RQ: Sheldon, “Future,” (23-53)


Keep the following questions in mind as you read Rebekah Sheldon, “Future,” (23-53). The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

According to Sheldon, via Donna Haraway, what do the images of the blue marble earth and floating fetus ‘condone’ and represent?

What’s a metonym?

the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant, for example suit for business executive, or the track for horse racing.

If images of the planet in space and the child in the womb are “discursive technologies” as Sheldon argues, what threats do they pose forms of life?

What do these images obscure even as the stand for “life itself” (24)?

How is saving the child tantamount to saving the future according to environmentalist discourses?

According to Sheldon, what does environmentalism do well?

According to Sheldon, what are some of problems with environmentalism?

What is Sheldon’s response to the problems she identifies with the ways that environmentalism figures the future? How can we have forms of life and without the privileging of security, certainty, or closure promoted by popular environmentalism?

What is a ‘closed system’?

  • System with limited interface with their environments vis one determines factor
  • “’reduce all change to, all qualitative change…to spatial movement’ and all movement to ‘a mere rearrangement of already existing parts, thus the possibility of a simultaneous present and future” (32).
  • Allows for the designation of a threat that can be calculated and managed
  • Also, “suspends duration, collapsing future threat into a present configuration and cutting them both away from their moorings in the multiplicity of flowing relationships that constitute the open systems of the world” (32).

What is Reproductive Futurism?

  • “the conjunction of the figure of the child with the trope of the future
  • The infinitely differed promise that there will be a time in time that is not the present
  • The imperative to replicate the present into the future in the hope that the future will not come
  • “two-sided salvation narrative: someday we the future will be redeemed of the mess our present actions foretell; until then, we must keep the messy future from coming by reproducing the present through our children” (35).
  • Sheldon’s reading of Edelman: “the fantasy of a clean future actively seeks to thwart (protect against) contingency against the coming of a future that is neither a descendant nor a salvic redemption of the present. The clean future of descent, ostensibly the object of protection that necessitates weapons like the nuclear bomb, share with the dead future a refusal of those disorienting flows that characterize open systems” (35).

“Please Help the World,” Mikkel Blaabjerg Poulsen (2009)

RQ: Houser, “Human/Planetary”

Featured Image: Ecological Footprint Calculator


Keep the following questions in mind as you read Heather Houser’s, “Human/Planetary.” The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

What, according to Houser, separates the “human” from the “planetary (i.e., nonhuman).”?

Why/how do the realities of climate change force us to rethink the way we conceive of human and nonhuman relationships?

What does it mean to say that human and nonhuman systems are fused or blended?

According to Houser, what are the advantages to living in “geological time” (144)? OR why must “we all get on geologic time if we are to understand and address climatic disturbance” (145)?

What’s the problem with the “(incomplete) bifurcation of human and planetary time” (145)?

How do the representational tools of “inhuman time give access at once the rift between human and planetary time, but also to their integration” (145)?

What sorts of timescales are humans used to operating on?

How is the manipulation of these timescales an example of human exceptionalism?

“One of the unique characteristics of the present, however, is that the range of time concepts keyed to human phenomenological experience will not suffice for apprehending environmental crisis.” (145).

To what does the word “Anthropocene” refer?

What are the drawbacks and advantages to a term like Anthropocene?

“How might climate change media conceptualize humanity in terms of the planetary or block that correspondence” (147)?

What makes it so hard to communicate climate change to audiences?

“Might carbon calculators make climate threat sense-able by quantifying it in the dollars and cents that fuel households, businesses, and governments rather than the datasets that fuel climatological research and modeling” (148)?

What are the representational drawbacks of carbon calculators?

What are the representational benefits of carbon calculators?

RQ: Blazing World, 33-77

Featured Image: Optical diagram showing light being refracted by a spherical glass container full of water, from Roger Bacon, De multiplicatione specierum. (13th c.)


Keep the following questions in mind as you read The Blazing World, 33-77 The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

Before the Empress converts them, why do the inhabitants of the Blazing World all have the same religion, or what accounts for their “lack of diversity of opinions in that same religion” (27)?

What are some experiments performed at the Empress’s schools and “several Societies” (26), and what sorts of knowledge do they produce?

What are some hypothesis for why the sun is hot? What are some hypothesis for why the sun appears near and far? What about the Air; why can’t the Bird-men give an account of the Air?

