof0011oy

*Robert Ames Bennet, Thyra: A Romance of the Polar Pit. [1901]. Guttenberg Project.             http://guttenberg.net.au/ebooks09/0900541h.html

Istvan Scicsery-Ronay, The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction. Middletown: Wesleyan             University Press, 2008.

* = available online.