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Essay Two 2016-17

Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies

EN 361 Alternative Lifeworlds

Assessed Essay Topics

Term Two 2016-17

5000 words.* Consult essay deadlines on departmental website for due date:

*Visiting Students, see here.

The following topics are suggestions. You may modify them, or devise one of your own, but should do so onlyin 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 twoof the set texts studied in TERM TWO.*

* Unless you decide to do question 13

1. “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.

2. Sherryl Vint (Science Fiction, A Guide for the Perplexed) writes, regarding the emergence of sf as a genre, that “people sought an aesthetic mode that could capture and work through these awe-inspiring contemporary realities that were both dreadful and wonderful.”< /font>

Use this statement to explore the relation between ‘ dread’ and ‘wonder’ in AL texts we have read this term.

3. Discuss the figure and role of the scientist and/or scientific institution and/or practice of science (laboratory; organization; techniques; theories, etc.) in texts we have covered in Term 2.

4. 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.)

5. “…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….” (Lem, Solaris, ‘The Monsters’, p.116)

Why and in what ways do Alternative Lifeworlds texts posit critical questions not only concerning the unknowable and the limits of human knowledge, but also about the potentiality and possibility of human achievements?

6. 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.

7. “The reason I like it [‘Weird Fiction’] is because it was a traditionthat stressed the grotesque but also had a blurry line between the fantastic and the science fictional, which is a division that some people are very invested in and that others of us, like me, think is a spurious distinction. I don’t buy it. A tradition that glories in that blurriness is very attractive to me, very appealing, so that was one of the reasons I enjoyed using the term.” (China Miéville, “Interview” with David Naimon, Missouri Review)

AL texts have often been embroiled in debates about genre.

Either Using at least two texts as your guide, write an essay responding to the (often disparaging) accusation that AL fiction is essentially “genre fiction”.

Or: Using at least two texts as your guide, write an essay on the multiple or blurred genres apparent in AL fiction.

8. 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.

9. “Was this another example of her being exploited, used like a piece of brute equipment?”< /font> Under the Skin(p. 152)

Make a class-based and/or feminist reading of any two AL texts we have covered this term.

10. “…the lexicon of science-fictional catastrophes might profitably be considered as the obverse of the celebratory narratives of exploration and discovery, the progress of civilization, the advance of science, and the unfolding of racial destiny that formed the Official Story of colonialism […] the repetitious quality of science fiction’s vocabulary of catastrophe is based in large part on the strong and pervasive relationship science fiction has continuously borne to the political and ideological realities of colonialism.”< /font>

(John Rieder, “Science Fiction, Colonialism, and the Plot of Invasion.”, Extrapolation(2005))

Does all or any of this statement accord with your reading of AL texts in Term Two?

11. “When cyborg subjectivities are expressed within cultural narratives, traditional understandings of human life come into strong conflict with modes of discursive and technical production oriented towards the machine values of assembly and disassembly. The conflict cannot be reduced to either the human or machine orientation, for the cyborg contains both within itself.” (N. Katherine Hayles, “The life cycle of cyborgs”)

Make a reading of at least two AL texts based on this statement.

12. Write an essay on the importance of oneof the following in Term Two texts: Travel; Weapons; Animals; ‘Race’ and/or Racism; Language; Illness; the Apocalyptic; Automation/Automata; memory; energy; folklore and/or fantasy; vehicles; ecology; body modification; food; Corporate power.

13. Make a case for the inclusion of a text you have read/seen/played that is noton the syllabus. Your essay must refer to at least oneset 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!)

Essay 2 (Word Document)