Final Exam

The final exam will be held in our regular classroom at 11 am on Wednesday, 12/17. Here is the basic information about the exam:

  • The exam is worth 300 points
    • 100 points per class-written essay question (two 2-3 paragraph essays)
    • 50 points for one essay responding to a question written by me (one 2-3 paragraph essay)
    • 10 points per short answer (five 2-3 sentence short answers)
  • The exam is open book but not open notes.
  • You may type or handwrite your exam.
    • If you type your exam, you should save it as one Word file (.doc or .docx) and email it to me by the end of the exam period.
    • If you handwrite, blue books are preferred but not required. You should make sure you have a way to attach all pages, however. In other words, bring a stapler or a paper clip.
  • You will be expected to cover at least two separate texts in your essays and at least three separate texts in your short answers (without simply repeating the arguments you’ve made in your essay answers)
  • For the essays, you will be expected to take a position, analyze/interpret the chosen text, and provide evidence from the text (quotes, paraphrase, summary) to support your position and analysis. You will not be graded on grammar or spelling unless it seriously interferes with my understanding of your ideas.
  • The short answer questions were written by a combination of you (during class) and me; your options will be provided on the exam but not ahead of time. You will choose five of these questions to answer.
  • The third essay question (the one written by me and worth 50 points) will ask you to develop an argument that builds on examples from the entire course, so refresh your memory on the stories from the first half of the course, too, and think about the big picture questions raised this semester. You will have multiple options to choose from, but they will not be spelled out ahead of time.

Here are the essay questions you wrote during class (my revised versions):

  • Choose one of the novels and analyze its style. What effect does style have on reader? How does it convey the book’s message?
  • Choose at least one of the novels to analyze in terms of its dystopian vision. Is the situation in the novel a warning to us? What steps could we take to avoid this situation, and what comparisons are possible between the world of the novel and our world? Is it an effective warning?
  • Analyze the way Snowman’s character functions in Oryx & Crake. Consider the following questions in developing your essay: What’s the significance of Snowman’s name? How did Snowman’s time with the Children of Crake change him? Would these changes motivate him to reveal himself or attack others? How did Jimmy and Crake’s website choices help shape their future selves? Be sure you write a specific thesis statement that ties together your ideas about Snowman’s / Jimmy’s development over the course of the novel and its significance to the novel as a whole.
  • In the novels we’ve read this semester, we see different forms of authority or control. Do you think these forms of authority/control are just? Why or why not? You may choose one novel to focus or write an essay comparing multiple novels’ representations of authority/control.
  • In some of the stories and novels we’ve read, the characters act in ways that have been described as unrealistic. Providing evidence from specific texts from the second half of the course, analyze these responses and their significance. Why is it significant to have unrealistic reactions from the novels’ characters? Do sf authors have to sacrifice some realism for the sake of the story?
  • Using examples from the stories and novels, what does it mean to be human? What are some characteristics of being human? And what are the consequences of defining “human” in this way?
  • In what ways has your idea of the science fiction genre changed over the semester? Which novel best fits your expectations of science fiction? How might this affect your definition of science fiction as a genre?
  • What did the relationship between the humans and the dog in Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The People of Sand and Slag” reveal about the characters? What is the significance of this relationship to the larger ideas of the story?
  • In Butler’s Dawn, were the Oankali’s behaviors ethical? Can they be justified? If so, how? And how does defining their behavior as ethical or unethical reflect upon human behaviors
  • We have read a lot of dystopian fiction this semester. Why is a dystopian setting common in science fiction? Drawing on examples from the second half of the semester, describe common elements of dystopian science fiction and develop an argument about its appeal and/or importance to the genre.
  • In China Mieville’s The City & the City, the world at first seems to include magic and the supernatural, but it later becomes clear that there are mundane and human explanations for Breach, etc. What is the effect of this shift from magic to mundane in the novel?

No matter which two of these prompts you choose to address, remember that you should write about different stories in them and your focus should always go beyond summary (summarize when necessary in support of a specific point but not for its own sake) and personal response to get to analysis of the significance of the details you point out and to interpretation of the stories’ overall effects and meanings. Also, keep in mind that these questions should focus on the readings assigned after the midterm exam. You may mention earlier stories, but your central focus should be on the second half of the course.

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