Fall 2017 Take-Home Midterm Exam


Carefully read the essay topics below, and choose three that you are best prepared to answer, and respond in a separate file of your own. Over the course of the three essays you must discuss in some way each of the assigned readings in our class so far. You may not collaborate with others on writing this exam, and essays will be screened for originality. Write your essay exam in a computer file as a word-processed document or text file, and save this with your last name in the file name, as in BesheroFinalExam.doc. Upload your file before the deadline at 11:59 PM on Tuesday October 17. To work efficiently, read the questions carefully and quickly outline your response to help guide your writing. Support your points by referring to specific characters, examples, and episodes from the readings and include quoted passages from the readings. Total: 90 points (30 points per essay). Time allotment: Roughly 30-45 minutes per question; roughly two and a half hours.

Essay Options

Choose three topics below, and cover all books we have read so far in the course over the course of the three essays.

  1. How does science fiction investigate the artificiality or fabrication of personhood or identity? Compare and/or contrast how two of our readings explore this theme whether with androids, archetypal figures, or other forms of technological or material enhancement. Work with at least one or two representative examples per text, and be sure to develop a comparison or contrast in your response.

  2. In some way, each of our readings has addressed the topic of human evolution, often in the context of alien visitation or imagined encounters with alien forms. Choose two readings to investigate how they address this topic, whether in addressing degradation or advancement of humanity (or both). How does the encounter with alien forms in these readings show us something significant about humanity? In your conclusion, compare and/or contrast the perspective on humanity’s weaknesses and/or potential cast in these readings. Work with at least one or two representative examples per text, and be sure to develop a comparison or contrast in your response.

  3. Concentrate this essay on technologically-enhanced existence, whether cyborgs (fusions of organic bodies and machines), intelligent computers, artifically constructed life forms made in the form of organic life, or humans remade into something alien and beyond nature. (You will not have room to address each of these forms, so be selective: you should address one or two.) Consider how two of our readings represent artificial or technological life in terms of human sympathies, emotions, ethical conflicts–how these life forms are made sympathetic and/or unsympathetic to human readers. Compare and/or contrast the way two different authors characterize technologically-enhanced life forms, working with at least one or two representative examples per text.

  4. Discuss how two of our readings address or respond to philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of the Ubermensch or Superman, first explaining the concept of the Superman then considering how specific characters may reflect on the concept. You may work directly with excerpts from Nietzsche’s writings as shared with the class. Consider how our readings depict Superman characters and what issues they raise in transcending (being above and beyond) the laws governing and regulating most people’s lives. Are superhuman characters limited in their abilities, dangerous, disconnected from humanity, progressive and path-breaking? How is human life altered by the activities of these figures? Compare and/or contrast the way two texts respond to the Nietzschean Superman, working with at least one or two representative examples per text.

  5. Consider the representation of alien invasion in Watchmen and in The War of the Worlds. How might Watchmen’s representation of a fictional invasion be responding to H. G. Wells and Orson Welles, considering the way each text represents the lasting impact on humanity of the event? Consider, too, the significant differences in the origin, purpose, and experience of invasion in each text. What is shown to change in the world of each text as a result of the experience of alien invasion? Consider how humanity is altered by the alien invasion scenarios in each text in your response.