Science Fiction, Fall 2019/Lesson 2

From Gerald R. Lucas
Syllabus R1 R2 R3 L1 L2 L3 L4 L5 L6 L7 L8 L9 L10  
86228 humn 4460.01 Online Fall, 2019

Cheever & “La Jetée”
August 26–September 6

A still from “La Jetée.”

Welcome to lesson two. This week, we begin our foray into short-form science fiction with two texts that play with time and perception: John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” and Chris Marker’s “La Jetée.”

We will also continue our work on Wikipedia by learning how to communicate with your colleagues and continuing to add to your journals.


Let’s begin where we left off in lesson one with Wikipedia. First, read this brief introduction to talk pages[1] and about sending notifications.[2] — which will be a common practice in our use of Wikipedia. You might bookmark these pages for reference.

Next, see the look at a couple of your classmates’ journal posts from lesson one; you may find them listed under the R2 tab above or off my talk page. You task here is to comment on, or reply to, the second post of two of your classmates’ journals using proper talk page conventions (including indentations and notifications).

How do we reply? Well, have a look at “Reply, Respond, Comment” for some general guidelines. In essence, you want to be positive, thoughtful, and critical. What did they miss? What might they consider further? What did you find in your research that could help in their understanding? The goal here is twofold:

  1. to build a sense of community through participation and
  2. to help each other construct real knowledge.[3]

Overly superlative and laudatory comments are not helpful, though they might make us feel good. You can be positive without saying “yeah, I agree 100%” or “this post is perfect” or something similar.

When you have written your reply, be sure you preview, correct any coding or writing mistakes, sign your comment, and save. These steps are crucial, including signing your posts. If you do not sign, any notifications you attempted will not work and you will not receive credit for your comment. Any sloppiness in writing, including typos, makes your classmate’s journal look bad. Try to be conscientious and careful whenever adding comments — or editing any Wikipedia page for that matter.

Read and View

Read “The Swimmer” and watch “Ja Jetée” taking notes as you do. Note character names, dominant themes, motifs, symbols, and important passages. Where do these important aspects of the text appear? After a first read, try to find at least one secondary text[4] that addresses these texts on the Internet or in Galileo.[5] Read the criticism and take notes.

Journal Post 3

Write your post on any aspect of Cheever’s “The Swimmer” or Marker’s “La Jetée” that you’d like. Focus on one text for this entry; you will have the opportunity to write about both for your next entry. Try to focus: have a thesis statement and use a paragraph for each idea. While you needn’t focus on this, you might consider whether the story is even science fiction in a sense that you understand it. What might be the science fictional elements of the story?

Use these specific details, including correct citations, as you write about Cheever. Cite sources (including the story and film) correctly using footnoted references, and link to Wikipedia entries in the text of your post.[6] You should have a couple of both.

Remember, you must support your ideas with evidence. This practice is paramount in the liberal arts and on Wikipedia. Remember Hitchens’ Razor:

While your ideas are important and should be the primary focus of your journal, any assertions you make need the support of a secondary source. Begin practicing that now and in all your writing. Journal posts without support will never receive a grade higher than a C.

Journal Post 4

Compare any aspect — character, theme, symbol — of the two texts. How do they complement each other? What does one say about the other? Is there a characteristic that both protagonists (antagonists) share? Your goal here is to find connections between the two texts. Again, be sure to support your ideas with at least one source, cited correctly.

Reply, Too

Reply to at least two different colleagues’ posts.

Due Date

Please have all of the above completed by Sunday, September 8, 2019. I will evaluate your this lesson the following day, email everyone a progress report, and post audio feedback at the top of the next lesson if necessary.


  1. Several similar pages exist on Wikipedia, like Talk Page Help or this talk page tutorial. You could also do a Google search for more, if necessary.
  2. You might also have a look at the various ways to use {{Reply to}}
  3. I could also add: it helps us practice our talk page discussion conventions.
  4. It would be helpful to begin with their respective Wikipedia entries that I linked above, but these should not be cited as sources.
  5. Obviously, the latter is better.
  6. External sources are always footnoted as references; Wikipedia entries are always just linked in the text. Never cite a Wikipedia article like you would an external source.
  7. Hitchens, Christopher (October 20, 2003). "Mommie Dearest". Slate. Retrieved 2016-04-24.