What is the dystopian tradition? Why is it still so relevant today?
Over the years, thinkers have used dystopias — stories of worlds gone wrong, of worst-case scenarios – to warn their contemporaries about what they viewed as dangerous trends in society and challenge their readers to make the world better. This class will consider a variety of historical and current “what if?” thought experiments, including classics such as 1984 and current bestsellers such as The Hunger Games. Students will explore the specific conditions that inspired these dystopias, the general warnings inherent in them, and the broad trends in dystopias over time.
Note on the Schedule: The summer 2022 semester will include a one-week summer break which will fall on the week of June 20, 2022.
Week 1 – The Dystopian Tradition and the Rise of the Modern Form
The Complete Metropolis by Fritz Lang (1927), film
Week 2 – Industrialization and Mass Production
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
Week 3 – Totalitarianism and the Surveillance State
1984 by George Orwell (1949)
Week 4 – Consumerism and Advertising
The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth (1953)
Week 5 – The Bomb and the War-Minded World
Level 7 by Mordecai Roshwald (1959)
Week 6 – Conformity and Overpopulation
- “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut (1961), provided as PDF
- “Billennium” by J.G. Ballard (1962), provided as PDF
Week 7 – Environmental Collapse and the Post-Human
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm (1977)
Week 8 – High Tech and Low-Lives
Blade Runner (The Director’s Cut) (1982) film
Week 9 – Sex, Separatism, and Faith
The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper (1988)
Week 10 – Urban Upheaval and Societal Collapse
The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (1993)
Week 11 – The Internet and the “Process of Dumbening”
Feed by M.T. Anderson (2002)
Week 12 – The Capitol, Reality TV, and Control
- The Hunger Games (2008), film
- The Hunger Games Trilogy Box Set by Suzanne Collins (2008-2010)
The Amazon links are provided for convenience only, and we encourage students to purchase texts wherever they wish.
- The Complete Metropolis (DVD)
- Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
- 1984 – George Orwell
- The Space Merchants – Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth
- Level 7 – Mordecai Roshwald
- Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang – Kate Wilhelm
- Blade Runner (The Director’s Cut) (DVD)
- The Gate to Women’s Country – Sheri S. Tepper
- Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler
- Feed – M.T. Anderson
- The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
- The Hunger Games Trilogy (optional boxed set)
This course has been offered in the following semesters.
|Summer 2022||Dr. Sara Brown|
|Summer 2019||Dr. Sara Brown & Kris Swank|
|Summer 2013||Jessica O’Brien|
Course artwork adapted from an original illustration by Elia Mervi. Used with permission. All rights reserved.