Monday, April 27, 2015

A few ECU Defense Paper Resources

A few ECU library sources to consider for your Defense Paper:

Brian Aldiss, Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction (1986)

Gregory Bassham and Eric Bronson, The Lord and the Rings and Philosophy (2003)

L. Sprague De Camp, Science Fiction Handbook (1977)

Samuel Delany, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction  (1978)

Shelia Egoff, Worlds Within: Children’s Fantasy from the Middle Ages to Today (1998)

Elyce Rae Helford (ed.) Fantasy Girls: Gender in the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television (2000)

Neil Isaacs, Tolkein and the Critics: essays on J.R.R. Tolkein (1968)

Gerald Jones, Killing Monsters: Why children need fantasy, super heroes, and make believe violence (2002)

C.N. Manlove, Science Fiction: Ten Explorations  (1986)

Richard Matthews, Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination (2002)

Baird Searles, A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction (1980)

Kim Selling, Why are critics afraid of dragons: understanding genre fantasy (2008)

T.A. Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkein: Author of the Century (2001)

ALSO, a few ‘modern’ works to consider, also in our library:

Neil Gaiman: The Graveyard Book, Frost and the Odd Giants, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Alan Moore, V for Vendetta (we also have the film!)

Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Returns   

Science Fiction/Fantasy films such as The Abyss, Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Dune, Escape from New York, Highlander, The Matrix, Men in Black, All the Star Trek Movies, The Terminator, Unbreakable

Saturday, April 25, 2015

For Tuesday: Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Chapters 22-30

Answer 2 of the following...

1. In explaining the “error” that causes Hal to murder the entire crew of the Discovery (save Bowman), Clarke writes, “For like his makers, Hal had been created innocent; but, all too soon, a snake had entered his electronic Eden” (Ch.27).  What does this metaphor explain about his behavior, or the very “human” causes of his mutiny? 

2. Does Clarke argue that Hal is a “human” throughout these chapters?  On the one hand, he has little understanding of death or murder, merely commenting “Too bad about Frank, isn’t it?” after he’s killed him (Ch.26).  Yet on the other he exhibits guile, desperation, pride, and fear when Bowman decides to disconnect him.  Discuss a passage that seems to point in favor of his humanity—or lack thereof. 

3. Discuss how Clarke uses metaphors of the past to anchor his science fiction “odyssey” for his readers.  In many ways, this is a work of fantasy transported to the future.  Clarke makes this clear in how he tells his story, which is arguably just as important as what actually occurs.  Where do images and metaphors knock us back not only to our own Earth, but our collective past as human beings? 

4. Much of the blame for the failure of the Discovery mission can be laid at the feet of human beings, particularly the ones that designed the mission in the first place.  Why did they refuse to tell Bowman and Poole the truth about the mission?  Why is so much of our world cordoned off on a “need to know” basis?  What might this say about the nature of man—and how unprepared we are to advance boldly into the future?  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

For Thursday: Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Chs.12-21

Answer 2 of the following…

1. What does Clarke mean by the remark in Chapter 13 that “every person of real intelligence—everyone who looked an inch beyond his nose—would find his life, his values, his philosophy, subtly changed”?  What is the importance of TMA-1 to Floyd as well as to the world at large?  What does a three million year-old buried rock really mean?  

2. Why might space travel be a futuristic equivalent of prehistoric man learning to use weapons and form speech?  What makes this a new chapter in our development and evolution?  Likewise, how might this also relate to the metaphor of "Pandora's Box" which Clarke invokes when Floyd contemplates the mysteries of the Monolith?  

 3. In many ways, Dave Bowman is our “everyman,” the protagonist who represents human values we can relate to in an alien, futuristic landscape.  What kind of person is he, and why might Clarke see him as a futuristic equivalent to Moon-Watcher (the character from the first few chapters)?

4. In Chapter 16, we learn about HAL and his ability to think and speak as a human, skills he picked up "during the fleeting weeks of his electronic childhood" (118).  If HAL is basically a sped-up human, who matures and evolves in a matter of hours, what might the danger be of treating him as a fully-fledged sixth member of the crew--and in some ways, the most important member of the crew?  


Friday, April 17, 2015

For Tuesday: Clarke, 2001: Chs.1-11

For Tuesday: Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (Chs.1-11, pp.9-69)

Answer TWO of the following…

1. As we've discussed throughout this class, science fiction (like fantasy) is a metaphor for our own world; by placing it into the ‘future,’ we can make it easier to talk about the problems of the present.  What are some of the problems/issues Clarke uses the future to discuss in this novel?  Why might we read the date ‘2001’ really as ‘1968,’ the year it was written? 

2. According to the first chapters set in the extremely distant past, what makes us ‘human’?  How does the Monolith teach ancient ape-man to evolve into something more reminiscent of modern man?  You might also consider if this is necessarily a good thing! 

