This genre course is a rapid survey of utopian and dystopian literature from Thomas More (Utopia) to Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games). It is organized chronologically: after More, we will jump to the nineteenth century (just one text), followed by five texts from twentieth-century America and Britain and ending with a twenty-first century dystopia. Three of our eight authors are women. Three of our texts are utopias; three are dystopias; two are something of a generic mix. We will spend about two weeks on each of our texts. As do all of the ENG 270-273 courses, this one carries a writing-intensive (“W”) designation.
Students who take this course will, I hope, gain . . .
— an acquaintance with several of the important utopian and dystopian texts
— some insight into the definition(s) of utopia and dystopia
— some sense of the continuities (literary, thematic, political, social, etc.) that obtain among these texts
— the sense that the utopian/dystopian tradition has been punctuated at intervals with dramatic changes as social, political, and literary landscapes and ideologies have shifted
— a handle on how these authors make their sometimes outrageous fictions plausible and maybe even persuasive
— the realization that, even though usually about the future, utopian/dystopian literature frequently mirrors its (our?) own times, often in surprising ways
Besides frequent electronic letters posted to the class’s Laulima site about the reading (and a portfolio at the end of the term based on these weekly letters) and frequent classroom participation, students will do some collaborative work (in pairs) on one of the readings and also write an in-class midterm, an in-class final, and an end-of-the semester comparative essay on some aspect at least two of our texts.
REQUIRED TEXTS: Thomas More, Utopia; William Morris, News from Nowhere; Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland; Aldous Huxley, Brave New World; George Orwell, 1984; Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange; Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale; and Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games.