ENG 335: Science Fiction as Social Criticism                                              Essay Assignment [150 Points]

Write a 4-5 page [1,300-1,600 word] essay on Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, Isaac Asimov's Caves of Steel, or Philip K. Dick's Blade Runner.  Essay topics will be covered during our discussions of each novel. Some suggested topics appear below. To score well, your analysis must be sustained by your understanding of fundamental issues in science fiction that we have discussed over the course of the semester.  That is, you are not discussing whether or not you "liked" a particular novel.  Instead, your task is to discuss the selected work as a quality piece of science fiction through analysis of common science fiction thematic concerns or issues as we have defined them over the course of the semester. Since Science Fiction as Social Criticism is approved as an Upper-Division Integrative Elective in the Foundational Studies Program, the major paper submitted in this course must demonstrate your ability to correctly document source material as you present quotations from the novel being discussed. Examples will be provided during our class discussions, and you are welcome to raise issues relative to your approach to the paper during our class discussions. You are, of course, welcome to include library research in your essay, especially if you decide to link issues in the selected novel to political or social issues relevant to the time of the novel's publication.

Rely on our on-line guides and study questions for these novels as well as on posted information throughout the syllabus to help you to focus your address to the novel of your choice.  To further assist you, I list below some of the concerns central to each novel.  These are by no means exhaustive lists, nor are they meant to define the only acceptable approaches to the novels.  They are simply reminders of some of the issues that we will define as important to these novels. Each of you, I'm sure, can establish alternative approaches based on your reading of the novels or on our classroom discussions. However, if you devise a thesis unrelated to the issues listed for the novel in question, you are obliged to clear your choice with me by submitting a brief paragraph explaining what you intend to cover. This will allow me to help you to focus your concerns in an attempt to insure that you do well on the assignment.

 

THE DUE DATE OF YOUR ESSAY VARIES ACCORDING TO THE NOVEL THAT YOU HAVE CHOSEN. SEE THE SEPARATE DUE DATES FOR EACH NOVEL.

 

Of course, you may always submit your paper earlier than two weeks after we finish discussion of your chosen novel; in fact, I urge you to submit the paper as soon as you can after we complete discussion of the novel. The longer you delay, the more difficult writing about a novel becomes.

 

Here are a few suggested topics for The Sparrow:

 

Social Criticism [Russell's depiction of the Earth's economy or of Church vs. Civic Authority, for example]

Binary Reasoning vs. Jesuitical Casuistry

The Definition of Humanity

The Novel's Narrative Structure

Father Emilio Sandoz's Crisis of Faith      

 

DUE DATE FOR THE SPARROW ESSAY: SUNDAY, OCTOBER 11 @ 11:59 p.m.

 

Suggested Topics for The Caves of Steel:

 

Social Criticism [What aspects of 1940s and 1950s America form the basis for Asimov's depiction of this futuristic society?]

Technology as threat to human culture

Prejudice [Focused primarily through Lige Baley's attitudes but supported by other characters as well]

Gender, especially representations of women

Nostalgia [longing to recover an idealized past] vs. Progress [accepting the C/Fe culture]    

 

DUE DATE FOR THE CAVES OF STEEL ESSAY: SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25 @ 11:59 P.M.

 

Suggested Topics for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Essay:

 

Social Criticism [What social and political issues of the 1950s and 1960s does Dick extend to create his society?]

Simulated vs. "Real" experience

The nature of truth

The human vs. the artificial

What Defines Something as Human?

 

DUE DATE FOR THE DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? ESSAY: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 15 @ 11:59 P.M.

 

Again, I am not limiting you to discussion of any of the issues noted above.  These are just short lists of some of the issues that we will cover in class. As we discuss the novels, I will add topics generated by the discussion and by your expressed interests.To insure that you remain on task while producing final copy of your essay follow these guidelines:

 

INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUBMITTING YOUR PAPER

 

Paper Length:  4-5 pages [1,300-1,600 words]

Paper Due DateSee the above due dates for papers on each novel. [Of course, you may submit your paper prior to any established due date.]