English 190

Research Seminar: Utopia and Anti-Utopia


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2020 Lee, Steven S.
MW 10:30-12

Book List

Anzaldúa, G.: Borderlands/La Frontera; Bellamy, E.: Looking Backward; Hawthorne, N.: The Blithesdale Romance; Le Guin, U.K.: The Dispossessed; More, T.: Utopia; Platonov, A.: Soul; Stoppard, T.: Arcadia; Whitehead, C.: Zone One; Zamyatin, Ye.: We

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.”                      

-Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man” (1891)

Utopia brings to mind the 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 is inextricably bound to an anti-utopian tradition that has portrayed utopian thought as naïve, dogmatic, even murderous.

Over the semester we will encounter a wide range of utopias and anti-utopias—from imagined islands and planets, to communal societies and communist states, to theme parks, gardens, and borderlands.  Our goal will be to understand the variety of political projects and literary techniques associated with utopia and anti-utopia, which we will also consider in relation to science fiction and post-apocalypse.  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 and early twenty-first centuries.  Throughout the semester, we will consider the viability of utopian thought  and vision for our current, anti-utopian times.

Note: Since the reading list may change, please don't purchase texts until after the first class.

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