ENG 335: Science Fiction as Social Criticism                                              Essay Assignment [100 Points]

Write a 4-page [1,300-1,400 word] essay on Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow.  Some essay topics will be introduced during our discussions of the novel, but a few preliminary 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 the novel as well as on posted information throughout the syllabus to help you to focus your address to The Sparrow.  To further assist you, I list below some of the concerns central to The Sparrow.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to define the only acceptable approaches to the novel.  It is simply a reminder of some of the issues that we will define as important to the novel. Each of you, I'm sure, can establish alternative approaches based on your reading of the novel or on our classroom discussions. However, if you devise a thesis unrelated to the issues listed, 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.


Your paper will be due no later than Friday, October 20, at 11:59 p.m. Of course, you may always submit your paper earlier; 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

Anne Edwards as a Mother Figure

Character Study of Sofia Mendes      




Again, I am not limiting you to discussion of any of the issues noted above.  This is just a short list of some of the issues that we will cover in class. To insure that you remain on task while producing final copy of your essay follow these guidelines:




Paper Length:  4-pages [1,300-1,400 words]

Paper Due DateNo later than Friday, October 20, @ 11:59 p.m. [Of course, you may submit your paper prior to any established due date, in which case, your evaluated paper will be returned more quickly than those submitted near or at the deadline.]