Why do the telescopes cause differences and divisions among the Bear-men? How does the Empress resolve the disputes?

Why don’t microscopes cause the same tensions and divisions to erupt as the telescopes?

How does the Empress relate to the sight of the flea in the microscope?

What does the Empress want to know from the Fish-Men?

According to the Worm-Men, why is it impossible for a Creature to be colorless? How does the Empress Respond?

What prompts the Empress to stop listening to the Animal-men and speak about natural philosophy? Does she know the answers to the questions she asks all along, and if yes, why does she task the Animal-men with answering her questions?

Why does the Imperial race appear so young?

How does the Empress convert the whole of the Blazing World to her religion without causing all sorts of discord and destruction?

RQ: Blazing World, 1-33


Keep the following questions in mind as you read The Blazing World, 1-33 The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

What is the context of Cavendish’s story? Who’s the audience for this book? How does Cavendish respond to her audience?

Where does The Blazing World Overlap or seem to respond to More’s Utopia and/or Shakespeare’s Tempest?

Just as the fictional futures you are creating solve potential threats to continued existence of life on earth, what sorts of threats or problems has Cavendish solved in the world she imagines? What sorts of wishes is Cavendish fulfilling here?

So far, we have seen how imagined worlds have a tendency to subordinate whole groups of people to the overall goals of the society or personal ambitions of the author. How does Cavendish first mark herself off as a member of a historically marginalized group? And then how does she use the discourse of world building OR future promise of impinging worlds to come as a means to redress the inequity she experiences in her real life?

How does the lady arrive in the Blazing World?

Why don’t we see two suns from our world?

How does Cavendish organize and classify the inhabitants of the Blazing World? Does she rely on “scientific” and/or narrative techniques? Can you tell the difference? Implications?

On what sorts of technology do the inhabitants of the Blazing World rely? For example, what role do machines that enhance perspective play? Is technology/science in part responsible for the peaceful lives the characters lead?

Why is Paradise, the seat of the Emperor, safe from all “Foreign Invasions” (20)? Why do the people in Paradise live “in continued Peach and Happiness” (20)? In other words, what adjustments to architecture, language, economics, education, etc. does Cavendish make in her world?

Are there any political elements at odds in this text, i.e. rigid hierarchy and not traditional gender roles? For example, how does the lady become the Empress?

Is the Empress a scientist? How does she benefit from her work in natural philosophy?

Would you want to move to or visit the Blazing World, why/why not?


RQ: The Tempest, Acts 4 & 5


Keep the following questions in mind as you read The Tempest, Act 4.& 5 The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

What’s the relationship between the disappearing banquet in 3.3 and the nuptial masque in 4.1?

In his aside at the end of act 3, Prospero says, “My high charms work” (3.3.88). What does he mean? Should we credit Prospero with saving Alonso or stirring up trouble between Trinculo and Stephano? Then compare Prospero’s previous claims to “art” with the play-in-the-play that he calls, “Some vanity of mine art” (4.1.41) he puts on for Miranda and Ferdinand.

What sorts of stipulations does Prospero attach to the the “gift” he gives to Ferdinand? What sorts of things will befall the couple if they do not follow Prospero’s instructions?

Compare Iris’ opening intonation to Ceres in the masque to Gonzalo’s utopian vision of the island? What rhetorical features do they share?

Does the weird pagan celebration at the heart of this play seem pagan and/or potentially sacrilegious? Is this the blessing that Prospero warned the couple to wait for?

Why can’t Venus come to the wedding celebration?

What sorts of blessings do the goddesses wish on the couple?

What does Ferdinand mean when he says: “Let me live here ever;/So rare a wondered father and a wise/Makes this place a paradise” (4.1.123-5)?

How & why does the masque end?

How does Prospero comfort Miranda and Ferdinand? Is he successful?

How does Prospero snare the conspirators?

Where does Prospero’s magic (or technical knowledge) come from?

Why does Prospero want to toss out his magic book and staff? Is he successful?

What is Prospero wearing when he reveals himself as “sometime Milan”?

Does Prospero get his revenge on Alonso? On Antonio?

How have the characters transformed over the course of the play? Is it possible for them to ever change back to what they were before the island?

Do the Europeans ever leave?

How does The Tempest end & why?

What’s “Original Pronunciation”? How does it compare to the pronunciation we’ve heard so far?

