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Rebecca Ferari

EE question review

My Extended Essay is currently "How is Bioshock a critique of Ayn Rand's Objectivist literature?" and is in Group 1.


Can anyone confirm that this is A) a good question and B) in the right subject area.



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(1) I think your topic has a few problems. If you want to be able to use this topic, you need to clearly work around or outright solve these problems in your methodology:


(a) For starters, Group 1 EEs are literature-based where you are expected to engage in a literary analysis. A literary analysis implies the use of a text or texts (of at least some literary merit) and a detailed analysis of the various themes, ideas, opinions and descriptions within it towards the support or destabilisation of a predetermined thesis. Using Bioshock, which is a game, makes that difficult.


(b) Nevertheless, if you persevere with this and use Bioshock, you have to stick with only the literary descriptions i.e. things that are written or in text, available written screenplay (which you have not written yourself), and a word-for-word recounting of dialogue when used in the game. This will make analysis work very, very difficult, but definitely not impossible. In the past people have used American TV shows (their scripts and screenplays) in culture-based topics in Group 1, so there is some kind of precedent.


© There is a palpable issue with the use of the Objectivist movement itself. It is more of a philosophical construct used arguably thematically in Ayn Rand's plays and novels. Of course when you refer to Objectivism in Rand's work, it is literary because it's being used as a theme and maybe even a methodology. But Bioshock is a game. The text and descriptions available are limited to the game's narrative and even then, it's very hard to argue that that narrative has literary merit. There are no nuances in the text; the dialogue will be used as wholesale evidence to point towards an Objectivist theme.


(d) Even if you persevere with this, there is a core problem with your thesis: There is no argument, no discussion, no debate. It is widely agreed that Bioshock has an Objectivist outlook. Kevin Levine has gone on record to deny said Objectivism, but he does say that there are easily identifiable undertones for it. While Levine doesn't go so far as to agree that the game is a love letter to Objectivism, it is obvious that Objectivism has had a strong influence on the game. That right there makes your thesis fail because there's little to disagree with. You have to pick a topic where there are equally strong arguments on both sides. Disagreements that do arise in this case will force you to delve deep into and focus more on Objectivist philosophy and ideas rather than perform a literary analysis of Rand's actual novels and plays, which is what Group 1 EEs are all about.


(2) In the event that you do plan on continuing with this topic, I suggest changing the "how" to "to what extent" or something else along those lines. "How" limits you to a descriptive essay that details an answer to your question and that alone. "To what extent" opens the door to a discussion where you can propose arguments that agree and disagree with the thesis.


The more I think about, the clearer is becomes to me that this topic is not workable for a Group 1 EE. It's just not literary enough with far too much of a cultural and, moreover, philosophical bent. But what do I know? I'm only a casual reader of Rand's work and a rarer gamer. Maybe you've thought through all of these problems and have a solution on hand already!


Best of luck!


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