About Zach Butler

Zach Butler is an adjunct English instructor at the University of Montevallo, teaching courses in composition and Literature. He has an MA in English with a concentration in modern studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Academic interests include modern literature, film, and cultural studies.

Sweet Farewell

A few quick announcements for those that dropped off papers but were not around for class. I am giving an exam at 1:00 on Monday for some graduating seniors whose grades must be entered early, and since I will be on campus giving an exam I thought I would offer that time for anyone who would like to take the exam early. Hopefully this will save a few people trips to campus or allow you to finish up with the semester a few days sooner.

The next point of order:

Since finals week is a difficult time to squeeze in some relaxin’ time, it was suggested that I offer a vote on the blog. I will be at eclipse at 6:00 (to avoid conflicts with exam schedules) on the TWO days with the most votes as of Sunday night. Please only vote if you plan to attend, as this will also give me an idea of how many people will show up. If you have an exam that ends at 6:00 or any other conflict, feel free to drop in whenever you can make it.

I do not have any particular preferences on the days, but absent any other guidelines I would suggest Monday and Thursday evenings (after each of the exams). Best of luck will all of your finals and congratulations on an excellent semester!



Final Exam Overview

This post is going to give you a quick overview of what you will be seeing on the final exam Thursday, May 3rd from . Please arrive in class on time so that you will have the best opportunity to complete all of the questions. If you have been regularly attending class, keeping up with the readings, and participating in discussion, then there should be no cause for panic. This exam is fifteen percent of your final grade.  Continue reading

Video/Multimedia Project

Here is the example video we watched in class on Friday for reference. You may want to engage more directly with some themes from the class in a project like this, but I think this is a good example of a short project that is very manageable but demonstrates a great deal of thought in how it presents ideas.

Remember that if you choose this option you will also need a 1 page explanation of how you created your project, and how you made specific decisions to reflect ideas from the course.

Final Paper Topics

A rough draft of your final paper will be due on Monday, April 23. The final draft will be due on Wednesday the 25th, or accepted Fridat the 27th. A printed copy must be turned in during class or placed in my faculty mailbox (2nd floor Comer) before class begins.

As before, these are topic suggestions, meaning that you are free to choose your own topic as well. In fact, I highly encourage you to design your own topic and pursue something that interests you.

You may use any of the readings we have done in class, as well as films and even the blog posts of your classmates. This includes readings/viewings that we will be covering between now and when the paper is due.

  1. Discuss Octavia Butler’s use of time travel to engage with America’s history of slavery and modern social issues surrounding race. How does Butler move beyond traditional interpretations of race in America?
  2. Octavia Butler brings a rare female perspective to science fiction writing. Choose two or three character relationships and explain the social expectations of women and how they respond to those expectations.
  3. Read “Notes on Noir” and discuss how Michael Chabon engages with the genre in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. How does he incorporate elements of noir, and how does he reject or change the genre?
  4. Discuss the concept of “alternate history literature” as a tool for social commentary in comparison to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. How does Chabon comment on political issues of group identity and assimilation?
  5. Analyze the visual structure of Chris Marker’s La Jetee. How does the film use still images to create meaning, and what effect does this have on the audience? Is this and effective way of telling a time travel story in particular? 

Additional options:

  1. You may choose to expand your midterm paper into the 8-10 page range. You may incorporate examples from more recent texts as well. This will require significant restructuring of the previous paper, and not merely a few pages tacked on to the ending.
  2. Pour Les Artistes – Write a journal of a time traveler (decide whether this will be time travel by choice, or by outside forces) that engages with issues we have discussed in class. Certainly, you should discuss problems of paradox and causality, but also look at different ways writers have used time travel (real or imagined) to address difficult concepts like trauma, race, social class, and free will.
  3. For completing option 2, you may either write a 5 page short story, or use different media to tell your story. The time traveler may be keeping a video-blog or photo diary! Working by yourself or in small groups (no more than 3) create a project that engages with questions we have discussed. Each member of the group must also submit a 1 page explanation of the project and its relation to course texts.

Vonnegut via Klosterman

There was an interesting convergence of authors from our class today, as this letter from Kurt Vonnegut just popped up on Chuck Klosterman’s Twitter feed. The letter was written to a North Dakota school board member after Slaughterhouse Five was banned for containing coarse language. I think Vonnegut makes a pretty powerful defense of his work, and you can really see how Vonnegut’s voice carries over from his fiction writing to his personal correspondence.

Check out the letter here: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/03/i-am-very-real.html

Supplemental Viewing

You may have noticed the addition of the “supplemental viewing” link at the top of the page. This provides instructions for your out-of-class viewing assignment, and gives a list of suggested films. I am especially interested in how some of the more mainstream films like “Back to the Future” might be integrated into our course, but we do not have time in the semester to spend time watching these in class.

Treat my list (and the more extensive list that is linked to) just as a suggestion. Feel free to reply to this post with anything you would like to add to the list, and I will probably approve. While I would like to use this as an opportunity to explore the distinctions between time travel in literature and film, if you have a particular novel you would like to comment on that will be fine as well.