For your second major essay assignment, your primary source will be the film The Girl With all the Gifts. Your first essay focused on using a conceptual frame–the “category crisis”–to better understand the role of the zombie in early zombie films. The focus of this assignment will be different.


For your second major essay assignment, your primary source will be the film The Girl With all the Gifts. Your first essay focused on using a conceptual frame–the “category crisis”–to better understand the role of the zombie in early zombie films. The focus of this assignment will be different. This will be a “definition” essay, in which you use your primary source to better understand and define the concept of utopia/dystopia. For the sake of convenience, I am going to use the terms “utopia/dystopia” interchangeably here, although it is entirely up to you where you want to place the emphasis: you can write your paper addressed to the definition of utopia, the definition of dystopia, or to making sense of both terms–it’s up to you. Your assignment is to use your analysis of the film, The Girl With all the Gifts to rethink one or both of these concepts. At this point, you’ve gotten pretty familiar with both the terms, “utopia” and “dystopia” through the readings that you’ve done. You’ve also watched the film and written about it a little, so you’re in a good position to put all this thinking together.  You’ll use this essay to explore the meaning of utopia/dystopia, and show how a zombie film contributes to your understanding of that meaning. Alternately, you can use the essay to explore how the film alters or changes that meaning in some way. 

The first paragraph, aka the introduction and the thesis.

For your introduction to this essay, you might want to spend some time focusing on the connected ideas of utopia and dystopia. You can do this through anecdote, or simply by addressing these ideas directly. What’s their value in our culture? Why are so many narratives and ideas concerned with one or both of these future possibilities? Why are we so obsessed with the possibilities of utopia/dystopia in this culture? Once you’ve established a basic sense of the value (and importance) of these terms in contemporary culture, you should turn to a discussion of the film. The thesis, which should appear at the bottom of the first paragraph, should seek to explain specifically how The Girl With all the Gifts clarifies or modifies some aspect of one (or both) of these terms. If you’re interested in showing how The Girl With all the Gifts, clarifies something about the ideas of utopia/dystopia, you should state specifically what it clarifies in your thesis, AND why it’s important. On the other hand, you may want to argue that the film challenges conventional ideas about utopias/dystopias. If this is the case, you’ll want to say in your thesis what the film challenges about these ideas, and, again, explain WHY it’s important. 

Paragraph two (and maybe three)

This essay is fundamentally a definition essay, which means that you will need to take some time to really dive in to your understanding of the term you’re discussing. In this case, that term is either utopia or dystopia, or maybe even a combination of the two. Ideally you’ll discuss the definition of the term early in the essay, before you begin analyzing the film in support of your thesis. This means that you should probably have at least one full paragraph that just delves in to definition of the term you’re working with. Typically in a definition essay, this paragraph, will be the second paragraph in the essay, just after the thesis. You write the thesis, then you spend some time making sense of the key term, “utopia,” or “dystopia” and then you can move on to film analysis later in the paper.

It is worth noting here that this second paragraph is a great place to include a lot of research. This essay requires a lot of research–more than last time. Looking up what other sources have to say about the meaning of utopia/dystopia is A). a great way to show that you’re knowledgeable of your topic and B). an opportunity to clarify what your term (utopia/dystopia) means and has meant over time. You can do a history of the term, or you can focus on more contemporary approaches to the term. You can also use this space to connect the term to the zombie. The association between the zombie and especially dystopia is very strong and there is plenty of material out there that discusses it.

One final note. While I suggest that you use just your second paragraph for definition of the term, you can use more paragraphs for this purpose if necessary. If you get to the end of the second paragraph and feel like there is more to define, you can use your third paragraph as well. 

Later Body Paragraphs

Once you’ve gotten your definition down, it’s time to turn to film analysis. The purpose of this paper is to use your analysis of the film, The Girl With all the Gifts to explore the theme of utopia/dystopia. More specifically, you should be supporting an argument about how this film clarifies the meaning of utopia/dystopia, or about how it challenges or pushes back against the way utopia/dystopia is understood. In either case, you’ll need to do some film analysis and that should come here, in the later body paragraphs. Remember that each paragraph should start with a topic sentence that clarifies what the paragraph will be doing, and ideally, how it will be supporting your thesis. Also, don’t forget that you can incorporate research here as well. This paper requires more research than the last one so again, this is a great time to consider bringing in secondary research. This research can be related to the topic of utopia/dystopia, but also to zombie films, disaster films, and you can even discuss broader contemporary issues like environmental concerns, social justice concerns and so on. There’s a lot to discuss in this film–you can draw out a lot of research topics as well. 

Nuts and Bolts: 

1500 words; MLA style, including works cited page; At least three citations of the primary source, The Girl With all the Gifts; Direct citation of at least three secondary sources from the HCC library or other academic library system. 


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