Due Dates

  • Final Project Proposal: Tuesday, November 24 by class to course site
  • Final Project Lit Review: Friday, December 11 by 2:00 pm
  • Final Project Character Study: Friday, December 11 by 2:00 pm

NOTE: Because of the short amount of time I have between when your final projects are due and when your final grades are due, unless you make prior arrangements with me (meaning at least 24 hours before the final project is due but hopefully MUCH SOONER), I cannot accept late final projects at all.

Project Overview

In the spirit of Red Mars, this assignment is an exercise in utopian thinking. It asks you to speculate creatively and even wildly in the service of imagining a possible solution to a current social problem. The project has two parts: a lit review, and a speculative “character study.” The first thing you will do is choose a current social problem. You should be specific (rising sea levels and expected future coastal flooding, for example, rather than just “climate change;” or the disproportionate incarceration rates of African-American men, rather than just “racism,” for example). Then, you will research what scholars in relevant academic discipline(s) have written about this problem and write a literature review of this scholarship. This lit review will be about 4 double-spaced pages long (1400 words).

You should choose your social problem and create your lit review with an eye toward how they might relate to Red Mars, however, because the next thing you will do is to choose a character from Red Mars whose perspective you would like to embody. Then, you will write a solution to your chosen social problem from the perspective of your chosen character. So, the social problem and the character you choose should be related in some way.

The form this character study will take is up to you. You should embody your chosen character’s thoughts, perspectives, emotions – perhaps even their words by “quoting” them directly from the novel in places. This also means that you should play around with the genre of your piece. If you choose to embody Sax, for example, you might present this portion of the project in the form of a lab report; if you choose Ann, perhaps it would take the form of a video transcript (think about her videotaped pleas to UNOMA to stop terraforming that we hear about on pages 175-6, for example). This part of the assignment will be about 4-5 double-spaced pages long (1400-1800 words), although its length will be also be somewhat dependent on its form and genre.

Assignment Details & Requirements

This assignment has three parts:

(1) Final Project Proposal: The first step is to decide what social problem you want to write about, which character you want to embody, and to start your research. The final project proposal therefore consists of two parts:

  • Abstract: Your abstract should be one paragraph long. This paragraph should state what your social problem is, which character from Red Mars you will embody, and what form your character study will take. The abstract doesn’t commit you to anything; you will be free to change your mind about your project as you work on it. However, the idea behind the abstract is that it forces you to sit down and start to articulate your ideas. It should include these three things (not necessarily in this order – do what works for you):
    • A brief description of your social problem
    • An indication of which character from Red Mars you will embody
    • What form your character study will take, stated as specifically as you can. Discuss what genre/format you will be writing in, and discuss why and how that specific genre/format fits your chosen character.
  • Preliminary Bibliography: 7 potential sources that you might use for your lit review. At least 4 of these sources must be scholarly (written by scholars and published by a scholarly and/or university press or journal), and they should all be relatively recent (how recent depends on your problem, but generally written within the past 10-15 years or so). Up to 3 of these sources can be non-scholarly: these might include things like news articles, op-eds, or think pieces about your chosen social problem published in reputable newspaper, magazine, or online venues (NOTE: cable or network news websites – any of them – are decidedly NOT reputable). Not all of these sources will make it into your lit review (you’re only required to include 4). But doing this preliminary research will give you a sense of what you might include in your paper.

This portion of the assignment is due on Tuesday, November 24 by class to our course site. Post your proposal under the category “Final Project Proposal.” I will not accept final projects from anyone who has not completed a final project proposal.

(2) Final Project Lit Review: The requirements for your lit review consist of the following:

  • 4 pages double-spaced (around 1400 words)
  • Citations and format according to some established citation style (MLA and Chicago style are generally the easiest for text)
  • A minimum of 4 sources: at least 3 must be scholarly; 1 can be non-scholarly
  • Just as with the lit review you did for your first assignment in this class, this lit review should describe your social problem and provide an overview of the scholarly conversation surrounding this problem.

This portion of the assignment is due on Friday, December 11 by 2:00 pm to Blackboard. 

(3) Final Project Character Study: The form and genre your character study will take is up to you, but it should be tied to your chosen character in some way. The requirements for your character study consist of the following:

  • 4-5 double-spaced pages long (1400-1800 words), although its length will be also be somewhat dependent on its form and genre.
  • Create a compelling and effective interpretation of your chosen character’s viewpoint. Although your character’s perspective as it is enacted in the novel as a whole is obviously important, you are not necessarily tied down to anything your chosen character “actually” says or does in the novel. It doesn’t matter, for example, if they don’t ever specifically address your chosen social problem. Instead, you should think about what your chosen character might think, feel, and say about your chosen social problem if they had the chance.

This portion of the assignment is due on Friday, December 11 by 2:00 pm to Blackboard.


The final project is worth 25% of your total course grade. Half of this grade (12.5%) will come from your lit review. Just as with our first lit review assignment in this class, this portion of the assignment will be graded on how well you synthesize the research you’ve done on your social problem. This means you will be graded not just on how well you describe your problem itself, but also on how well you describe the scholarly conversation surrounding your social problem.

The other half of your grade (12.5%) will come from your character study. Your character study will be graded on its specificity, on its success in creatively embodying the perspective of a particular character in both form and content, and on the thoughtfulness and creativity of the solution(s) it offers. The point here is to embrace creativity and speculation while also thinking seriously about meaningful change. I encourage you to be idealistic and creative while still offering possible and perhaps even plausible solutions.


  • As with the Unessay, I highly prize creativity in this assignment. A-projects will be creative, sophisticated, compelling, and effective.

  • The better the Proposal is that you submit to me on November 24, the more I will be able to help you succeed with this assignment. The Final Project Proposal is not very long, but it should represent a significant amount of work (more than its short length suggests). Proposals thrown together the night before or the day of do not help anyone, least of all you.