ENG 273: International Steampunk Literature & Culture (Fall 2014; Spring 2016)

My ENG 273: Studies in International Literature course focuses on international steampunk literature. A sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy, steampunk literature involves an alternate historical and retro-futuristic re-imagining of nineteenth-century literature and culture. Specifically, it is concerned with how the 1800s would have been different if steam and aether had been used to power all sorts of impossible technologies, from zeppelin airships to mechanized weapons.

The cover of A.J. Hartley's Steeplejack Steampunk World: A Multicultural Steampunk Fiction Anthology by Sarah Hans Cover of the The Sea is Ours

This class examines steampunk literature and maker culture from across the globe to explore how it engages in diverse ways with cultural discourses of nationality, imperialism, race, gender, and sexuality. Course assignments involve using the tools of the digital humanities to both analyze and enact steampunk technologies.

Full Schedule of Readings and Assignments (Spring 2016)

Full Schedule of Readings and Assignments (Fall 2014)

Primary Texts

  • Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac
  • Steampunk World: A Multicultural Steampunk Fiction Anthology edited by Sarah Hans
  • Steeplejack by AJ Hartley
  • The Sea Is Ours: Tales from Steampunk Southeast Asia edited by Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng
  • Selected stories from Steam-Powered: A Lesbian Steampunk Anthology edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft
  • Metropolis
  • Tai Chi Zero
  • Steamboy


Blog Posts
Each student must post four readings responses (prompts to be distributed throughout the term) to specific reading assignments, three personal reflections on how the course is/is not influencing how they view popular culture, other courses, and (if they choose) their personal lives, and three follow-up responses to others’ responses. While these posts need not be polished pieces of writing, I do expect a certain amount critical thought. The idea here is raise issues about a particular reading or group of readings for the class and start to contextualize those readings in terms of previous class discussions before we discuss the texts in class. Responses will be graded out of ten, with a ten being equivalent to a check for completion. Each post will be no less than 200 words. Links and embedding video are encouraged!

Mapping Killer of Enemies Project
For this assignment, our class created an annotated digital map of Bruchac’s Killer of Enemies using Google Maps. As part of this map, each student chose three places to pin and annotate with a paragraph of textual analysis. They then wrote an essay in which they analyze the places they have chosen and their importance to the book, as well as the impact of the mapping these locations had on their understanding of the text.

Fall 2014:

Spring 2016:

Class exhibit of the stories of Steampunk World and The Sea is Ours
Using Omeka, the class created an online exhibit of objects from Steampunk World and The Sea is Ours. Each student contributed three objects along with analysis of how these object exemplify the stories’ mash-ups of various cultures and steampunk. They then wrote an essay in which they explained why they chose the objects that they did and how visually representing these objects impacts their understanding of the objects as well as the passages in which these objects are mentioned.

Individual Final Project and Essay
Building on the previous assignments, this final project can take the form of students’ choosing in that they picked an international steampunk story or novel and create either a map or exhibit as we did in the previous two assignments. After having created their map or exhibit, they analyzed how it addresses issues of class, imperialism, technology, gender, sexuality, and other cultural discourses.




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