English R1B

Reading and Composition: Literary Utopias: Nonsense and Sensibility

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2007 Blaine Greteman
MWF 9-10 103 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Thomas More, Utopia

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver?s Travels (selections)

H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

+ a course reader "


"The point of this class is to help you become better writers and critical thinkers, and we?ll approach that goal by discussing and writing about an enduring literary topic -- utopia. In its strictest sense ?utopia? doesn?t mean ?good place,? but simply ?no place.? A utopia, then, can also be what we usually call a ?dystopia,? and upon closer examination of works like Thomas Moore?s Utopia, which gave us the term, we might ask whether every utopia actually contains a dystopian seed.

We?ll be discussing and writing about the ways authors have created these other worlds to work through issues that can?t be easily resolved in this one. What do utopias gain from including dystopian elements, from acknowledging, in effect, that they are a kind of nonsense? What do their successes and failures tell us about their imagined worlds and our actual one? If the utopian project is about creating an imaginative space to examine vexing issues, how might we relate it to our own writing? We?ll make a point of discussing these issues from perspectives you might employ in your research papers -- in terms of historical context, rhetorical strategies, and formal characteristics.

You?ll notice that this description asks as many questions as it answers. That?s because I want to make clear that critical writing is as much about learning to ask good questions as about providing good answers. We will focus rigorously on those tasks as you improve your ability to produce longer, more complex papers. You?ll write responses to each week?s reading, try your hand at your own utopias, and submit drafts and revisions of a 7-9 page critical essay and an 8-10 page research paper. "

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