ENGLISH 2367 – COMPOSITION II: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY WRITING
WRITING PROJECT 2 – CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Essay length: 1,000 words Grade Value: 100 point scale, 20% of total course grade
ESSAY TOPIC: Have you ever watched a movie or TV show with someone who picks apart its every plothole and inaccuracy? This can be a fun—or frustrating—experience. Your assignment is to play that role, looking at how scientific and technological issues are dealt with in the mass media. Science fiction, for example, has always been fueled by what scientists and inventors were working on at the time. Sometimes, it can depict the paranoias or fears we had oabout technology, or what we really think about it.
There are a few possible approaches to take for this assignment. Choose one of the following:
1) Your job is to choose a pop-cultural text—a movie, a TV show, a short story/novel/comic book/graphic novel, or a video game—that has some grain of scientific inspiration to it, and either praise or critique how it uses these ideas. Does it present a plausible scenario, or does it fall into mere “hand-waving”/ “technobabble”? Is it medically/scientifically accurate? Does it inform, or misinform, the public about what science is really like, or who scientists really are? Are they quirky oddballs, heroes, innovators, or evil geniuses? Be as specific as possible, and support your findings through research.
2) For a second option, you may still spend some time discussing the plausibility of real-life inspiration of your text, but it won’t serve to support a thesis that is solely about how it uses actual scientific inspiration. Rather, your purpose here will be to consider the deeper meaning or message that the text sends to our culture. An example of this might be an essay about Jurassic Park that spends a little time talking about the ultimately impossible but somewhat plausible method Michael Crichton presents for resurrecting dinosaurs, but more time on what the film says about scientists’ “playing god,” opening a Pandora’s box of nature, or as a cautionary tale in the context of animal rights. This option would also be the route to take for texts that are more sociopolitical than science-based in their speculative vision of the future (dystopian films like Mad Max: Fury Road or V for Vendetta).
3) A third possibility would be to take a trope—a theme that shows up repeatedly throughout sci-fi literature or pop culture—and explore how it is has evolved over time, or compare and contrast its depictions. Examples of this could include robots, aliens, mad scientists, depictions of superheroes, or utopian/dystopian visions of the future as seen over time.
PLEASE NOTE: This assignment has a research component of four credible, trustworthy sources (in addition to the pop-cultural source you’re using as a primary text, thus totaling five sources). They can be based on fact or they can be reviews that other critics provide about your chosen text for analysis. You may also use one interview as one of your five sources.
DEVELOPING AND ORGANIZING YOUR ESSAY:
Develop a critical analysis that contains:
• A clear introduction which contains an original, complex, and focused thesis about how your chosen topic and sources contain an argument about the realism, or lack thereof, in how pop culture depicts cutting-edge or “future” science and technology
• Unified, coherent, and well developed supporting paragraphs introduced with clear topic sentences that relate back to the thesis and provide sufficient and relevant examples. Make sure that their style, tone, and mechanics are all appropriate.
• Supporting examples presented in a variety of ways: paraphrased, directly quoted, or summarized with clear lead-ins and transitions.
• Logical reasoning in a well-structured argument that provides sufficient and relevant evidence from the text to support your thesis.
• Proper citing of a minimum of FIVE SOURCES within the text of your essay and in your Works Cited listing using the MLA format for citing source material.
• An effective conclusion that enhances the reader’s understanding of your thesis and doesn’t just repeat it. Insight is something you should strive for; your reader should finish the essay feeling smarter than they did going in.
Sample Writing Project 2 Outline on “The Old Man in the Cave”
Introduction: A little background on The Twilight Zone as a series, Rod Serling as the show’s iconic narrator/writer – often, the show dealt with serious and controversial topics through a disguise of SF, and provided food for thought about the contemporary culture (Quote from Source #1)
Thesis: Possibly use first-person for a minute to talk about your experience as a viewer (this could also work in a conclusion) – The episode/series endures as a classic because of the tough questions it makes us ask about ourselves and our destiny as humans.
Background and Historical Context: Aired in November 1963 (two weeks before Kennedy Assassination), depicts a Cold War post-apocalyptic world of 1974 in which Russia and the USA have perhaps decimated each other with powerful weapons. This parallels 1962’s Cuban Missile Crisis, which gripped the USA for thirteen days of an intense standoff (Quote from Source #2). This episode presents a nightmare scenario: how would humanity survive such an event?
Scientific Plausibility: While not perfect, the episode seems to be plausibly researched and put together, not the fanciful “Space Opera” SF of Flash Gordon or some of The Twilight Zone’s lighter, more humorous, or far-out episodes.
Nuclear Weapons/Doomsday Scenarios and the Cold War: Some background on powerful weapons/the Arms Race (Quote from Source #3).
Strontium 90 Poisoning: Mostly accurate, but some dramatic license is used for sake of the show’s plot (necessary for Major French et al. to appear fine when first eating contaminated food, then dead by morning) (Quote from Source #4 or any more info found in previous sources)
State of computers in 1963: Could discuss this some more or quote from a possible source, or mention in general the idea of computers as a new and powerful thing that would eventually change our world (Quote from Source #5)
Social and Cultural Relevance: The episode is fascinating in how it asks us to consider who will lead and what path to follow in a post-apocalyptic scenario; it turns the experience into a kind of crucible for humanity.
Discussion of key characters/scenes (Quote from any other sources, i.e. review of episode on AV Club)
Ways the Text was Forward-Thinking:
Dramatizes the idea of counterculture (cult) vs. police state (militarized government)
Reliance upon/worship of technology
What to do with the worship of technology as a Godlike leader: Are places like the Apple Store churches/shrines to consumerism/tech?
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