Why does The Tempest feel so contemporary? To what uses can put it in our world?


RQ: The Tempest, Acts 2 & 3


Keep the following questions in mind as you read The Tempest, Acts 2 & 3The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

What does the Island look like? Where is it? Why can’t the nobles cannot agree on what should be object facts?

Who’s Dido & what purpose does the classical reference serve?

If Gonzalo had a plantation on the island, what would it be like? What assumptions does Gonzalo’s vision of his “plantation” make about “nature”?

Is Alonso, the King of Naples, a good leader/administrator? Compare Alonso’s leadership with some of the other characters and their leadership skills: Prospero, Gonzalo, Sebastian, and Trinculo. Who’s kingdom would you most like to live in? Why does Ariel save Alonso from assassination?

What does Caliban look like when Trinculo meets him for the first time? How does Trinculo react to his first meeting with Caliban?

Compare Caliban’s description of the Island to other descriptions.

Where does Trinculo get the “sack” (fortified wine) that he and the rest of the conspirators drink?

Do the two scenes in act two suggest that conspiracy to overthrow the king is natural?

What sorts of monsters do the Europeans believe inhabit the island? What sorts of monsters actually inhabit the island?

Why does Caliban agree to help Trinculo and Stephano? Can he ever really be set free?

What key words, phrases, or images that get repeated in this act?

What does Ferdinand mean when he says, “The mistress which I serve quickens what’s dead” (3.1.6)?

How’s Ferdinand’s history with women?

Ferdinand refers to himself as a “patient log man” (3.1.68) conscripted to “wooden slavery” (3.1.62). How do his descriptions of himself and his service compare to the epithet Stephano gives Caliban, “servant monster” (3.2.3)?

Has Miranda ever seen any other women?

Are Ferdinand and Miranda married by the end of 3.1?

Why does Caliban kneel before Trinculo & Stephano in 3.2? Why does Ariel contradict the story Caliban tells the other men?

There are a lot of vows taken in Act 3. Compare the vows Miranda and Ferdinand make to one another to the vows Caliban and Stephano exchange.

How do the conspirators plan to Kill Prospero? Compare the rebellion against Prospero to the plot to kill Alonso. Might also compare the two attempted murders to the attempted rape mentioned in 1.2.?

Why does Caliban instruct Stephano to “Burn but his books” (3.2.90) before he kills Prospero?

Why do you think that Caliban pledges his service to Stephano instead of leading the insurgency?

Is Caliban’s description of the isle based on experience or desire? Compare his description to Gonzalo & Trinculo’s.

What’s a “Living Drollery!” (3.3.21)? What does sight of it confirm for the nobles?

What’s a “quaint device” (SD 3.3.52)?

How does the sea function like a character in 3.3?


RQ: The Tempest, Act 1


Keep the following questions in mind as you read The Tempest, Act 1. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

How does Prospero cause the storm? Does he cause it? Why does he cause the tempest that seems, to the nobles and sailors, at least, to wreck their ship?

How does Shakespeare make the play feel like its set in the future?

What do Sycorax to Prospero have in common? What do Ariel to Miranda have in common? What do Caliban and Ferdinand have in common?

What sorts of transformations have all of the characters on the island undergone by the end of the first act?

Does Prospero manipulate Miranda and Ferdinand at the end of act one, or do they really experience “love at first site”? How does the “love a first site” motif compare to the tempest with which the play opens?

Feel free to use the a database such as Open Source Shakespeare for these sorts of usage questions: What’s the relationship between the words ‘wrack’ and ‘rack’? What does the lack of aural distinction imply? Does Shakespeare repeat any other words or phrases in the first act? If yes, what are the implications?

If you had to stage the magical elements the first act of The Tempest how would you do it? In other words, how would you communicate storm at sea (1.1); Ariel’s invisibility (1.2.374); or Caliban’s supposed strangeness?

RQ: Utopia, Book II


Keep the following questions in mind as you read Thomas More’s Utopia, Book II. Please note that the page numbers below correspond to the Norton print edition of Utopia. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

What does Utopia look like? (31)

Where did Utopia get its name? What does this story of origin tell us about Utopia? How is the settling of the once uncouth Utopians a mythological story of origin? What does it say about how the Utopians think about liberty or race?

How does the balance between the central government and the rural areas and cities work?

