Midterm Exam

The midterm exam will be held in our regular classroom and at our regular time. I will not be there but the exam will be proctored by another professor, so ask me any questions you may have before the exam time. Here is the basic information about the exam:

  • The exam is worth 250 points
    • 100 points per essay question (you will write two 2-3 paragraph essays)
    • 10 points per short answer (you will write 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 seven separate stories in your answers. In other words, each answer should focus on at least one distinct story.
  • The essay questions were written by you in class and the options are listed below. You will choose two of these two answer during the exam.
  • 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.

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

  • How is (or should) science fiction be defined? Build your answer with examples from the course reading so far. You may consider the following questions in your response as well (but are not required to): Are all the stories we’ve read so far science fiction? Is technology required for a story to be science fiction? What is the relationship between science fiction and other genres (e.g., mystery, romance, horror)?
  • One role of science fiction is to warn of or predict possible futures. Drawing on examples from our reading so far, what techniques do sf authors use to do this? Are there patterns in authors’ preferences for utopia or dystopia? Which approach is more effective?
  • Choose any story we have read so far and analyze its style. What specific stylistic element or elements (I recommend focusing on only one or two) does the author employ? What effect does this have on the reader? How does it relate to the story’s message?
  • Is technology represented positively or negatively in the stories we’ve read so far? Drawing on specific stories, identify which direction the genre seems to lean in representations of technology and discuss the significance of this leaning. What might it mean that these sf stories present technology this way?
  • Compare the way reality and artificial/perceived/simulated reality are represented in at least two of the stories we have read so far. Consider the questions about the relationship between the two (real/simulated) we have raised in class; what positions do the two stories take on these issues? How are these positions presented? Which position is more convincing and why?
  • Based on the stories we’ve read (and the introductions to the stories), why is the Golden Age considered the Golden Age? What are its primary characteristics? Is this an appropriate title for the period? Why or why not? Provide examples to support your argument from stories of the period.
  • Choose one of the stories we have read so far and address the following: Is the main character (or are the main characters, if multiple) integrated into society or separate from it? How does the protagonist’s relationship to the rest of society help the author develop his/her meaning? How does it affect the reader’s response to the story?
  • In the stories we have read so far, how has science fiction addressed gender? Choose one story and analyze the way it responds to gender issues of its time. What argument does it make? How is its argument presented? Is it convincing or effective?
  • Compare and contrast two stories’ approach to a specific issue. Evaluate the arguments the stories make, how they make these arguments, and which approach is more effective. Or discuss the way the two stories work together to provide an argument on the specific issue and focus on the distinctive techniques each uses to make this argument. Choose from the list provided of stories and issues:
      • “That Only a Mother” & “The Heat Death of the Universe” – gender &/or motherhood
      • “The Machine Stops” & “Reason” – humans’ relationship to technology
      • “The Star” & “There Will Come Soft Rains” – apocalypse, the end of human society
      • “Desertion” & “The Man Who Evolved” – evolution
      • “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” & “Pretty Boy Crossover” – revolution / rebellion
      • “The Conquest of Gola” & “Day Million” – contact with aliens

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s