345-102-MQ, Utopia Dystopia
Can society ever be perfect? What would a perfect society look like? Are utopian ideals universal and timeless, or do they change across time and place, grounded in the values and world views of a given society? And what happens when, in the pursuit of a perfect society, something goes terribly wrong? This course explores dystopian fiction as a social commentary, highlighting the values and flaws of a given society by amplifying these qualities to their extremes. By examining a range of social dystopias from different parts of the world and different periods in history, we will see how these dystopias both reflect and invert the particular world views of the societies from which they emerge. For each unit, we will study (i) the elements of the works’ underlying « utopian » value systems; (ii) the ways in which these values are inverted to create a dystopian society; (iii) correspondences between the fictional dystopian environment and the works’ socio-historical contexts; and (iv) what solutions or suggestions, if any, the works provide in order to avoid a dystopian fate. By reflecting on and comparing these various fictional dystopias and the world views they demonstrate, students will develop a deeper understanding of the values of their own societies, and the way these values have helped to shape their particular world views. Topics include : The origins of Utopia; Utopian social experiments; Modernity and twentieth-century political shifts; Capitalism ,Communism and Theocracy as utopian models; Gender and biology in perceptions of utopia; Cold War themes; Surveillance and paranoia; Personal freedoms and the role of the individual in society.