Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies
EN 361 Alternative Lifeworlds
Assessed Essay Topics
Term Two 2017-18
5000 words. Consult essay deadlines on departmental website for due date.
The following topics are suggestions. You may modify them, or devise one of your own, but should do so only in consultation with your seminar tutor.
While you may range as widely as you like in AL texts, not necessarily confining yourself to books studied on the module, you should make reference to at least two of the set texts studied in TERM TWO.*
* Unless you decide to do question 12
1. ‘They ran away from . . . it. To this day, I will never really know what “it” was, o.’ Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon (206).
Write an essay on the treatment and presentation of the inexplicable and/or the ‘Weird’ in at least two texts we have read this term.
2. Provide a feminist and/or queer and/or class-based reading of Alternative Lifeworld fiction studied in Term Two.
3. ‘When one looks closely at most of what passes as sf, much of it only has a tentative relationship to scientific fact. Instead, sf is a cultural mode that struggles with the implications of discoveries in science and technology for human social lives and philosophical conceptions. The genre is interested in real science, to be sure, but it is equally concerned with mythologies of science […] sf participates in both promoting this myth of technological mastery and transcendence, and deflating it.’ Sherryl Vint, Science Fiction: A Guide for the Perplexed (4).
Write an essay responding to this statement (or any component part of it), as registered in at least two texts studied in Term Two.
4. ‘Sf is not about the future; it uses the future as a narrative convention to present distortions of the present.’ Samuel R. Delany, Starboard Wine (1984)
In what ways can AL texts be read as consistent (or, if you prefer, inconsistent) with this assertion?
5. Discuss the significance of shapeshifting and/or multiple/blurred identity in at least two texts we have covered this term.
6. Write an essay detailing the manner in which space, place, and time are made unconventional and/or ‘alien’ in T2 AL texts.
7. Make a case for an environmental/ecocritical reading of at least 2 AL texts we have studied in T2.
8. ‘It’s not a matter of what I want. It’s a matter of what’s possible.’ (Snow, Solaris)
Is this an accurate assessment, in miniature, of some AL texts?
9. ‘Today, our monsters are robots, cyborgs, genetically altered creatures, and aliens who attempt to take up residence within a necessarily altered human domestic sphere, or within human sites of production, including human bodies. Instead of enforcing cultural and political norms, these constructed beings function as interpolators: their presence within causes breakdowns, interrupting, disrupting and redistributing power. Unlike the god-made monsters faced by Odysseus, contemporary monsters are products of human technology, or are alien constructs produced by their authors for the express purpose of creating opportunities to successfully confuse, destroy or recombine oppositional dualisms such as human/nonhuman.’ (Anne Weinstone, “Resisting Monsters: Notes on Solaris”)
Taking this statement (or any particular part of it) as your cue, write an essay on ‘our monsters’, referring to at least two AL texts in your discussion.
10. Discuss the figure and role of the scientist and/or scientific institution and/or practice of science (laboratory; organization; ethos; techniques; theories, etc.) in texts we have covered in Term 2.
11. Write an essay on the importance of one of the following in Term Two texts: the Law; work and/or labour; mobility; technology; weapons; Apocalypse; animals; ‘race’ and/or racism; language; biopolitics; the machine; memory; energy; folklore and/or fantasy; the State; food; sex; corporate power; paranoia and/or insanity.
12. Make a case for the inclusion of a text you have read/seen/played that is not on the syllabus. Your essay must refer to at least one set text from Term Two by way of comparison. (‘Text’ is not necessarily restricted to a work of fiction such as a novel. It can also mean a play, a poem, etc., but also non-fiction work, or films, video games, fanblogs, etc. – run it by your tutor first!)