Are there really very few laws?

What occupation does everyone have to learn?

What are the clothes like?

Why aren’t commodities scarce due to the short workday?

What do the Utopians do to devalue gold, silver and precious metals?

Describe the way population is shifted through households…

What rules govern traveling? Why do you think the utopians have such high anxiety over travel inside the boundaries of the nation?

How does education impact/influence behavior in Utopia? What do the Utopians study and in what language?

Who can become a slave in Utopia? What jobs to slaves do? (59)

How are the sick cared for? How are dying people cared for? Do any details in the care of the sick and dying surprise you? (60)

How does the following fit into the debate about the duty of serving the state: “Since the welfare or ruin of a commonwealth depends wholly on the character of the official, where could thy make a more prudent choice than among Utopians, who cannot be tempted by money?” (64).

Is it a paradox that a society which professes to disdain glory in war “…carries on vigorous military training, so they will be fit to fight should the need arise”? (66).

What do some of the people in Utopia worship? 

What do the wisest people worship? What are some characteristics of this entity? (73) 

Even though the sects differ, in what do they all believe?


What is the only religious position Utopians do not allow or respect? What is the danger of such beliefs? How are atheists treated?

What do people who “…err in the opposite direction…” believe and how are they treated? (75)

What are some Utopian burial practices? (75-6)

What are some of their religious practices or rights?

According to Utopians, what happens to people after they die? “…and thus they believe the dead come frequently among the living, to observe their words and actions” (76).

How does More respond to Raphael’s dialogue? Is he convinced that Utopia is the greatest country in the world? Doe he think Utopian practices could be applied in England?

RQ: Utopia, Book I

Featured Image: Abraham Ortelius, Map of Utopia 


Keep the following questions in mind as you read Thomas More’s Utopia, Book I. Please note that the page numbers below correspond to the Norton print edition of Utopia. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

What’s the basic plot on Book 1?

Who does More meet in Flanders?

How does More describe Hythloday before speaking with him?

Why does Giles suggest More would like to meet Hythloday?

How is Hythloday characterized by Giles? What do his characteristics qualify him for?

What happens to Hythloday and his men when they are left behind by Vespucci?

What invention does Raphael share with the indigenous “seamen”?

The major question raised in Book I begins in the middle of page seven. If the goal of Humanists is learning as much as possible in math, science, languages, philosophy and the arts how should a Humanist employ his knowledge?

What reasons does Giles give to compel Raphael to serve a Prince? How does Raphael respond?

According to More, how or why would Raphael’s influence or advice to a Prince influence an entire city/nation?

How does Raphael refute More’s suggestion?

What types of men are best suited to carry on business according to More? Is More supposed to provide an example of appropriate public service? (9)

What’s the main issue of the dialogue? Or what issue opens the conversation?

How does Raphael respond when the lawyer says, “‘…by which men may make a living unless they choose deliberately to be rogues'” (10)?

How does England produce thieves?

How are sheep killing Englishmen?

What other problems does the wool trade cause?

How does Raphael initially propose to solve thieves from hanging?

How or why should life be valued?

Just before Raphael launches into his discussion of how to deal with thieves, he based his authority on his travels to a place that doesn’t exist. What are we as readers supposed to make of his authority?

What does Raphael’s solution to thievery consist of?But then this seemingly nice solution gets a little scary…What are the offenses in Raphael’s system that can be punished by death?

Then how can we take him seriously when he says, “It is clear how mild and practical they are for the aim of the punishment is to destroy vices and save men” (17). What do you think, which system is preferable Raphael’s or capital punishment for thieves?

What does Raphael explain guarantee’s the success of his penal system? How does the lawyer react? How does the Cardinal react?

How does More respond to Raphael’s example/dialogue?

On what does More blame the lack of present happiness?

Where is the council of philosophers found, according to Raphael?

More and Raphael now enter into a debate on the same question that Giles and he debated earlier. What is Raphael’s main reason for not entering the service of a king?

Obviously More is criticizing or satirizing problems he dealt with as an advisor to King Henry VIII. What problems does Raphael show face the King of France’s ambitions and how would he respond as a councilor?

Why is the Kingdom of the Achorians thrown into disaster? How do they solve their problems?

What other problems does constant war mongering and territory shifting back and forth between kings cause?

What relationship does Raphael suggest a King have with his people?

