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This will be a medium-length essay which builds upon your previous work in this

by | Aug 4, 2022 | English | 0 comments

 

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This will be a medium-length essay which builds upon your previous work in this class. Students are still free to develop a new idea for this Final Essay, but many students benefit from using elements from previous writings for this Final Essay.
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Of course, you cannot simply hand in your previous work again with only minor revisions and additions. Doing so will automatically result in a 0 grade.
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One of the questions about US-American science fiction that intrigues me is to what degree is it influenced by US social and political culture. In most courses on US-American literature, students are encouraged to explore literary works for what they might say “about us”, i.e. us “Americans”. But does science fiction work in the same way? Does science fiction speak to a particular national identity, or is it simply too generalized? This is just a reminder of one of the largest, over-arching questions we have been asking this term.
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For the Final Essay, I want you to revise and expand your thoughts, but I am still asking the same fundamental questions as before.
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Here are some notions and thoughts and questions and other ideas for your review:
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How does the fundamental concept of individualism play out in these works? Is the individual valued in a way that we might deem specifically “US-American”?
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Freedom, of course, is another standard touchstone of US-American culture. How might these stories be exploring freedom?
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What happens to democracy, i.e. a concept of self-government? Are people still able to govern themselves in these sci-fi worlds, or do these writers subvert that ideal?
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US-America has sometimes been understood as a fundamentally optimistic country in the sense that here we are told that we can become anything we wish to become, according to our talents. I am not asserting this is true. I am merely noting that this has been a common tenet of US-American cultural ideology. Our SF works, however, can sometimes seem rather pessimistic. Does this somehow disqualify them from being considered “US-American” literature? Or has US-American literature often already been also pessimistic, and these SF actually fit within that kind of national writing?
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Then there are the matters of race, gender, and sexuality. Those of you who read a lot of SF might already understand that science fiction is profoundly concerned with “the other.” Aliens and robots are sometimes obviously metaphors for minorities, and science fiction is infamous for its male-centric attitudes toward women, especially in the early decades of its development in the 20th century. How do our works speak to these issues? To what degree do they oppress or seek to liberate people of color, women, and gay and trans people? I raise this issue because given the historical record, it is undeniable that the United States continues to be profoundly shaped by tensions regarding race, gender, and sexuality. I often wonder whether science fiction has helped or hindered the cause for civil rights.
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You are free to write about any work on the syllabus as your primary, central text for discussion. You are free to reference 1 or 2 journal articles from the Archive of Ideas, and you may use up to two quotes from them. But only 2 articles and only 2 quotes; no more than that.
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You are free to select any quotations from these materials. The objective here is partly to have you develop your critical reading skills, but also to give you a chance to individualize your own paper in your own way. Also, there is a bit of creativity involved in hunting through these materials to find “connections” to one of our primary texts or movie.
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Let me state the obvious, again: I do not expect a student to address all of the questions above in any one essay. So be selective. Choose an issue or idea you want to write about, and focus on developing a good paper for this course. I list the list of ideas above simply to give you some idea of what you might write about.
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As always I want good, clean, well presented lines of argument. I want your paper to make a single, coherent point.
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Needs to be 800 to 1400 words max

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