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University Honors Program

ENGL 698 - Capstone: Serious Games Played Nowhere: Utopian and Dystopian Fiction

 

Is utopia the “place” that disappears and reappears on maps to make them worthwhile (to paraphrase Oscar Wilde)? Perhaps utopia is a game that exposes the blind spots of society, and performs its own fantasies of order and control. Considering the variety of nightmare scenarios in dystopias, is this popular dark mode giving necessary correctives, engaging in confusing nostalgia, or suggesting new terms for a dreamed of, better place and time?   In this capstone course we’ll study North American and British utopian and dystopian fiction from the 20th and 21st centuries; we’ll also read excerpts from Thomas More, Francis Bacon, and Plato. We’ll emphasize the fictive and satirical game playing, the abstractive modeling, and the dialogic nature of the texts, but students will also share in researching and presenting short explorations of the historical context of different readings. Likely texts will include and be paired thus: Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1887) with Yevgeny Zamyatin, We (1924); George Orwell, Nineteen-Eighty-Four (1949) with Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974); Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932) with Joanna Russ, The Female Man (1975); Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars (1992) with Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower (1993); and M. T. Anderson, Feed (2002) with Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games (2008). Reqs: short papers; team presentations; weekly quizzes; an annotated bibliography; engaged participation.