Is It the End of the World as We Know It?
While examining the artifacts written by former students, I learned a lot of valuable information that can be applied to this course—for, as much as we learn from reading the texts and instruction in class, learning from our peers is one of the most valuable experiences that we can have as literature students.
When reading Parable of the Sower, I immediately noticed the environmental concerns she described in the novel, and how that parallels our world—and even considered doing my research essay over that topic—which is why I related to and was very interested in Cynthia Cleveland’s essay “Water Over Gold.” The literary connections she made described things I had observed as well, but the statistics she provided over the state of our water access was new to me; though I had known it was bad, I did not think our water was that close to depleting. The language she used was straightforward yet descriptive, which helped the reader understand her point without getting lost. When I read her introduction, she mentioned “systems of inequality,” which I wished she would have explored more in her essay, as there is such a strong relationship between environmental concerns, such as lack of access to fresh water, and poverty. Since decreased access to clean water leads to increased prices, those in lower socioeconomic classes would suffer most. One example of this environmental classism is Flint, Michigan, whose water has (or had, depending on who is asked) been undrinkable for several years. Those who could not afford to leave their home and move are stuck there, and water bottles are no longer free to residents. The concerns Cleveland expressed in her essay have not only become reality for some, but will soon be a worldwide concern for all—especially those in poverty.
Similar concerns are present in the different narrative types—especially in apocalyptic literature. I enjoyed Anari Oliver’s essay “The Three Narratives in a Nutshell,” as she points out multiple in-depth examples of how we can see this in apocalypse stories, which represent “an end-time or transformation of the world.” She examines how Parable of the Sower is the tale of an environmental apocalypse, with a scarcity of food and water. The Book of Revelation is another example, albeit a God-created one, rather than environmental- and man-created disaster. This biblical book is characterized by water sources being filled with blood and drying up, earthquakes that tear down mountains, and meteorite strikes. Apocalyptic stories are not the only ones that feature drastic change in our world—Oliver describes the horrible conditions those in poverty experience in the world of “Stone Lives,” an evolutionary tale. In the alternative narrative use in her essay, there was no evidence of world itself changing, though there may be other works that do explore this. In describing The Time Machine, she thoroughly discussed how it can be perceived as a blend of apocalyptic and evolutionary narratives, which is why I chose hers, because I agreed with that perspective, and she used very descriptive language to help the reader understand her points. Since there is such a large gap between the Time Traveler’s time and the time of the Eloi and Morlocks, it is hard to tell what led to the drastic change of the world, but seems there may have been an event that caused the entire world to change so drastically, with different plants and the lack of other creatures, and that they evolved from there.
When examining the web highlights essay “Learning from Others” by Greg Bellomy, I learned about different perspectives of classification of literature as various subgenres of narratives of the future. His essay interested me because there were some works that I could see as an alterative genre compared to others, yet he even had some arguments for works I had not even considered to be different, such as “Better Be Ready ‘Bout Half Past Eight,” where he argues for the evolutionary perspective. Since I knew we were doing alternative futures, I viewed Zoe’s transformation as a forking path, rather than evolution, but Greg’s description helped me understand that it could be both. I enjoyed reading Belllomy’s essay, as he used many academic and literary terms, but also language that indicated that self-growth and learning from others was important, which is critical as a student and teacher.
Reading these model essays helped me learn things that I had not by attending class, such as specific environmental issues in literature and in our future, the many narratives that can be viewed as multiple subgenres of narratives of the future, and the value that we gain from reading other learners’ perspectives. The Web Highlights were very beneficial to me, because it helped me consider new points I never may have otherwise.