A Critical Lens

ENG 284: Science Fiction Choose a critical lens such as the ones we have been practicing in class. Here are some examples:    History How does the era that produces a story affect the story itself? If you looked at several texts through a historical lens, you might make the argument that different eras produce different types of time travel stories. The Reagan era features characters in search of personal monetary gain, while the late 60’s might be about social problems and solutions, etc.   Psychology In these stories, what is the nature of the SF self? What is the nature of consciousness? Memory?    Mythology Humans tell the same stories to each other over and over. Where do you see examples like Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey” or Jung’s archetypes at work?   Gender Where does gender play a role in these stories? Why are so many SF characters male? How are female depicted? How are others depicted? What does it mean?   Environment How is nature represented in these stories? What role does the physical setting play in the plot of this novel? Are the values expressed in this play consistent with ecological wisdom? How do our metaphors of the land influence the way we treat it? In what ways and to what effect is the environmental crisis seeping into contemporary literature and popular culture?     Philosophy What is the nature of the self? If two selves are simultaneous, is one more “authentic”? How is free will preserved or negated in SF? How does the nature of consciousness factor into one’s experience?     Sociology What social factors influence SF characters? How are economic conditions rendered in SF narratives? How are class, race, ethnicity, etc. depicted?   Culture Are there any cultural outsider perspectives represented? What is the dominant cultural arrangement in these stories?   THE MAIN IDEA Your job is to write an interesting 12-page paper that uses one of these critical approaches to analyze some aspect of the stories, novel, or visual media we have studied this term. You may wish to study a theme, a character, a scene, or a source. You may wish to place a text, theme, or character into its historical context. You will use a particular critical approach to accomplish this. Where you take this is your own choice. Ask a good question, something open-ended, something interesting to you.   PURPOSE Your job here is to teach your readers a new way of reading and thinking. By asking a good question and exploring the implications of the answer, you go a long way toward this goal. In general, do an extended version of what we do in class: make a solid point, disagree with conventional wisdom, use the text closely, etc.   SOURCES There is a wide-ranging discussion of literature going on out there in the world. You may be surprised to find that the ideas that most interest you are being discussed by scholars in papers, conferences, and books. Your job is to find the conversation that is going on about your particular interest. This is not just to make work: joining the conversation will make your paper much more interesting, connect it closer to other ideas, and make it a part of the ongoing scholarly conversation. In short, in order to write a decent paper, you must use outside sources for this paper. (That is why you are required to do so.)

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