ENGL3460: Literature and Utopia (46070)

Hussey, Joshua

MW 4 :10 PM

Park Hall 139

A weird fact of contemporary life: dystopia is hip. There is something not only socially acceptable, but also cool, about imagining that things will get worse.

Literature and Utopia will be about something older, and less cool, than our habit of imagining the end of the world: our desire to imagine a better one.

Utopian projects, in literature and in life, have taken many, many forms in the last few thousand years. In this course, we won’t try to survey all of them. Instead, we’ll examine a few examples of utopian writing from the rich history of this genre. We’ll also glance at utopian films, and examine the way that different media “write” utopia differently.

If you take this course, you can expect to find yourself in some familiar utopian territory (we will likely visit Disneyworld—at least in our imaginations), in some less obvious places (perhaps Augustine’s City of God, and probably the anarchist planet Anarres), and in some very weird ones (like maybe Barbarella’s sexy shag-carpet-lined spaceship).

This course will pursue three goals: to understand why writing is a utopian thing to do, to understand how it relates to the world-building impulse in human history, and to resist our current love of bad worlds and world destruction so that we can get on the utopian roller coaster one more time.

See you in a better world.


Some basic course procedures:

*Reading quizzes will be constant.

*Short assignments will be given out for each novel we read, and students can choose which they want to complete.

*Slightly longer essays will also be assigned during the term.

*There will be a final exam.

And a word on absences:

Assuming that regular attendance will be possible in the fall, students will be allowed four absences. Additional absences will damage the final grade; the more absences there are, the worse the damage will be. If some absences are excused, the damage can be reduced but not erased. Students should be aware that this policy is never altered, and that it has been the primary factor in drops and failures in previous terms. Take this into consideration before deciding to register for the course.