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Essay One 23-24

Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies

EN2F5/EN3F5 Alternative Lifeworlds

Assessed Essay Topics

Term/Essay 1


Intermediate year: 3000 words

Finalists: 4000 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 (either by email or in person). 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 detailed reference to at least TWO texts studied during TERM ONE. *

*Unless answering the final question.

Downloadable Word Document

1. ‘He…thought but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and saw in the growing pile of Civilization only a foolish heaping that must inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end. If that is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so.’ EPILOGUE, The Time Machine.


Apply this statement (or any part of it) to a reading of at least two texts we have studied this term.


2. ‘This was the purpose of the experiment. To throw emissaries into time, to call past and future to the rescue of the present.’ La Jetée (Eng. Trans.)


Write an essay on time — as theme, formal device, concept — as a fundamental feature of the alternative lifeworlds texts we have read this term.


3. ‘They’ve broken through the Wall! The Wall, I’m telling you!’ We,  ‘Record 37’.


‘There was a wall.’ The Dispossessed


Write an essay exploring the significance of ‘breakthroughs’ in T1 texts. You are free to interpret this in whatever way suits. (You may, of course, wish to discuss ‘barriers’ instead).


4. ‘In Metamorphosis of Science Fiction, [Darko] Suvin defines SF as the literature of cognitive estrangement, whereby SF uses the trop of novum to transform the tangible world we know into something Other, yet still offers us worlds which are recognisably Earthly: [Suvin argues] “SF is a developed oxymoron, a realistic irreality, with humanized nonhumans, this-worldly Other worlds.”’ Patricia Kerslake, Science Fiction and Empire (2007).


Make an analysis of at least two AL texts using this statement (or any component part of it) as your platform.


5. Write an essay reflecting upon the treatment of urban space in the texts we have read this term. In what ways is it so crucial to the story each novel tells. (Conversely, you may wish to write on rural space – or both).


6. Art and/or aesthetics (or the ‘imagination’ as a creative category) is a feature in most of the novels we have covered in Term One. Why? Refer to at least two texts in your answer.


7. Biology and/or the biological is a recurring element in texts we have covered in term one. Locate where this appears in at least two texts and identify whether it is represented negatively or positively (or both).


8. Is SF ‘post-gender’? Argue, with reference to at least two texts in your answer.


9. The use and accessibility of superior technology is a significant feature in many AL narratives. Write an essay exploring ways in which this registers in at least two texts. (Try not to confine yourself solely to describing how that technology operates – extrapolate on what themes and issues it throws up, and/or how it registers on a formal level.)


10. “The aesthetic mission of an Afrofuturist is to restore people of the African diaspora in the future imaginary by fusing ancient African cosmology and spirituality with space-age technological advancements.” Brown et al, “Walking Through Wakanda.”


11. Write an essay on the treatment of the superhero/superhuman abilities in at least two AL texts. Take some time to critically reflect on the positive and negative elements of such figures and their power(s).


12. “It’s me, and at the same time, it’s not me.” We, “Record 1”.


Why and in what ways do our T1 texts explore dualities or split or transforming identities?


13. While it is too early to predict the resilience of the dystopia in the twenty-first

century or whether a new dystopian form awaits over the horizon, there can be little

doubt that the dystopia thrived in the twentieth century and continues to show its

health in the new millennium. It continues to embody utopianism by kicking the

darkness until it bleeds daylight and to critique timely political issues while also locating.

hope in perhaps unexpected places: sites of resistance both within the narrative and,

perhaps more importantly, within those readers who heed its warnings.

Graham J. Murphy, “Dystopias”, in The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction)


Does this statement concur with your reading of dystopian elements in at least two AL texts?


14. Write an essay on the importance of one (or a combination) of the following in Term One texts:


Transport; Revolution; Sex and/or sexuality; Fascism and/or autocracy; decadence; the machine; medicine and/or medical procedures/experiments; Empire and/or Colonialism; feminism; political movements/ideologies; work regimes; Language and/or Communication; Warfare and/or Militarism; Animals; ‘Race’ and/or Racism; energy; ecology.


15. Make a case for the inclusion of a text you have read/seen/played that is not on the syllabus. Your essay must refer in detail to at least one set text from Term One by way of comparison. (“Text” is not necessarily confined to a work of fiction such as a novel. It can also mean a play, poem, etc., but also non-fiction work, or films, video games, etc. – run it by your tutor first!)