English 192
Science Fiction
Spring 2002
Professor William Warner

Course Overview



Study Materials

Course Policies


Introduction: The allure and paradoxes of time travel

Is it possible?

Effects of time travel narratives:

  • we confront ourselves as aliens
  • meditate on the uncanny inter-relatedness of events (proverb; butterfly effect)
  • they open a sublime horizon
  • question: what are we here for?
H.G. Wells
  • English, born in 1866 in modest circumstances
  • From school teacher to famous author
  • First big success: The Time Machine, 1888-1895
  • optimism about the future: amelioration
  • but, class struggle


  • each new environment creates a context for a "struggle for existence and survival"
  • nature selects for traits that offer survival advantages


Time Travel as Entertainment
Frame narrative: what purpose?

The new idea, the novem

Why is time so difficult to grasp?
  • "I don't know who discovered water, but I know it wasn't a fish" (McLuhan)
  • From the 3 dimensions of space to the 4th dimension of time
  • Does Time Traveler's argument prove the possibility of time travel?


Time Traveler as Investigator
Features of this future world upon first encounter
Characteristics of the Eloi

The Time Traveler as investigator

  • The essential opacity of another world: "Conceive the tale of London which a Negro, fresh from Central Africa, would take back to his tribe!" (57)
  • Time Traveler develops a series of speculations

1st speculation: concerning the evolution of the Eloi

  • breakdown of gender difference (p. 46-47)
  • "decay" of civilization (p. 50)

2nd speculation: division of humans into two species (p. 74)

  • Morlock food
  • Time Traveler regresses to savage beast: "Nature red in tooth and claw"
3rd speculation: what brought the decline of humanity? (p. 93)


General questions: do you agree that human history will take the direction described in this novel? What works against the Time Traveler's speculation? Where do you think the Time Traveler went on his final journey?


Some of the Paradoxes of Time Travel
Clifford Simak, "Over the River and Through the Woods": the past as a refuge for the future
Back to the Future: the pleasures and dangers of revising our past
The Terminator (1984); La Jetee (Fr. 1962); 12 Monkeys (1995): a time loop: where the future revises the present



The Time Machine: 2001, Director Simon Wells

The Official Dreamworks Poster

The Time Traveler:

The Future:





This page was composed by Professor William Warner. Last changed 4/2/02. This course is part of the Transcriptions Project of the Department of English at UC /Santa Barbara.