JAN 120 - Nightmare Futures
“I don’t try to describe the future. I try to prevent it.” - Ray Bradbury
Since time immemorial people must have been dreaming of the ideal and just society - or even simply the better society. In 1516 an Englishman named Thomas More gave a name to this vision of an ideal or just society- “Utopia”-and the name stuck. In Greek Utopia means “No-Place” and, by virtue of a pun, “Good-Place.” It was left to the twentieth century to translate utopian principles into reality in a really grand way and then to discover their unintended consequences. As Tom Wolfe has observed, the twentieth century was the great age of utopian impulses, with one utopian scheme after another being attempted, each one trying to “go back to zero,” to begin again, and to remake humankind. Our central concern will be the literary response to the twentieth century’s Utopian urge
Science fiction works by projecting trends into the future or imagining possibilities realized in the future. But that part of science fiction that is called dystopian follows Bradbury’s formula. Dystopias are “Bad-Places,” bad futures that seem to be implied by current trends. Anti- Utopias, a subset of Dystopias, are utopias which turn out to be, in practice, “Bad-Places,” the evil and oppressive consequences of someone else’s utopian dream. We will begin with Sir/St. Thomas More’s original, Utopia, and then examine 20th-century responses to the utopian impulse. We will also consider the utopian aspirations of modern totalitarian movements, from the Bolsheviks to the Khmer Rouge.
Designated as a social justice course
Course credits: 1
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