English 192
Science Fiction
Spring 2002
Professor William Warner

Course Overview



Study Materials

Course Policies



Contexts for reading 2001

  • Kubrick/ Clark collaboration
  • Cold War: this text is written within the political and cultural horizon of the cold war
  • the development of computerization as the triumph of instrumental rationality
  • Asimov optimism versus s/f dystopias (e.g. The Stepford Wives)
  • Clark and Kubrick are ambivalent about technology

The unifying theme of 2001: A Space Odyssey: tracing the history of the relationship between humans and their tools

Kubrick on the centrality of tools: "It's simply an observable fact that all of man's technology grew out of his discovery of the tool/weapon. There's no doubt that there is a deep emotional relationship between man and his machine-weapons, which are his children. The machine is beginning to assert itself in a very profound way, even attracting affection and obsession."(Kubrick in interview)

  1. Setting 1: Dawn of Man: monolith as teacher; tool for survival
  2. Setting 2: Excavation on Moon: monolith as proof of extra-terrestrial intelligence; cool ships as tools
  3. Setting 3: Journey of Discovery: monolith as rationale for secrecy; Discovery and HAL as the ultimate tools?
  4. Setting 4: Ride through the Stargate: the monolith gives Dave the "ultimate trip"

Novem of 2001: what if humanity develops out of men-apes not because of spontaneous evolutionary development, but because a more advanced form of intelligent life placed a monolith on our planet, from which we learned to use technology…. monolith not a symbol but an agent.


Clark and Kubrick aspire to a more advanced form of science fiction

  • increase the quantity of 'hard' sciencein s/f:
  • give the fiction in s/f a higher purpose as speculation

Kubrick's new visual language for science fiction film

No: stars; heroes to identify with; creepy aliens; high-tech explanations; conventional sound-track and dialogue

Instead: a scenic film with a visual poetry that invites reflection
Kubrick remark upon the film's visuality:
"I don't like to talk about 2001 much because this essentially a nonverbal experience. It attempts to communicate more to the subconscious and to the feelings than it does to the intellect. I think clearly that there's a basic problem with people who are not paying attention with their eyes. They're listening. And they don't get much from listening to this film. Those who won't believe their eyes won't be able to appreciate this film.".

  • 70 mm Cinerama
  • Director's technique
  • Modernist set design
  • Sound track: silence and classical music
  • Slows down tempo
  • Special effects: s/f and realist film codes
  • 2001 is a film about technology that is also very technological

Effect of this visual language: a lyrical direct address to the film spectator so as to invite reflection

The most famous cut in the history of film


The Human and the Computer in the Controlled Environment of the Jupiter Mission

  • with computer improvements, humans are placed in a dilemma
  • HAL as human: the "6th member of the crew"
  • humans as robotic
  • Crisis: why should HAL accept human authority over him?
  • HAL disconnected: going from human back to nothing

What relation machine intelligence and extra-terrestrial intelligence?

  • computer development: escape from the human body as the necessary support for the mind and intelligence
  • space exploration: move beyond the earth as the necessary support system for human life
Next time: through the Stargate

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.