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Essay Two 2022-23

Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies

EN2F5/EN3F5 Alternative Lifeworlds

Assessed Essay Topics

Term/Essay 2

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). You can, should you wish, answer a question from the Term One Essay Questions (but this must be applied to TERM TWO texts).

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 TWO.*

*Unless answering the final question (11).

1. ….their habitat was Zone One.

 Zone One


“What’s there to understand?” I say. “It’s the Zone . . .”

“Sit down,” says Dick. “Sit down and have a drink.”

“The Zone . . .” I repeat, and I can’t stop. “The Zone . . . The Zone . . .”

 Roadside Picnic


Feed Area X but do not antagonize it, and perhaps someone will, through luck or mere repetition, hit upon some explanation, some solution, before the world becomes Area X.



Discuss the role and function of sites, spaces and places of exception and/or separation in at least two Alt Lifeworlds texts.


2. “…in the study of Solaris, emotion is a hindrance to the explorer. Imagination and premature theorizing are positive disadvantages in approaching a planet where – as has become clear – anything is possible […] the freakish character and gigantic scale of these phenomena go too far outside the experience of man to be grasped by anybody observing them for the first time….” (Solaris, “The Monsters”)


Why and in what ways do Alternative Lifeworlds texts posit questions concerning the weird and/or unknowable and/or the limits of human knowledge? You may, if you like, explore this in relation to their equivalent fascination with the potentiality and possibility of human achievements?


3. “So much for the distinction between authentic living humans and humanoid constructs.” Deckard, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.  


Write an essay on the terms and conditions of this distinction in AL texts.

4. Write an essay on the significance of the abandoned world, or the radically de-populated world or species extinction in any two AL texts we have studied in Term 2.


5. Make the case for a reading of the zombie (or revenant) as a productive, perhaps even positive presence in at least two alternative lifeworlds texts.


6. Write an essay on the importance of one of the following in Term Two texts: the Law; the machine; space and/or the cosmos; uncanny or transformed or manufactured landscapes; institutions; work and/or labour; education; class; media; the child/children; nature; ‘race’ and/or racism; language; biopolitics; memory; death; disasters; folklore and/or fantasy; the State; sex; corporate power; paranoia and/or insanity; climate change; magic/the supernatural.


7. ‘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.

8. Make a case for an environmental/ecocritical reading of at least 2 AL texts we have studied in T2.


9. Imaginary representations of (post)apocalypse and catastrophe help us better prepare for the possible world to come. Do you agree? Write with reference to at least two texts.


10. In what sense is history/the historical a central feature in the futuristically oriented fiction we

have covered in Term Two? (You may, if you like, replace history/the historical with

geography/the geographical.)

11. 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 Two 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!)