LITR 4368
Literature of the Future

Pre-Midterm Assignment 2019
due by email weekend of 22-24 February

Model Assignments

This webpage constitutes this semester's pre-midterm assignment, to be updated until Wednesday, 20 February when paper copies will be distributed.

Purpose of pre-midterm: to make sure students understand terms, standards, and requirements necessary for the midterm. For the midterm essay 1, students must revise their premidterm drafts and extend them to include more texts and ideas including "Alternative Histories & Futures."

Relative weight: 10-20% of final grade.

Format: email; open-book and open-notebook.


Window for email submission: 22-24 February . . . or any time after 20 February up to midnight Sunday 24 February.


Email your pre-midterm submission to (Most common mistake: students send to “white” rather than “whiteC)

· Attach appropriate file(s) to an email for (Microsoft Word or Rich Text Format works, Microsoft Works doesn't)

and / or

· Copy and paste contents of your essays into an email message to


Acknowledgement of receipt: Instructor usually replies that he's received your submission within a few hours (unless you send it at an odd time). If you don't see an email confirmation within 24 hours, make sure you emailed to the right address:

Email problems? A problem or two with email (or computers generally) is normal in a class this size. Don't panic—communicate & things will work out.

Spacing: Single-spacing preferred. No need to double-space, but OK if you do. All submissions are converted to single-space for reading onscreen.  

Return of grades, etc.: Approximately 1-2 weeks after submission.

Contents: Start 2 essays you'll continue in your midterm and final exam.

Part 1: Course Content Essay: Narratives of the Future (2-3 paragraphs): Begin midterm Essay 1 comparing and evaluating 3 narratives of the future

Part 2: Propose and defend topic for research and reading essay on personal/professional topic of your choice (to be extended in midterm and final exam)   (1-2 paragraphs) 


Special Requirements / Instructions:

Both essays must have titles. (If your essays arrive without titles, I send them back for re-submission with titles added.)

Refer to at least one premidterm or midterm answer from a previous class on course webpage's Model Assignments at some point in Essay 1. More than one such reference can be impressive. (The idea is to share something you learned from looking at the model midterms from previous classes.)

You may refer to course texts in abbreviated form after first mention, e. g. Parable, "Stone," "Bears"

Overlap between two parts is possible.


Show you've reviewed our course's instructional webpages on essential terms by using terrms and information provided. You can't reproduce all knowledge from every term-page, but best exams demonstrate they've refreshed and extended what they picked up in class, while struggling exams either ignore essential course terms or use them in brief, superficial ways.

Pre-Midterm Content Outline—Two (2) brief essays total

Part 1: Course Content Essay: Narratives of the Future (2-3 paragraphs): Begin midterm essay comparing and evaluating 3 narratives of the future

Length: 2-3 substantial paragraphs (4-5 sentences each).

Assignment: Begin drafting your midterm essay explaining our three primary narratives for the future: apocalypse, evolution, and alternative.

What do you understand so far about these narratives or their ideas about time as they appear in our course texts, class presentations, and your ideas or expectations of the future?

  How are you putting the materials together into a whole understanding? Consider emphasizing narratives as story-telling, story-telling as problem-solving.

At this stage of the semester, what do you best understand? What is most confusing or challenging?

So far we've barely studied "alternative futures," so concentrate on apocalypse and evolution, but welcome to look ahead briefly to alternative futures as inclined or prepared.

Special Requirements / Instructions:

Refer to something you learned from an "Essay #1" in Model Assignments. (What you learned may bear directly on Narratives of the Future, or on what you learned about conceptualizing or organizing this assignment.)


Refer frequently to texts, terms, and objectives. Integrate terms, examples, themes. In defining or explaining terms, use links to instructional websites.

What signs, symbols, or metaphors, distinguish one narrative of the future from another? How may one narrative of the future turn into another? Where or how do these narratives overlap or conflict?

What literary and cultural attractions or appeals to apocalypse and evolution? What downsides or detractions?

What meanings do these three primary narratives for the future create for our individual and shared futures? What attitudes and behaviors follow from these narratives? (e.g., decline or progress?)

Text requirements (for premidterm): You must refer to Scriptural Texts of Creation & Apocalypse & Parable of the Sower. You may refer to either "Stone Lives" or "Bears Discover Fire" or both. References to Future-Vision presentations welcome but not required. 

Essential websites: narrative, three narratives for the future, symbols, apocalypse or millennialism, evolution, decline or progress?

Part 2: Research & Reading Essay Topic Proposal  (1-2 paragraphs): Propose a personal/professional research topic in our course and readings (to be researched and extended for Essay 2 in midterm and final exam) 

Length: 1-2 paragraphs of 4-5 sentences each.

