In this course we will explore literary and cinematic utopias and dystopias in a handful of Euro-American, Middle Eastern, and African texts. How have writers in different times and places articulated their hopes and fears regarding inequality and the possibility of justice? How did the texts’ historical context and aesthetic form influence the theories of society that they present? Paying attention to the role that gender, race, class, and geography play in forming our texts’ particular futurisms, we’ll also ask whether their imagined worlds are useful for addressing issues of inequality and injustice in our own.
Possible texts include:
Thomas More, Utopia
Sonallah Ibrahim, The Committee
Toni Morrison, Paradise
Possible film screenings include:
Clips from the Disney films Zootopia and Moana
Metropolis, dir. Fritz Lang
Black Girl (La Noire de…), dir. Ousmane Sembene
Mad Max: Fury Road, dir. George Miller
Episode 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale
A course reader might contain the following texts and excerpts:
Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”; Octavia Butler, “The Book of Martha”; Hesiod, Works and Days; Genesis and the Book of Revelations; Al-Ghazali, “The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife”; Plato, The Republic; Al-Farabi, The Virtuous City; The Arabian Nights, ed. Muhsin Mahdi; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality Among Men; “The Mande Charter (Kouroukan Fouga)”; Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto; Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, The Snowpiercer; Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth; Kwame Nkrumah, “Ghana Is Free Forever”; Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born; documents from the Tahrir Documents online archive; Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable.