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.

Due Dates:

One Paragraph Prospectus: In section, the week beginning 5/14.

Outline and Tentative Thesis Statement: 5/25.

Final Draft: 6/4.

Suggested Topics:

  1. 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?
  2. 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 them.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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."
  8. 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 the paper.