English 165

Special Topics: Utopian and (mostly) Dystopian Movies

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2021 Starr, George A.
W 5-8


Most utopian and dystopian authors and film-makers are more concerned with persuading readers and viewers of the merits of their ideas than with the "merely" literary or artistic qualities of their work. Although utopias have sometimes made converts, inspiring readers to try to realize the ideal society, most have had limited practical impact, yet have 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 work that is not primarily mimetic, but has “an axe to grind”—i.e. is produced in the service of some ulterior purpose; the shifting relationships between what is and what some 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. Most of the films included in the syllabus will be dystopian rather than utopian; all will be streamed, and discussed (but not shown) in class.

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