Assignment: Propose a topic relating to our course's content or the future in general that you want to learn and write more about for personal and / or professional purposes.

"personal" = what you've learned or thought before + personal future

"professional" = application to student career, teaching career, or other professional plans

The topic should connect to our course objectives and texts, as your research sources are expected to include at least some of our course's readings.


Text and Research requirements:

For the pre-midterm research proposal, refer to at least one course text (so far or later in semester) that relates to or inspires your topic, and preview possible outside sources with helpful information about or connections to your topic.

     Write about what you want to learn, where or how you will look for information or ideas.

     "Outside sources" may be scholarly research, web sources, other fiction texts, films, video, etc.

For the midterm, you must refer to at least two of our course texts and to at least two outside sources with helpful information about or connections to your topic. (Course-text requirements may change with topic.)

For the final exam, you will revise and extend the draft you wrote for your midterm, adding at least two additional course texts and at least two additional outside sources. (Course-text requirements may change with topic.)

In any of these exams, you may refer to other stories, books, movies, TV, or other media that inform your knowledge of this subject or story-line.


Additional content requirements / suggestions for Essay 2 research proposal:

Don't feel stuck in what our first few classes are about—scout later-in-semester topics and themes?

Explain why you chose your topic, where the idea came from, where you saw it in our texts so far (or later), and any previous experience reading about or otherwise experiencing this subject or area of study.

Consider other possible topics, or how your topic may evolve as you research it.

If you're uncertain or stuck between two topics, you can describe your situation, the attractions and possibilities for various topics.

         Remember that you'll revise the Pre-Midterm essays for the Midterm and the Final, so the pre-midterm may look very different from what you end up doing.

What theme(s), idea(s), aspect(s), or element(s) of our course intrigue you or matter most? Why? What issue(s) seem most important and worth reading and discussing? What do you learn about your interests or assumptions? How can you imagine Literature of the Future playing into your future?

Your emphasis may be literary, cultural-social-historical, personal, or combinations, but use (or anticipate) examples from texts to illustrate and develop insights, and use terms and objectives to connect to the course.

Overlap with Essay 1 is possible.


More on choosing / developing a topic: The best way to start thinking of a possible topic for Essay 2 is to review what past students tried in previous summers (Model Assignments).

         You may use topics that have been used before and refer to previous midterm essays as "outside sources" for insight and support.


Other ways to choose a topic:

When writing Essay 1, pay attention to issues you want to write about but have to leave out or minimize.

Reflect on which readings you like or remember most, and ask what about them interested or bothered you, and for what reason. 

For midterm and final exam, you will continue this topic in reference to texts read after the midterm. The topic can be varied according to what you see in those texts. If you change topics significantly, at least acknoweldge and rationalize the change.

Don't feel pressure to conform to views of instructor. The point of the essay is to show yourself learning.

Topic possibilities: (based partly on previous submissions on Model Assignments) (2017 topics) (2016 topics) (2015 topics)

Don't be afraid of repeating a topic. I won't remember or care! Besides, you can use previous research reports as "outside sources."

Develop a theme, idea, or issue that appears in our course and elsewhere.

Describe a sub-genre of Literature of the Future: science fiction, speculative fiction, prophecy, apocalypse, post-apocalyptic, or one of our end-of-semester "scenarios" like high-tech, low-tech, ecotopia, alien contact. (Course term-pages may serve as "outside sources.")

An author you've read or want to learn about: Octavia Butler, H. G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Neal Stephenson, Margaret Atwood.

A movement or group of authors from a particular period (e.g. Golden Age SF, Silver Age SF, cyperpunk, steampunk, Young Adult Dystopias)

Diversity or social justice issues in Literature of the Future: gender equality, science fiction as all-white boys' club, classism, speciesism.

Educational issues (e.g., computers in classrooms, reading online or onscreen vs. reading print / paper, science fiction / fantasy / speculative fiction as teachable?); video games as instruction


General grading standards: Readability, competence levels, content quantity and quality, and thematic unity.

Readability & surface competence: Your reader must be able to process what you're reporting. Some rough edges are acceptable, but chronic errors or elementary style limit quality.

   Review & edit your midterm before submitting. Don't make instructor write, "You expected me to read your midterm when you didn't even read it yourself?"   


Content quantity and quality:

   Evidence of learning, esp. understanding of terms and application to texts.

   Coverage and analysis of required texts.

   Use of course resources including instructional webpages (esp. for terms) + materials from class discussion and lecture.

   Interest & significance: Make your reader want to process your essays by making the information meaningful to our study of literature and culture.


Thematic unity / organization: Unify materials along a line of thought that a reader can follow from start to finish.

Dr. White's Instructional Materials