English 192—Topics for the Second Essay
General Instructions: Write a five- to seven-page interpretation
of at least two of the works covered in the last eight weeks of
the course, that is, anything from the course except Gilliam’s Baron
Munchausen, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Lang’s Metropolis,
or Wells’s The Time Machine. As in the first paper, your interpretation
should have a clear, unified topic and an identifiable, arguable thesis
statement backed by solid evidence and logic. Your experience, impressions,
and response to the work can guide your interpretation, but make sure that
everything you claim about the work is demonstrable. In addition, you must
use at least three reliable secondary sources, two of which must be in
print, rather than from the Internet. As always, cite your sources properly,
according to MLA style. If you decide to use one of the suggested topics,
make sure you narrow its focus and make a strong thesis. You are also required
to submit a prospectus, a copy of your outline and thesis statement, and
your final draft according to the schedule below.
One Paragraph Prospectus: In section, the week beginning 5/14.
Outline and Tentative Thesis Statement: 5/25.
Final Draft: 6/4.
Compare one or more of Isaac Asimov’s benevolent robots with another, malevolent
non-human being. What factors contribute to the difference between these
views of technological or alien consciousness? What understanding of society
informs these speculations on mechanical people and aliens, and what accounts
for the differences and similarities you uncover?
The narrators of these works are frequently untrustworthy or uninformed,
and often see things from a perspective very different from ours. Examine
the issue of the narrator’s reliability and/or perspective in several works,
and determine how this affects your understanding and interpretation of
The Left Hand of Darkness, "High Weir," Bladerunner, and
2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as other works we have read, all
contain elements of myth in realistic narrative fiction. What is the relationship
between myth and society as constructed by these works? Choose at least
two works and compare how they use mythical elements to offer alternatives
to scientific and technological understanding.
Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner and Octavia Butler’s "Speech Sounds,"
as well as several other works, depict a disintegrating future society;
how are these works a commentary on the disintegration of contemporary
society? What concerns do they reveal with how things are going now?
Many of the works have direct connections to historical conditions, whether
as allegory, parable, metaphor, or extrapolation. Compare two or more works
with similar themes from different times, and describe what you learn from
your comparison about changes in attitudes, politics, and society.
Examine how two or more authors describe, alter, and use scientific theories
in their works. How accurately do they describe scientific theories and
practices, and what do they say about how science and technology relate
to society as a whole? Do they offer alternate models of understanding,
and how do they describe the relationship between scientific knowledge
and other kinds of knowledge?
Many works confront the idea of an other, something fundamentally
different from the narrator, the reader, a particular part of society,
or an entire society. Describe how several works (such as The Left Hand
of Darkness, "Tauf Aleph," or 2001: A Space Odyssey, among many)
address the problem of how one deals with "otherness."
Your own topic, based on one of at least two works we have studied, and
approved by your instructor, with the following stipulation: you must use
at least one literary (rather than cinematic) work as a major focus of