(2017 midterm assignment)

Model Student Midterm answers 2016 (Index)

Essay 3: Web Highlights

LITR 4368
Literature of the Future  

Model Assignments


Greg Bellomy

Learning From Others

In the setting of a literature classroom, there are numerous opportunities to learn from authors whose works the class discusses.  The collegiate classroom experience also provides a multiplicity of opportunities for students to learn about the techniques of analysis and criticism for students from their instructor. The best type of experience, though, comes when students are afforded the opportunity to learn from each other, either through in-class discussions, or through the composition of essays. While I have learned a great deal from my current classmates, I have also been pleasantly surprised by what I have learned from the past students of Literature of the Future, at the University of Houston – Clear Lake.

One of the primary things that I learned from reading the work of previous students is that we can classify the same works as being different future narrative forms. In “Discovering the Truth,” Rebecca Dyda makes a series of astute observations that paint “Better Be Ready ‘Bout Half Past Eight” as an alternative future tale, while I considered it to be one of the evolutionary order. Previously, I had not considered that Zach’s imagination of his own life as a woman, through becoming Zoe, qualified as a sort of alternative timeline, which it most certainly does. Rebecca also points out that Byron’s struggle with this is sort of reflected in his own alternative timeline, as well as numerous possibilities for his son. In my conception of this story, I considered it to be an evolutionary tale, where gender roles and identities become obsolete, in some none-too-distant future. Clearly, this short story defies one singular narrative type, as both the alternative and evolutionary descriptors are applicable.

I discovered another example of a text that can be interpreted differently than my experience in Christa Van Allen’s essay, entitled “Telling Tales of Tomorrow.” Where I considered Parable to be an evolutionary narrative with apocalyptic elements mixed in, Christa saw the opposite. Her vision of Parable was that it was an apocalyptic tale with portions of the evolutionary narrative as meat. Rebecca also challenged my assumptions about The Time Machine by labeling it as an alternative text, rather than an evolutionary one. Being so absorbed by the Time Traveler’s observations, as well the relation of his visions to evolutionary theories, I never paused to consider whether various factors contributed to a different future vision on the part of the protagonist. After re-reading the text, I am still not sure that the author thought of this possibility, either, but the truth remains that this possibility cannot be discounted.

The most personally effective of the essays that I read, though, was “The Phoenix Must Burn,” by Timothy Morrow. In reading Morrow’s essay, I learned that the Bible, much like the Homeric timeline, is a story of decline. Another thing that I learned from Morrow is that the Romantic hero and plot are key elements of several future narratives. Because of my singleness of mind, I hardly ever considered how characters in future narratives behave like those from stories of the past or present. From the analysis of narrative types that we have done, I feel that the inclusion of the Romantic plot and character style should be included as a type of sub-genre for categorizing future stories. My favorite part of Morrow’s essay, though, was his reference to the quote from Parable which says, “the Phoenix must burn.” To me, this is the perfect phrase for showing the destruction/rejuvenation cycle of apocalypse narratives.

Reviewing the ideas that the students before us outlined is a very beneficial exercise, particularly in discovering how people can view the same stimuli differently. This difference in perception is both a mystery of life and a fountain of new ideas. The practice of trying to determine an author’s beliefs and motives is largely an experience of looking within one’s self. The privilege of being able to compare notes benefits students by challenging their assumptions and encouraging them to take a second (or third) look at a text and its author. Like the alternative timeline, the magic of literary criticism and analysis creates an infinity of possible interpretations and permutations that are always greater than the intent of the author. In this sense, getting to browse the thoughts of others is a benefit that, when applied with self-reflection, has the ability to greatly enhance perception and sensitivity.