EN 361 Alternative Lifeworlds
Assessed Essay Topics
Essays should be submitted no later than 12 noon on Tuesday 20th January 2015.
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 world fiction, not necessarily confining yourself to books studied on the module, you should make detailed reference to at least two of the set texts.*
* Unless you decide to do question 11, where you must discuss at least one of the syllabus texts.
1. “Alternative Lifeworld” = shockingly new and/or radically different world. Agree? Refer to at least two set texts in your answer.
2. Make a reading of at least two AL texts as reflections and/or commentaries on their immediate social and/or historical contexts.
3. In what sense is “the alien” a significant feature of AL fiction?
4. Write an essay reflecting upon why urban space is such a crucial feature in AL fiction. (Conversely, you may wish to write on rural space – or both).
5. In what ways are objects signifiers of Alternative Lifeworlds? Refer to at least two of the texts we have read in term one in your answer.
6. Make a case for or against the necessity of an “off-planet” (or “off-Earth”) setting in at least two texts you have read.
7. Demonstrate how and why time is a critical feature of AL writing.
8. How and/or why is “family life” a fundamental issue in Term One texts?
9. Art and/or aesthetic life is a feature in most of the novels we have covered in Term One. Why? Refer to at least two texts in your answer.
10. “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).
Using this statement (or any component part of it) as your platform, write an essay considering how authentically scientific the “science” is in Term One texts. Does this matter in terms of their “success” as sf texts?
11. Make a case for the inclusion of a novel you have read that is not on the syllabus. Your essay must refer to at least one set text by way of comparison.
12. Write an essay on the significance of one of the following in Term One texts: the body; language; magic; Empire and/or imperialism; the machine; religion and/or myth; drugs; clothes and/or fashion; travel; gender; the intellectual; biology/biotechnology; capitalism; memory; narrative technique; living space; metafiction; war; communication technology; ecology and/or environmentalism.
13. “A central concern in the critical utopia is the awareness of the limitations of the utopian tradition, so that these texts reject utopia as a blueprint while preserving it as a dream. Furthermore, the novels dwell on the conflict between the originary world and the utopian society opposed to it so that the process of social change is more directly articulated. Finally, the novels focus on the continuing presence of difference and imperfection within the utopian society itself and thus render more recognizable and dynamic alternatives.” (Tom Moylan, Demand the Impossible, 10-11)
How “successful” are the utopias (or, if you like, the dystopias) presented in the texts we have read this term? (Moylan’s quotation is included for guidance, but you are free to read “success” in any way you see fit).
14. Write an essay identifying at least two AL texts as examples of a particular subgenre of sf writing.
15. Do you agree with Samuel Delany’s assertion (in his essay “About 5750 words”) that sf is essentially writing about “events that have not happened.” Refer to at least two texts in your answer.
16. Is AL fiction concerned about being “moral” in any way?
17. “And it was like real?” Molly, Neuromancer, Ch. 10.
Write an essay on the AL text’s extrapolation of “reality”.