English R1B

Reading and Composition: Placing “No Place”: Fact and Fiction in Early Modern Utopia

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2020 Lesser, Madeline
MWF 10-11

Book List

Bacon, Francis: The New Atlantis; Cavendish, Margaret: The Blazing World; More, Thomas: Utopia; Sword, Helen: The Writer's Diet; Winstanley, Gerrard: The Law of Freedom


In 1519, Thomas More coins the word utopia, literally translating to “no place,” an ideal society which does not exist. And yet, the imaginative vision that animates his Utopia hardly emerges from “no place”: More explicitly bases the voyages of his fictional protagonist on Amerigo Vespucci’s voyages to Brazil and the West Indies. In this course, we’ll travel—from Mexico to revolutionary England to the Barbados—mapping fictional journeys of the mind onto the actual trade routes of the early modern world. Among our central questions will be: Why did utopian fiction emerge when and where it did? How did fictional utopias subvert or reify hierarchies of race, ethnicity, and gender? Can imagining a different world change the world we live in?

Our primary objective in this course will be for your writing to improve in hitherto unimaginable ways! Expect to spend more time writing in this class that ever before. I aim to teach you the critical thinking skills necessary for college-level reading and writing, but also to teach you how to write uninhibited, joyful, crystalline prose. **Please note: in order to aspire toward this utopian ideal of writing, we will be using a labor-based grading assessment method (see https://imageandtext.weebly.com/grading-labor-contract.html for a full explanation). Only enroll in this course if you are open to this unconventional method of assessment.

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