3. In most science fiction novels, the author tries to predict what the future might look like, and more specifically, how current technology might advance into new realms of creativity and convenience.  What ideas did he accurately predict, and what (if any) pitfalls might some of these advances bring in their wake? 

4. In Chapter 10, “Clavius Base,” Clarke writes about the working spaces of the moon workers, which are full of modern conveniences and d├ęcor.  He goes on to note, “Every man and woman in Clavius had cost a hundred thousand dollars in training and transport and housing; it was worth a little extra to maintain their peace of mind.  This was not art for art’s sake, but art for the sake of sanity” (60).  What is he getting at here?  What role does ‘art’ play in the life of people—like many of us—who might not be artists or care much for art at all?                                                   

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

For Thursday: Finish The Hobbit!

For Thursday: The Hobbit, Chs. 12-End 

Answer 2 of the following (I've given you 5 questions this time!)...

How is Smaug a lot like the dwarves (especially Thorin) as well as some of the Men (and Hobbits!) in the story?  Though he is a great dragon and a creature of old, how has his heart been corrupted by a lack of fantasy and a narrow view of “business?”

Bilbo exclaims to himself, “Now I am a burglar indeed!” when he finally steals something—in this case, the Arkenstone.  Why does he take it and say nothing to the dwarves?  Does it do this because it calls to him, the same way as the Ring did?  Or does he have a larger plan from the beginning? 

In the passage with Smaug, we learn that “there was one smell [Smaug] could not make out at all, hobbit-smell; it was quite outside his experience and puzzled him mightily” (201).  Additionally, Bilbo refuses to tell his name, and instead indulges in a series of “kennings,” an Anglo-Saxon poetic form.  What effect does this have on Smaug, and what might be his purpose in doing this?  Why taunt an already awake and angry dragon in this manner? 

Why is the Battle of the Five Armies dispatched in little more than five pages?  Why do we get so little human drama here, but more “telling” rather than “showing”?  Is this an example of Raffel’s claim that The Hobbit is a good story but definitely not “literature”?  Would literature have included the battle?  Do other ancient epics? 

At the very end of the book, Gandalf teases Bilbo by saying, “Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself?  You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?  You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”  (272).  How are we supposed to read this passage?  Is it sarcastic?  Serious?  Self-mocking?  Is Gandalf really negating Bilbo’s role in the book—which is actually his story—or is he questioning whether or not Bilbo is a reliable narrator?  

Friday, April 10, 2015

For Tuesday: The Hobbit, Chs.8-11

No writing this time, just work on catching up on reading (get to Ch.11 or very close) and I'll give you an in-class response on Tuesday.  ALSO, start thinking/planning your Final Paper.  I'll give you an actual assignment sheet for the Final Paper on Tuesday just so everyone is clear on what to do.  I'll also hand out an article on Tolkein's literary merit (or lack thereof) on Tuesday which we will discuss on Thursday--I'll leave copies in my door in case you have to miss (though I can't think of a possible reason why should should!) :) 

Until then, I leave you with the song of the Elves:

South away! and South away!
Seek the sunlight and the day,
Back to pasture, back to mead,
Where the kine and oxen feed!  
Back to the gardens on the hills
Where the berry swells and fills
Under sunlight, under day!
South away! and South away!  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

For Thursday: The Hobbit, Chs.5-7

For Thursday: Tolkein, The Hobbit, Chs. 5-7

As always answer 2 of the following…

1. In Beowulf, a work which Tolkein not only translated but was highly influenced by, the phrase “wyrd” is often used, which translates to fate or chance.  In one significant passage, Beowulf claims, “Wyrd saves oft/the man undoomed if he undaunted be” (lines 572-573).  How does fate (or luck?) seem to function similarly in The Hobbit?  Does the narrator seem to believe in such a concept, and at times does it serve Bilbo when he proves worthy of it? 

2. The Hobbit is full of poetry and song, from the dwarfs’ songs (which resemble Beowulf) to the goblins’ ferocious chants to Gollum and Bilbo’s riddles. Why does the narrator (who has a distinct personality) include these unnecessary embellishments in the story?  After all, we don’t really need them to understand the plot, and many people just skim over them entirely.  Why might he want us to hear the poetry and puzzle over the riddles ourselves? 

3. Tolkein purposely went back and revised The Hobbit to bring it in line with his evolving mythology and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Though we can read The Hobbit as a stand-alone work, where do we see foreshadowings and links to the later works in this one?  How, for example, do we know the ring isn’t just a magic trinket but a true “ring of power”? 

4. How does Bilbo live up to his name and pedigree in these chapters and become, in a small way, a hero of legend?  What causes him to do this?  Is it an accident, like the way Gandalf tricked him into undertaking the Quest, or is it a conscious decision of Bilbo’s?  Discuss a scene where you see him renounce his identity as a "burgher" and become a "burglar."