English 165

Special Topics: Utopian and (mostly) Dystopian Movies

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Fall 2018 Starr, George A.
Tues. 5-8:30 (incl. 1/2-hr. break) 300 Wheeler


Most utopian and dystopian authors are more concerned with persuading readers of the merits of their ideas than with the "merely" literary qualities of their writing. Although utopian writing has sometimes made converts, inspiring readers to try to realize the ideal society, most of it has had limited practical impact, yet has managed to provoke readers in various ways—for instance, as a kind of imaginative fiction that comments on "things as they are" indirectly yet effectively, with fantasy and satire in varying doses. Among the critical questions posed by such material are the problematic status of fiction that is not primarily mimetic, but written in the service of some ulterior purpose; the shifting relationships between what is and what authors think might be or ought to be; how to create the new and strange other than by recombining the old and familiar; and so on.

Various films (such as Metropolis, Triumph of the Will, Modern Times, 1984, Handmaid's Tale, Brazil, THX1138, Gattaca, A Clockwork Orange, and  Children of Men) will be included in the syllabus and discussed in class. The works on the book list are not required, but recommended: in some cases, as classics of their genre, in others, for purposes of comparison with film adaptations. Writing will consist of one long essay of 16-20 pages. There will be no quizzes or exams, but seminar attendance and participation will be expected, and will affect grades.

Book List

Recommended: Zamiatin, E: We; Atwood, M : The Handmaid's Tale; Burgess, A: A Clockwork Orange; Gilman, C. P.: Herland; Huxley, A: Brave New World; Ishiguro, K: Never Let Me Go; Orwell, G: 1984; Wells, H. G.: Three Prophetic Novels

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