Writing and Research: End-of-the-World Stories

apocalypse: from the ancient Greek ἀποκάλυψις, apokálypsis, “an uncovering”; noun:

  1. the complete final destruction of the world, especially as described in the biblical book of Revelation.
  2. an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale.

“Apocalypse thus, finally, has an interpretive, explanatory function, which is, of course, its etymological sense: as revelation, unveiling, uncovering. The apocalyptic event, in order to be properly apocalyptic, must in its destructive moment clarify and illuminate the true nature of what has been brought to an end.” – James Berger

“In a dark time, the eye begins to see.” – Theodore Roethke

“[B]ecoming a ruin-reader might not be so bad a thing. It could in fact save your life.” – Junot Diaz

Course Description

End-of-the-world stories are having a moment. At the movies, zombie films like World War Z and postapocalyptic thrillers like Mad Max: Fury Road draw big audiences. On TV, shows like The Walking Dead attract cult followings. Novelists like Margaret Atwood are writing bleak futuristic narratives to wide acclaim. Outside the bounds of fiction, the news provides plenty of fodder for dystopian visions: new climate change studies, reports on epidemic diseases like Ebola, human rights crises in Syria and Iraq. It’s enough to make anyone think the end is near.

Why are we so fascinated with apocalyptic scenarios? And how are our end-of-the-world stories peculiar to this historical moment? How do fictional stories shape our understanding of real-life disasters, and vice versa? These are some of the research questions we’ll be exploring in this class. Together, we’ll read one apocalyptic novel, Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 Station Eleven, which follows the survivors of a deadly plague as they try to rebuild civilization. Then you’ll select an end-of-the-world narrative of your choice—fictional or nonfictional—to research and write about. Possible research topics include, but are not limited to, pandemic disease, climate-change predictions, zombie media, natural disasters, war representations, and dystopian fiction.

Pompeii_-_Casa_del_Centenario_-_MAN

(Mount Vesuvius; House of the Centenary, Pompeii, c. 15 CE)

Course Texts

  • Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, 3rd edition
  • Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
  • Course pack, available at UT bookstore
  • Snowpiercer, film (available to rent online)

Assignments

  • Research Proposal: 50
  • Annotated Bibliography: 100
  • Literature Review: 150
  • Primary Source Analysis: 50
  • Research Paper: 200
  • Presentation: 100
  • Final Exam: 100
  • Quizzes & Peer Review: 90
  • Discussion: 100
  • QEP Assessment Surveys: 50
  • Course Evaluation: 10

Total: 1000 points

BambergApocalypseFolio014rFirstHorseman

(The First Horseman; Bamberg Apocalypse manuscript, c. 1000)

Course Schedule:

All readings should be completed prior to the class session in which they are listed, and students should always bring the day’s reading to class with them.

8/29

Introductions

Diagnostic Essay (in class)

8/31

Reading assignment (read before class!): They Say, I Say, introduction and chapters 1-2, 15

In Class: Matters of fact, opinion, argument, interpretation; inquiry and research questions

9/5

Reading assignment: Station Eleven pp. 1-90

In Class: Genre approaches to fiction

9/7

Reading assignment: Station Eleven pp. 91-115

Quiz: Syllabus

In Class: Primary sources

9/12

Reading assignment: Station Eleven pp. 116-196

Quiz: Primary and secondary sources

In Class: Avoiding plagiarism

9/14

RESEARCH PROPOSAL FIRST DRAFT DUE (by the beginning of class)

Reading assignment: Station Eleven pp. 197-228

In Class: Peer review workshop in class (bring laptops)

9/19

Reading assignment: Station Eleven pp. 229-333

Quiz: Plagiarism

In Class: Kinds of secondary sources

9/21

RESEARCH PROPOSAL FINAL DRAFT DUE

In Class: Library Presentation; finding and reading scholarly sources; the BEAM of Research handout; Annotated Bibliography prep (bring laptops)

9/26

In Class: Watch Contagion

9/28

Reading assignment: Priscilla Wald, introduction to Contagious

 Quiz: scholarly sources

In Class: Continue Contagion discussion; realism in fiction

10/3

Viewing assignment: Night of the Living Dead

 In Class: Historicist approaches to fiction

10/5

LIST OF SOURCES DUE (by the beginning of class; email to chovanec@ut.edu)

Reading assignment: Kyle Bishop, “Dead Man Still Walking: Explaining the Zombie Renaissance”

In Class: Work on annotated bibliography (bring laptops)

10/10

Reading assignment: Jon Stratton, “Zombie Trouble: Zombie Texts, Bare Life, and Displaced People” (focus on his use of secondary sources)

In Class: Allegorical/metaphorical approaches to fiction; discuss Literature Review

10/12

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY FIRST DRAFT DUE (by the beginning of class)

 Reading assignment: They Say, I Say, ch. 3; Kyle D. Stedman, “Annoying Ways People Use Sources” (online; please print and bring to class with you)

In Class: Peer review workshop in class (bring laptops)

10/17

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY FINAL DRAFT DUE

Reading assignment: Junot Diaz, “Apocalypse”

Quiz: quotations

10/19

Reading assignment: Junot Diaz, “Monstro”

In Class: Annotated Bibliography post-mortem; work on Literature Review (bring laptops)

10/24

LITERATURE REVIEW FIRST DRAFT DUE (by the beginning of class)

Reading assignment: They Say, I Say, ch. 4-5

In Class: Peer review workshop in class (bring laptops)

10/26

LITERATURE REVIEW FINAL DRAFT DUE

Reading assignment: Margaret Atwood, “It’s Not Climate Change, It’s Everything Change” (online; read first half)

In Class: Thesis statements and introductions

10/31

INTRODUCTION & THESIS STATEMENT DRAFT DUE (by the beginning of class)

Reading assignment: They Say, I Say, ch. 6-7

In class: Peer review workshop (bring laptops); Literature Review post-mortem; close reading strategies

11/2

IN-CLASS ESSAY: PRIMARY SOURCE ANALYSIS (bring laptops to write in class)

In Class: Research paper organization; conclusions

11/7

Viewing assignment: Snowpiercer

In Class: Primary Source Analysis post-mortem

Outside Class: Begin individual conferences

11/9

NO CLASS (Dr. H. at conference)

Work on final papers

 

11/14

FINAL PAPER FIRST DRAFT DUE (by beginning of class)

In Class: Peer review workshop (bring laptops); continue individual conferences

11/16

In Class: Presentation workshop; continue individual conferences

11/21

In Class: Final Exam Review; finish individual conferences

FINAL PAPER FINAL DRAFT DUE (11:59pm)

11/23

No class; happy Thanksgiving!

11/28

PRESENTATIONS

11/30

PRESENTATIONS

12/5

PRESENTATIONS

12/7

PRESENTATIONS

Presentation and final paper post-mortem

799px-Palmyre_-_théâtre_pano

(Roman theater in Palmyra; photo by Guillame Piolle, CC 3.0)

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