English R1B

Reading and Composition: Utopian and Dystopian Fictions

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2018 Homans-Turnbull, Marian
MWF 10-11 210 Dwinelle

Book List

Armitage, Simon, trans.: Pearl; Atwood, Margaret: The Handmaid's Tale; More, Thomas: Utopia; Wells, H.G.: The Time Machine

Other Readings and Media

Additional primary and secondary readings will be available on bCourses. 


What would it be like to live in a perfect world? What could be worse than the world we live in?

This course will trace attempts to answer these questions—and investigate why they have proven so compelling—in English writing from medieval visions of heaven and hell to twentieth-century speculative fiction. As we read, we will consider the relationship between the two projects, and between the worlds writers imagine and the worlds in which they wrote. We will discuss the ways race, class, gender, and other categories of identity figure in imagined worlds, and the ways social structures can make the same imagined world ideal for some and terrible for others. With the goal of developing critical reading and analytical skills, we will pay close attention to literary world-building techniques, to the forms and genres in which writers have chosen to imagine other worlds, and to the rhetorical effects of locating them in the past, present, and future. And we will talk about the ways stories make arguments and arguments make use of stories.

All term we will be guided by the goal of developing your writing and research skills, including making extended arguments and incorporating secondary sources. We will talk not only about how course readings make arguments, but also about how to identify compelling research questions, engage in critical conversations, and make persuasive arguments of your own. Student writing will constitute an important third category of course material: in addition to several short written assignments, you will develop, draft, peer-edit, and revise two essays, an argumentative essay on course texts and a final research essay.

Back to Semester List