This course will explore the paired concepts of utopia and dystopia in literature through readings in fiction, political philosophy, aesthetics, and social theory. We will examine classic instances of this thematic, from Plato's parable of the cave to Le Guin's The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia to Orwell's 1984, as well as more peculiar experiments such as, for instance, Joanna Russ's The Female Man and John Barth's wild 1966 novel Giles Goat-boy, which reimagines the university as a utopian universe unto itself awaiting apocalyptic salvation at the hands of its messiah, a goat-boy whose father is a computer. We will pay particular attention to the historical context and material conditions subtending the production of the literature under consideration, taking as a premise that literary imaginings of utopian and dystopian fictional worlds are grappling with, responding to, and reimagining the social, political, and material conditions of the world their authors and readers inhabit. We will consider examples from philosophy, political theory, literature, science fiction, and a few from film and television.
View the syllabus here.