What are some of the schemes for raising money proposed by the other councilors?

According to Raphael, why is it the King’s duty to take more care of his people?

According to Raphael, why doesn’t forcing people to live in poverty safeguard the public peace? (24)

According to Raphael, how should a king live? (24-5) These seem like the real solutions, just as in the last section the ideas Raphael presents before his scheme for punishing thieves through slavery is introduced. This is in large part a method of satire. Two polar extremes, the grossly corrupt councilors on one side and then Raphael’s discussion of rules in “Macarian” on the other.

What do the “Macarians” do to limit the injustices faced in England? Should the English learn from their examples? (People who live close to Utopia 25).

Why does More disagree with Raphael? More says: “Stone deaf, indeed, there’s no doubt about it…and no wonder! To tell you the truth, I don’t think you should offer advice or thrust on people ideas of this sort that you know will not be listened to” (25).

Who agrees with More? Why? What does More suggest Raphael do instead?

How does Raphael reply to More’s “realistic” suggestions?

What institution in Utopia would be unacceptable to England?

What, according to Raphael, constitutes ‘madness’ in government?

What metaphor does Raphael use to show that wise men are right in keeping clear of politics?

What two elements of English society keep the people from being happy and ruled justly?

Keep the following quote in mind: “So I reflect on the wonderfully wise and sacred institutions of the Utopians who are so well governed with so few laws” (28). Does Utopia really have “few laws”?

What does private property produce?

Instead of the total restructuring of English society by the elimination of property, what are Raphael’s more modest suggestions? (28-9)

“How can there be plenty of commodities where every man stops working?” (29)

How long did Raphael live in Utopia and why did he leave?

Why are European minds and government’s superior to the new world governments?

In what do Utopians surpass Europeans?

What does More want to know about Utopia? What type of audience is More for the discussion of Utopia?



RQ: Fritsch, “Democracy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice” (27-45)

Featured Image: Roulette Ball


Keep the following questions in mind as you read Mattius Fritsch, “Democracy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice” (27-45) The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

According to Fritsch what is presentism?

Why is democracy, in comparison to other forms of political/social organization, more likely to prioritize the present over the past and future (30)?

How does modern society conceive of death?

How do notions of death, shape the ways that governments (what Fritsch calls sovereignty here) operate? How do notions of death enforce relationships between generations and relationships between humans and non-humans?

What is, according to Fritsch, “turn-taking” (28)? Why should democracy be “rethought as a matter of taking turns” (28)?

What does Fritsch mean by “Double Affirmation” (28)?

What “special power” does our generation have to affect the future (29)?

To what does the term Anthropocene refer (29)? What sorts of misconceptions does the renaming of the geological age in which we live force as to reconceive?

Why does Fritsch want to question the hard lines dividing life from death?

“What is the relationship between time and taking turns” (31)?

What model of sovereignty has the West always favored (33)?

What model of sovereignty does Fritsch favor?

What outlines several sets of what he calls “turn taking.” What are some relations expressed by his metaphors?

T1: Ipseity: sovereignty, rule of the people, has to be selfish, self-contained, closed, resistant to what’s to come, individual, unique—only part of the story

  • T1 (Double Turning/Temporal), i.e Continuity: “Political sovereigns, democratic or not, have to establish their continuation over time despite the fact that individual office holders die and give way to those born after them” (34).

T2: Difference: the sovereign cannot be all the things above in isolation: To affirm oneself as oneself is to affirm the context without which one could not be what one is, and that means to welcome unconditionally the future-to-come as an alterity within oneself” (33). Then the questions becomes, how far is this alterity to be extended?

  • T2 (Double Turning/Temporal), i.e., Hospitality to the future other, b/c the current government is gonna die and has to welcome in new people, which suggests this radical justice or peace, “Learning to live justly; no realpolitik can avoid having to come to terms with the others it cannot but welcome. Justice, in turn, is never restricted to one generation, but is an intergenerational issue” (35).
  • “Life involves exchanging positions and stations in life, as the young become the old and the unborn become the dead. The democratic assent to letting the others have their turn in governing is thus enabled by the turning nature of time” (35)
  • The incoming cannot be controlled; can extend to people but not restricted to them

Why address the sharing of governance with past and future generations as turn taking?

Why does the natural environment display “the indicators for sharing by turns” (38)?

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