ENG237: Science Fiction
- full details are available in the essay topic ﬁle on Blackboard
- 8 pages, double-spaces, MLA
- we have to print out the academic integrity checklist and hand it in with he essay
- if we're developing our own topic, we have to submit a proposal by midnight on Friday,
- review that "what makes an "A" paper" document on Blackboard
- we CAN use secondary sources, but we don't have to
- before reading your text, ask yourself some questions to help focus your reading and begin
reﬁning your topic:
- why is my topic important to an understanding of the text?
- how does it function in the text?
- what elements of the text best illustrate the signiﬁcance of my topic?
- while and after reading your text, consider how your evidence suggests a speciﬁc problem or
- develop a thesis that, in effect, answers this questions. Put your answer in the form of an
- the more speciﬁc you are, the better
- comparative essays can be formatted by:
- author-by-author (which can feel like two separate essays), or
- make sure to give roughly the same amount of space to each text you're comparing
- in a comparative essay, you need a viable principle or basis of comparison:
- establish a problem, issue, subject, or question that connects the texts
- the connection must afford a clear and reasonable grounds of comparison
- put the two texts in dialogue (or debate) with each other
- the process of comparison is evaluative and analytical:
- while two might be concerned with a similar issue, does one do so more realistically
than the other?
- while they might take a different perspective, do they both demonstrate a similar point?
- the thesis needs to attend to both texts, and the central issue that relates them together
- for a comparative essay you could focus only on differences, only on similarities, or on both
Canticle: Brother Francis and the Fallout Shelter.
Canticle is a post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel. The "imagination of disaster", whether that's
nuclear war, environmental disaster, or other.Awide-reaching disaster that affects most of or
all of humanity.
In Canticle, we begin 600 years after the Flame Deluge that damaged the Earth. We begin in a
second dark ages, and end up at another Nuclear War. It's helpful to approach the novel as
satire. Satire is a way of critiquing certain targets, and making that target look ridiculous to
point out problems with it, and hopefully change our thinking about it. If we think about the
novel as satire, in this respect we could see it as a critique that is exposing the ridiculousness
of the various historical processes that lead to humanity getting to a point where it can or does destroy itself. The novel is aiming to correct or change our perspective on these processes that
can lead to destruction. Miller is viewing history in terms of it being a series of repetition, and
always leading to some form of destruction.
Irony (and dramatic irony) is important in this novel. The audience knows, but the characters do
not. The dramatic irony is focused on history. The characters in the novel have an ignorance/
misreading of documents from our time. They make assumptions/mistakes about our time.
There is our awareness of the Flame Deluge versus the awareness of the characters.
The buzzards that appear at the ends of each part of the novel: as a symbol, they could represent
the idea of history as a series of cycles/repetition. The buzzards persistently follow the natural
cycles of birth/death/rebirth and so on. They are nourished by (literally) humanity's cycles of
progress and destruction. For the buzzards it is inconsequential what they are eating (human or
otherwise) throughout time. They embody the way in which history works, as suggested by
Miller in the novel.
The Fallout Shelter. History involves stages of forgetting and ignorance, and various degrees of
destructive consequences at some point down the line. Much of the irony and satire involved
in Francis's discovery of the shelter is generated by the reader's knowledge of the discourse of
nuclear war. Our awareness is contrasted by Francis's lack of awareness. Central to Francis's
discovery are the various texts and signs he encounters and reads/attempts to read.
"INNER HATCH - SEALED ENVIRONMENT". This is the ﬁrst text Francis encounters and has
to make sense of. The font is a military-style stenciling, but Francis doesn't know this.
"Sealed" environment indicates the purpose of the site. We have here a heightening of
dramatic irony, because Francis doesn't really understand it but the reader presumably does.
The next important text that Francis encounters is a smaller warning sign. This is an elaborate,
technical warning sign. If we're thinking about the difference between what the reader would
get and what Francis wouldn't understand, we look at technology such as "radiation count".
The reader understands this, but Francis does not. The techno-scientiﬁc discourse reveals what
the shelter is for--it is a nuclear fallout shelter--but Francis would not understand this. Francis
sees this place as miraculous, but to the reader it is somewhat mundane.
Francis's literal interpretation of the shelter--he takes the "Fallout" to be a demon--shows what he
understand about the past. The reader recognizes this as a misreading. We can recognize his
ignorance and naiveté. Yet how might Fallout as a demon be correct in a metaphorical sense?
The "fall of man", in a religious sense.Anuclear fallout has many of the same connotations as
a demon--ﬁre, evil. The image of a demon is also connected to the effects of a nuclear fallout--
deformation, mutation, etc. Humans learn things they shouldn't know, and are struck down by
it. Sort of like playing god, like taking knowledge we shouldn't take, biblical stuff. There are
ways in which the dramatic irony here can have intriguing possibilities. He is misreading on a
literal level but providing an intriguing metaphorical reading of the text.
When Francis gets inside the shelter, he ﬁnds and tries to translate various kinds of texts. How
does he react to these texts? Things that would be fairly clear to the reader become a challenge
for Francis. We also see right away the reverence with which he treats these basic texts. They
are mundane to us, but become very crucial relics of the past to Francis. For the reader, there is a discrepancy between what the texts mean and what they imply. The
horrifying present of the reader has become a source of superstition and misreading for
The discrepancy between a mundane text and its misinterpretation in the future is exempliﬁed in
Francis's copy of the blueprint. On the one hand, Francis is shocked by the irony of the