English 190

Research Seminar: The Literature of Utopia, Anti-Utopia, & Dystopia


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Spring 2011 Lee, Steven S.
Lee, Steven
TTh 11-12:30 note new room: 101 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Hawthorne, N.: The Blithedale Romance; Bellamy, E.: Looking Backward 2000-1887; Zamyatin, Y.: We; Platonov, A.: Soul: and Other Stories; Orwell, G.: Nineteen Eighty-Four; Nabokov, V.: Speak, Memory; Le Guin, U.: The Dispossessed; Anzaldua: Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza; Stoppard, T.: The Coast of Utopia; Shteyngart, G.: Super Sad True Love Story

Recommended: More, T.: Utopia

Description

"A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail."

Utopia evokes the always elusive dream of heaven on earth, and a better place in the form of "no place." It captures the desire not only to reimagine and remake the world, but to use literature to achieve these ends. However, this literary genre has been closely shadowed by a distinct anti-utopian tradition, which has portrayed utopia as naive, dogmatic, and even murderous. Thus, this seminar will evaluate both the successes and failures, the promise and shortcomings of utopian literature. We will encounter a wide range of utopias and anti-utopias--for instance, the New England commune of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance, the Central Asian steppe of Andrei Platonov's Soul, and the Mexico-Texas borderland of Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.

Our goal will be to understand the variety of political projects and literary techniques associated with utopia and anti-utopia. We will see how the romantic socialist utopias of the nineteenth century gave way to the mass industrial utopias of the early twentieth century, and then the ecological, ethnic, and neoliberal utopias of the late twentieth century. Throughout the semester, we will closely engage the notion that we are now living in a post-utopian moment, as well as efforts to counter this notion.

English 190 replaced English 100 and 150 as of Fall '09. English majors may fulfill the seminar requirement for the major by taking one section of English 190 (or by having taken either English 100 or English 150 before Fall '09). Please read the paragraph on page 2 of this Accouncement of Classes for more details about enrolling in, or wait-listing for, this course.

Please click here for more information about enrollment in English 190.

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